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The Cult Jam

NEW YORK — There are people who obsess over working out, and there are those who take Derek Mitchell’s videography classes at Crunch. Mitchell’s moves, set in time to, say, Janet Jackson or an up-tempo J.Lo groove, inspire the kind...

"The phenomenon is insane," he says with a bemused smile. "My choreography is no better or worse than the other teachers’. But my focus is having a good time and getting to know my students. Here everybody wants to feel like a star and I help facilitate that."

Ariel, a pretty brunette who rearranged her vacation plans to make it to this last class, and who practices Derek’s dance routines in front of her office’s bathroom mirror at Fox News, hugs him as he passes through the gym. "After September last year I needed an hour not to think about what was happening," she says. "Derek gave me my sanity back."

"And he’s cute," says Ariel’s friend Morgan.

"Yeah," adds Ariel, "and he’s got a great ass."

At 9:30 sharp the latecomers are turned away and the lucky ones quickly stow their bags and begin stretching. The music starts — blaring Nelly — and Mitchell springs to life, performing moves that everyone seems to know. They twist on their toes. Elbows snap. Hips jut. Derek moves like he has springs in his sockets. People start to sweat. "Take off your shirt, Derek," one woman screams.

And that’s just the warm up.
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