Improvisation to improve your communication

What do Saturday Night Live and The Second City Improv Theater have in common with successful people and organizations? They follow the same core principles! Authenticity, listening,collaboration and fearlessness are just a few of the common attributes of successful “Improvisers” and high-performing people.

Here are some of the benefits and lessons to be gained from practicing Improvisation: 

To learn to listen; hearing what is being said in order to understand and respond appropriately 

To say “yes”—“Yes, and I will do this __________” 

Never “yes, but” or “no“ 

To live in the moment 

Make big choices 

Make them often 

Make them early 

Take risks: 

Rather than being devil’s advocate, say instead “Yes, that’s an interesting idea and I have another!” 

Mistakes are gifts—own them, don’t correct them but keep going, keep the flow and acknowledge it without apology 

Heighten, Explore, Transform 

Approach each communication and moment with an attitude of “today’s the day!” 

Be confident! Like a pilot walking through an airport 

Don’t have a planned end 

“Yes, and”—accept and build upon 

Listen to understand, not to respond 

Improv summed to one statement: “Yes, and…”, love, and have fun! 


This month we spoke with Aida Johnson-Rapp, the director of group exercise at East Bank Club about indoor cycling.

Describe your indoor cycling studio and program — what are the highlights? 

AJR: We undertook a major renovation and reprogramming of our indoor cycling facility and offerings, which launched in November. The new studio features a 23- by 14-foot, high-resolution, LED video wall; multi-color lighting programmable to match ride intensities; customized sound design with nightclub-grade acoustics; and much more. The studio also has all-new Stages SC Series bikes. These best-in-class bikes offer a smooth ride with a feeling of inertia that simulates an outdoor ride unlike any other bike on the market. The bikes have an adjustment system for quick and easy position adjustments, and a shifting system that enables instantaneous macro-level resistance changes to add or drop resistance quickly. The bikes are compatible with both SPD and Delta clips, as well as standard athletic shoes.

What tips can you share for creating a great indoor cycling offering? 

AJR: Provide extensive training to instructors to enable them to wow members. Create class formats that have broad appeal for a varied member demographic, such as rhythm/music choreographed rides; metrics/data-driven performance rides; fusion rides with core and mobility work; quick rides (30 minutes); entertainment-based rides with music videos; and themed rides, such as 80s, holidays, or a live DJ. Lastly, create an environment that is aesthetically appealing and user friendly.

Say I’m building an indoor cycling studio from scratch. What should I keep in mind? 

AJR: In our new studio, we decided to tier the bikes stadium style, and in doing so created a theater-like environment. We decided to remove the instructor stage element since the bikes are raised and place the instructor bike in the center. This also gives us the option to be able to move the instructor bike to the side if we have video content, or we can add another instructor on either side of the screen. We also have no mirrors in the studio, because the bikes are stationary, and the focus is on endurance as opposed to strength.

When it comes to indoor cycling programming, what are keys to success? 

AJR: I would say the key to success is to create programming where members can measure their progress. Sometimes the metrics on a console can become too repetitive. Offering programming with gamification aspects, such as Myzone, Stages Flight and more, will keep participants coming back because they have engaging measurement tools. 


Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at


Exciting Things this Summer

Pilates in the Park

For two Saturdays I am teaching Pilates Mat for the Millennium Park free workouts on the Great Lawn. Please come out for a wonderful time.

July 13 & July 20
9:00 am – 9:45 am 
Millenium Park Grand Lawn
201 E Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60601

Join Blue Star Families Community Engagement Volunteer, Aida Johnson-Rapp as she teaches pilates on the Grand Lawn!

Come by to see Chicago Chapter Director Sarita Connelly at the BSF Chicago table for your swag bag.

JUL 18 7-9pm

Yoga Rave: Summer Celebration

Celebrate summer in style at this fun class on the East Bank Club Sun Deck that will free your mind and move your body. Through a sequence of movement, yoga and meditation – with a soundtrack from a live DJ – we’ll nurture a strong mind and body connection. After the class, we’ll take in the Chicago skyline with complimentary refreshments and a cash bar.

