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Free Outdoor Dance Fitness Class Draws Crowds Every Weekend

Written by Sophie BearmanPublished Oct. 11, 2022 • 10:50am
Kenny Walter leads the dances during the Turn Up event in the Panhandle on Oct. 8, 2022, in San Francisco. Walter makes his way through the group to inspire and encourage all participants. | Evan Reinhardt for The Standard

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Kenny Walter got certified to teach Turn Up Dance Fitness classes—a Zumba-style workout that combines dance and high intensity interval training—in February 2020. 

“I got a good following for four weeks, and then the lockdown happened,” recalled Walter.

But the high-energy fitness instructor, who said he always loved dancing but only picked it up in his late 20s, didn’t want to stop teaching. First, he turned to Zoom, and then in the summer of 2020, he decided to offer a free outdoor dance class in the Panhandle.

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Have you checked out Turn Up SF in the Panhandle? It’s Saturdays at 11 a.m. 💃🏼 #dance #dancefitness #sanfrancisco #sf #free

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A lot of people showed up.

“It was such a release of stress, anxiety and a fun way to move your body,” said Walter. “What I quickly learned is that there were so many people that wanted this and needed it.”

More than two years later, the same outdoor class—taught by Walter and completely donation-based—takes place in the Panhandle each Saturday. The major difference is that the crowd has only continued to grow.

“It’s bigger than ever,” said Walter.

Kenny Walter points out the glutes at work during his Turn Up event in the Panhandle on Oct. 8, 2022, in San Francisco. Walter promotes body positivity and inclusion as part of the Turn Up fitness experience. | Evan Reinhardt for The Standard
Tiffany Lyons, 38, moves along to the beat during the Turn Up event on Oct. 8, 2022. Lyons said she tries to participate every week with little exceptions. | Evan Reinhardt for The Standard

On any given weekend, dozens of dancers gather at 11 a.m. to shake, squat and sashay to popular throwbacks, including “Countdown” by Beyonce and “Good Love” by City Girls.

Some of the tracks are songs Walter listened to while growing up in Sonoma. 

“As a closeted child, I loved dancing to pop music—NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears. I’d dance until dad came home, and then I’d shut everything off real quick and pretend like nothing was going on,” recalled Walter.

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Today, Walter’s philosophy is all about embracing individuality and self-expression.

Lydia Hecomovich, 32, dances alongside the rest of the crowd at the Turn Up event. Hecomovich said she lives in Cole Valley and is never too far from the Turn Up class. | Evan Reinhardt for The Standard
Participants in the front row show off their moves. Walter, the group fitness instructor, said the regular faces always make their way to the front. | Evan Reinhardt for The Standard

Walter simply asks that participants show up with water, a towel and a positive attitude.

For Coby Anderson, 25, who discovered Walter’s class in the summer of 2020, it’s been a nonstop party ever since.

“From then on, it was like every Saturday. That was like my church, if you will,” said Anderson.

You can join Turn Up SF’s email list by emailing [email protected] The class takes place most Saturdays at 11 a.m. in the Panhandle at Masonic and Ashbury streets, east of the basketball courts. Walter suggests a $15 donation.

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Sophie Bearman can be reached at [email protected]


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