Somewhere in Northern Virginia (also referred to as NoVA), someone is about to die, literally, unfortunately, but also figuratively … in a good way. You see; some people actually sign-up to be worked out to coming within an inch of their lives or, at least, to exhaustion, and there is a particular taskmaster more than willing to oblige them. Her name is Kehinde Walker Powell, also affectionately known as “Kenni” or “KP”. Kenni teaches both hip hop dance and Zumba®. Her brand of high energy, high impact work-out sessions are becoming the stuff of legend in fitness centers and dance studios throughout the Washington DC Metro Area. There are those who can confidently bust out a few dance moves. Fewer still can salsa, but who in her right mind leads an hour-long dance class, incorporates weights into the routine then turns a few cartwheels for added flavor? Kenni Powell does all that and more. Before she became a rising star on the group fitness circuit, Kenni, much like many of us, was sitting on the side-lines, feeling unhappy about her reflection in the mirror. Thankfully, she decided to do something about it, because she has since dedicated herself to helping others “do something about it” as well.
Kenni Powell has been dancing since she was “knee-high to a grasshopper”. Kenni studied ballet, gymnastics, modern dance and tap growing up in Columbus, Ohio. Leading the Walnut Ridge HS drill team solidified her deserved to do something dance-related on a professional level. Before she and her husband relocated to Greater Washington in 2005, Kenni began studying belly dancing, a genre she continued to explore by participating in the DC Area’s annual belly dancing festival. In 2006, she even joined a small but dedicated Capoeira group. Unfortunately, as is the case for many women, the demands of motherhood slowly began to hinder her participation in her various dance activities but never diminished her passion for dance.
In 2007, after the birth of her second daughter, Kenni all but ceased everything exercise related. Constantly feeling like she did not have the time to get to the gym, she began to gain weight. By early 2008, Kenni had added an additional 18 lbs. to her extra 15 lbs. of retained “baby weight”. One day, she decided she could no longer take it. As an employee of the Fairfax County Government, Kenni enrolled in the Fairfax County employee fitness center and began working out during her lunch break. With the help of the program staff and other fitness enthusiasts at the county facility, Kenni shed 15 lbs. in the first ninety days. While working out, she noticed the employee fitness center also offered an aerobic dance program; so, she joined. After a few months, Kenni volunteered to serve as an instructor and offer a hip hop dance class. Kenni’s high-energy, charismatic teaching style quickly caught on. After a year of offering the hip hop dance class, Kenni followed a suggestion from one of her student’s and became a certified Zumba® Fitness Instructor in 2010. Since then, KP’s high calorie burning routines have been in demand at several Northern Virginia fitness centers and dance studios; including Gainesville Sport & Health, Clifton Dance Academy and the nZone. Earlier this year, she not only became certified to teach the emerging Zumba® Toning program, but she also earned certification in group exercise from the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America® (AFAA).
KP is all about the connection between fitness and mental health. In addition, to being a wife, a mother, and full-time employee (yes, she kept her day job), Kenni is working toward earning her second Master’s degree, a MS in Mental Health Counseling. “One of the things that motivated me in the beginning was seeing how a small thing like losing a few pounds or reaching a fitness goal can change a person’s total outlook. That’s why I love fitness,” Kenni explains. She further expounded by saying, “Many times, as humans, we need a physical motivator. Physical fitness can be a great motivator. It is just another example of the ‘physical’ forming the nexus between the mental and the spiritual dimensions in people’s lives.” Having dealt with depression caused by a negative self-image, Kenni seeks to help others, particularly women get fit and stay fit, both mentally and physically.
Just about every day of the week, you can find Kenni doing her best to work the students in one of her classes to death. On Mondays, Kenni heats up the dance floor at Clifton Dance Academy. On Wednesday and Friday evenings, you can find KP rocking the main studio at Gainesville Sport & Health, and on Saturday mornings, you will find Kenni bringing down the house at the nZone in Chantilly, VA. She has also led work-out sessions during various special events in Washington, DC, and as far out as Hagerstown, Maryland. Kenni’s complete class schedule is posted on her website: www.kennipowell.com. You may also follow KP on Twitter (@KPFitness1) and Pinterest (www.pinterest/kennipowell). Kenni is truly a rare breed, but do not take my word for it, you should take the opportunity to see her in action for yourself.
Michelle Stone is a staff writer for The Old School Journal™ (TOSJ). Michelle is assigned to the TOSJ’s “Social Calendar” blog and covers the happenings and gatherings in and around Washington, DC. Follow Michelle on Twitter®: @Stone_Writer. Michelle also contributes commentary and photos on the TOSJ Facebook® page. Follow TOSJ on Twitter: @OldSkoolJournal, hashtag: #tosj.
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Fitness shots courtesy of D Gallery Photography Studio.