Arts & Culture

Get fit like RBG: FilmScene pairs Ruth Bader Ginsburg inspired workout with documentary screening

Jazzercise coach and member of FilmScene’s board of directors, Laura Bergus coaches participants during the FilmScene and Jazzercise Iowa City & Coralville Ruth Bader Ginsberg-inspired workout on FilmScene’s rooftop in honor of the FilmScene screening of the documentary RBG in Iowa City, on Sunday, May 20, 2018. (Photo by Mary Mathis)
Jazzercise coach and member of FilmScene’s board of directors, Laura Bergus coaches participants during the FilmScene and Jazzercise Iowa City & Coralville Ruth Bader Ginsberg-inspired workout on FilmScene’s rooftop in honor of the FilmScene screening of the documentary RBG in Iowa City, on Sunday, May 20, 2018. (Photo by Mary Mathis)
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Despite being 85 years old, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg works out every day. She has a trainer, she listens to opera during her workouts, and when “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert came to interview her about her workout, the television host could barely keep up.

In the past few years Ginsburg has become a beloved internet figure. From becoming a meme, to gaining the nickname “The Notorious R.B.G.,” the internet loves the Supreme Court justice. Now, Ginsburg’s notoriety is being extended to her new documentary “RBG.”

In a new documentary directed and produced by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, “RBG” dives into Justice Ginsburg’s life and legal legacy. With Iowa City’s FilmScene, 118 E. College St., showing the film, the board of directors decided to try something new. What about inviting people from around the community to partake in an RBG-inspired workout?

Ginsburg’s own workout consists of five minutes on an elliptical, stretching, doing some chest presses, leg extensions, leg curls, seated row, the butterfly press, the standing row, one-legged squats, pushups, free weights and calisthenics. Whew. For an octogenarian, this is nothing short of astounding. Her trainer, Bryant Johnson, developed this routine specifically for her. (He also wrote a book about it, “The RBG Workout: How She Stays Strong ... and You Can Too.”)

And that’s what I thought I would be doing on a cloudy, breezy Sunday morning.

I was very wrong.

While the workout was RBG-inspired, there was only some glancing resemblances to the justice, which was the instructor’s design. Laura Bergus, a local Jazzercise instructor and lawyer, wanted the class to be both challenging and empowering.

Bergus, who also is the chairwoman of the board of directors at FilmScene, wore earrings modeled after the collar Ginsburg wears when she gives a dissenting opinion, and picked songs like Macklemore’s “Glorious” that dealt with themes of empowerment and equal rights. This Ginsburg-inspired workout was an opportunity for Iowa City locals to appreciate Ginsburg’s lasting legacy on the Supreme Court as well as get a workout in on a Sunday morning.

Bergus chose, appropriately, to home in on her own exercise wheelhouse, Jazzercise. Using resistance bands and the fast-paced movement Jazzercise is known for, Bergus created a workout that was absolutely brutal, especially for someone like myself who is by no means in shape. This was my first workout in three years, and while it felt like this workout was ruining me, it was also making me feel stronger. Which, perhaps, is why Ginsburg works out twice a week, even at 85.

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While the justice is known for her strength and resilience, she may not have appreciated the music decisions made on Sunday, Bergus said. Ginsburg also has said she is no stranger to Jazzercise as another way to stay fit.

“(Ginsburg) apparently works out to opera,” she said. “Jazzercise is working out to current pop music and has been around for 50 years. She has said she did it in the ’80s and ’90s, and we thought that was a nice tie-in.”

FilmScene Programming Director Rebecca Fons saw this as an opportunity to continue FilmScene’s work with creating original and interesting tangential programming.

“FilmScene could just show movies and serve you popcorn,” Fons said via email. “But we delight in going the extra mile through initiatives like dog-friendly screenings of ‘Isle of Dogs’ with local photographer Laurie Haag taking pup photos on FilmScene’s blue carpet; a screening of ‘Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story’ followed by a discussion with local women who work in the STEM field; making Charlie Chaplin figurines in the lobby before ... screenings of ‘Modern Times.’ Engaging with our patrons and with cinema in creative and community-building ways is what makes FilmScene so special.”

As the chairwoman of the board of directors, Bergus was concerned about how this film tied into the larger political climate we are embroiled in.

“I don’t know if the producers knew what would be happening down the road when they were making this but the precedent the Supreme Court has set has come into focus lately, given the political environment we are in,” she said. “I think it’s important for people to have an understanding of how (Ginsburg) serves on the Supreme Court and helps interpret the Constitution and the laws of the United States and how they do that, as well as what kind of person they are outside the bench and the work they do.”

Brynne Schweigel, a Jazzercise regular and FilmScene member, thought of this as a way to both support organizations in the community as well as learn more about the justice.

“I love both organizations, and I thought it would be great to come get a workout beforehand,” Schweigel said. “Plus, Ruth Bader Ginsburg apparently did Jazzercise regularly for 20 years.”

Watch the documentary:

• When: “RBG” is showing at FilmScene through Thursday.

• Where: FilmScene, 118 E. College St., Iowa City

• Showtimes: (319) 358-2555 or icfilmscene.org

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