"What is it? What is the fear you're holding on to? What is that thing that your are most afraid of?" asked the sprightly fitness instructor as she sat cross-legged with her back to a room full of women deep in thought.
The answers were expected: Letting go, being confident, confrontation.
A voice chimed in happily amid the contemplative thought. "My biggest fear is dancing in front of others," she said.
"Well I'm so glad we could help you get through that one tonight," laughed Jasmine Johnson, co-owner of Body Altitudes Fitness in Clearwater, and teacher of its weekly Steel & Stilettos class.
The group had just spent almost an hour sashaying, swinging their hips and giving attitude as they danced in front of room-length mirrors. Everyone who came had expected as much from a fitness class that encouraged them to bring the highest pair of heels they could walk in.
The driving bass of Beyonce's Partition gave the women split into groups chances to improvise their sexiest dances on a bar, on a wall, with an imaginary partner in a chair.
"Do the coolest thing you can think of, and if you can't come up with anything, look at someone around you," Johnson, 34, a social worker for veterans said.
While letting the sweat evaporate during the post-workout cooldown, Johnson put on her other hat and let the tired women vent and hear encouragement from one another, so they could end their night on a positive emotional note to go with the pick-me-up of having actually worked out. The workout/group therapy session has been a hit at Body Altitudes since the boutique group fitness studio opened in 2013.
Johnson had been taking her daughters to the Future Flipz gymnastics center when a small empty storefront across the street beckoned to her. "I thought, 'We come here with our kids; why don't the moms have a place we can go, too?"
Business partner Pamela Socorro had a similar thought and they collaborated to get Body Altitudes up and running.
"We met in a Zumba class and I am very competitive," Johnson said. "I always noticed that she would be one of the best dancers and keep up step for step with the teacher. She made me say, 'Who's that girl?' "
When starting a fitness studio, the two sought to bring in only their favorite fitness teachers from other gyms to instruct and build a class schedule. The members have a say in who gets a coveted time slot.
Every new instructor is given a probationary class with members who vote to help decide their status.
"We want people to keep coming back, and part of that is giving them a reason to," Johnson said.
Big hits are the Zumba and Booty Jam Fitness classes; the dance-based workouts go perfectly with the mirrored studio. Newer additions include children's fitness classes aimed at minding the ever-widening gap in play and physical education offerings.
The Steel & Stilettos class — created by Johnson, who is a licensed Zumba and Booty Jam instructor — serves the dual purpose of making members feel sexy while getting sweaty.
"Don't touch anyone else unless they ask you to," Johnson said half-seriously before the class kicked off. "I know sometimes we all get into our own spaces in this mode."
Dirty jokes kept rolling as women alternated between slow backbends, sexy crawls and solo catwalks across the room, stomping out the drumbeats.
"I want them to come here and be comfortable and be free," Johnson said. "Being healthy is a total program and it's more than exercise."