Public · Hosted by East Bank Club and East Bank Club Mind Body Programs

MANIA® is where fitness pros break barriers and take their careers to the next level.
Westin O’Hare
Rosemont, IL

Friday, October 4, 10am FR2P – CREATING YOUR FITNESS PRO GAME PLAN with Aida Johnson-Rapp

Regardless of whether you are teaching and training full-time or part-time along with another profession, once you commit to a class/client and step into the studio you are a fitness professional. In this session get insights on how to make the most of your life as a fitness professional. (LECTURE)

Friday, October 4, 2:15pm FR4Q – ENGAGE YOUR INNER MOTIVATOR with Aida Johnson-Rapp

This workshops utilizes the tools of improvisation and storytelling to develop the skills to become a better communicator and more engaging instructor. Learn how to create a “Wow” factor that is authentically you. (LECTURE)


Aida Johnson-Rapp’s classes have been highlighted in the New York Post, Essence, the Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, CNN, Windy City Live and more. Aida has danced professionally; served in the U.S. Military; worked on the Chicago Mayor’s Fitness Council. Currently she is Director of Group Exercise at East Bank Club in Chicago, Illinois overseeing 200 plus hours of weekly classes. She holds numerous industry certifications including: AFAA, Pilates, TRX, Zumba, Yoga/Meditation

2019 continues to amaze me!

I have been very active this year in every way. I am leading the programming aspect of a new indoor cycling studio and the challenge in this project is extremely stimulating. So far it has taken me to several cities looking at cycling studios with outstanding design. I have traveled to Colorado, California, New York and Minnesota in pursuit of discovering the best studios in both design and programming.


Dancing with the Giordano Stars was amazing!

The big fundraiser for Giordano Dance Chicago was flawless.  I reached my fundraising goal and my dance partner Adam Houston was such a pro!  I would love to do this again but hopefully someone else next year will get to feel this joy and help enrich the lives of Chicago youth!

I am Dancing with the Giordano Stars 2018!

Remember Jazz Hands!!
I am very excited to participate in Dancing with the Giordano Stars 2018 because the performing arts bring so much joy. Without private support I fear there won’t be enough artistic programs available to the world and therefore we will all miss out on receiving the inspiration and enrichment that the arts provide.
The dance company has purchased the historic Hermon Baptist Church Building and will renovate and restore it as the new home for Giordano Dance instead of demolition. This is a historic building and I am proud to support this effort. 

Modern dance studio would reuse historic facade of former Lincoln Park church

By Jay Koziarz

The front of the 19th century structure would be visible behind the glassy walls of a new bKL-designed building.

Read the story here: Modern dance studio would reuse historic facade of former Lincoln Park church



A story about love, faith and resilience

My parents, Aaron and Mattie Johnson to Chicago from Jim Crow South in the 1950’s along with thousands of other African Americans to escape oppression and racial terrorism.  In Chicago they found decent employment and got a mortgage despite redlining which is the practice of arbitrarily denying or limiting financial services to specific neighborhoods, generally because its residents are people of color or are poor. My parents believed in hard work and sacrifice and got the mortgage. 

As a child growing up I didn’t know we were poor or even how bad my North Lawndale neighborhood was and would become because my parents enrolled me in dance classes at Ms. Water’s basement school of dance, sent me to a private Catholic school, had a Hammond organ in our house and took organ lessons, studied ballet at the Russian Allegro school of ballet, went on regular vacations, ate at restaurants on special occasions and always had the unconditional love and attention of both my parents.  Despite the fact that my neighborhood was burned to the ground as a result of two years of race rioting in the late 1960s I was surrounded by a network of family, teachers, and friends who led me to believe that life is full of possibilities. 

 My dance lessons allowed me to travel around the world performing eventually becoming an NBA cheerleader, in between I rocked the fitness world from the 80’s to the present day, teaching and managing in the fitness industry.  For 4 years, seven months and 9 days, I served in the United States Army.  I decided I would use the military as a way to search for life’s meaning and explore life beyond dance and fitness.  

 And yes, that is what my military service provided.  While in the military I finished my college degree, traveled Europe and when I returned stateside I was able to blend the creativity of my years as a performer with the discipline of my military training to organize festivals and events for the City of Chicago with the Mayor’s office of special events and now I am a senior manager for the largest private recreation facility in the US and yes still dancing.  I live in Chicago, the 3rd largest city in the US and because of my belief in life’s possibilities after 20 plus years of single life I met and married Craig Rapp. I will always be grateful to my wonderful parents, Aaron and Mattie Johnson for your unconditional love, faith, life lessons and support.

Watch and listen as I tell a story about an incident that I will never forget on one of our family road trips to Georgia.