Janet Harris Ford, Elita Ford-Smith, Erica Ford Green and Evin Elliot Ford make up the Ford’s Fitness team—a family owned business specialized in teaching Zumba.
Zumba is a Latin and international fusion of dance workouts, boot camp, Pilates and toning. Mother—Janet, sisters—Elita and Erica and son—Evin are taking their Philadelphia fitness classes to new levels.
“We’re just naturally close,” Janet said. “We’re a family of dancers. It was a natural transition into doing [fitness].”
Janet began her dancing career in the 70s by taking classical ballet classes at The Philadelphia Dance Company (PHILADANCO) studying under founder Joan Myers Brown.
With training under her belt, Janet danced with of companies such as the West Philadelphia Dance Troop, The Universal Dance Troop—where she learned African dancing and performed at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City.
After meeting her husband, Eric Ford—who is a Philadelphia all city gymnastic champion of 1972 and recipient of a scholarship to State University of New York at Farmingdale—Janet became a mother of four.
“That was kind of it of my touring,” Janet said. “However, I always loved dance and when my children were old enough I put them into dance school. And so it continued.”
What started as childhood extracurricular activities for daughters Elita and Erica, developed into a family tradition of fitness. Elita’s twin brother Eric, Jr. participated in dance, too. The children took part in gymnastics, tap, jazz and ballet.
“My daughters are very graceful and rhythmic,” Janet said.
As an adult, Erica has been engaged in the fitness for over seven years. She is certified in kickboxing, primary group fitness, mat Pilates I and II and Zumba. Erica and Evin teach classes on Monday nights at The Performance Garage, 1515 Brandywine Street. In the same location, Eric and Elita teach classes on Tuesdays and Fridays.
As a mother of three children, Elita was reconnected to fitness when she was introduced to Zumba.
“Being back into fitness is almost like returning to your roots and it’s just like second nature,” Elita said.
Together Elita and Janet teach a class on Monday nights at the Chi Movement Arts Center, 1316 South 9th Street. The age ranges of participants are from 20 to over 60-year-olds.
“The group ranges in ages, but I like how the group can all relate to my mother or relate to myself because some of them are young mothers themselves and some of them maybe over 50.
“When I see my mother, when I see Erica—because she has great energy as well—each one gives their all in the class. People receive them after the class and everybody seems to be happy.”
“I keep motivated because of the feedback that I get from the people I’m doing it with,” Janet said. “The smiles and the stories about how because they’ve been doing the dance fitness that they feel better, their heads are clearer, their diabetes medicine has been lowered, their blood pressure medicine has been lowered.
“Things like this just keep me motivated and I just appreciate the fact that you can do something that beneficial for the mind, the body and the spirit,” she added. “And people really need that today.”
Patricia Robinson and Barbara Chapman take Janet’s “Happy Hour” class on Thursdays at the Christian Street YMCA, 1724 Christian Street.
“She’s the best,” Chapman said. “She makes me feel comfortable as I have titanium from my neck down to my back and in my foot. She show’s you the moves and it’s easy to catch on. And she’s said that she’ll work on me one and one and I thought that was a blessing.”
“Her personality, her spunk, she’s not boring, so everyday it’s something different,” Robinson added.
Unlike his older siblings, Evin was not always involved in fitness. As a child, Evin said he battled with being overweight, focused his time on video games and was affected by bullying.
“I struggled with that,” he said. “I struggled with being teased. It was at a point when my older brother used to make me run up and down the steps. I always had love, but I guess I didn’t realize the problem until I got to high school.”
Now, having slimmed down and weight lighting, Evin is certified in kick boxing, boot camp, body scuplting, and Zumba.
“Evin always had a love of music and movement,” Janet said. “He’s an amazing combination of my husband’s gymnastic qualities along with my dance qualities.”
“I really admire Evin’s high power energy,” she said. “It’s almost like he’s performing. He really wants everybody involved. So if someone came in and they maybe had a hard day at work, it’s like, ‘Rev up your engines and get ready, we’re really going to work out this hour and really make your body feel good.’ He’s really good at interacting with those that he’s instructing.”
From the support system of the family to the feedback received from workout regulars, Ford’s Fitness brings high energy, core engagement and an overall enjoyable experience to their sessions.
“It’s a beautiful thing that we can all come together again and dance together,” Janet said.