Longform

The Prancercise Lady Copes With the Dark Side of Internet Fame

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Haters gonna hate, parries Rohrback, who at the time was unfamiliar with the vernacular of camel toes. Days after the viral explosion, she scuttled into the VIP section at the Isle of Capri, eyes wide and azure. "I don't pay attention to the neighsayers," she announced. "Get it? N-E-I-G-H. It doesn't bother me at all. I've always been special, and now all these people are finally noticing it. And I just wanna tell 'em, 'What took you so long?' " Then her voice lowered. She looked around. There are concerns, she whispered.

"Someone's been leaving these nasty comments under my video and on my [Amazon] page," she says. "Someone else hacked into my email. It must be my competitors — Jazzercise and Zumba. Who else could it be? They're jealous."

Later, while setting up her Skype account amid the frenzy of the Isle of Capri poker room, she worried that another fitness group bent on trickery would somehow obtain her password. Her friend Sharon Schwartz agreed: "Jazzercise is the arch nemesis of Prancercise®. Jazzercise cannot hold a candle to Prancercise®."

(Reached for comment at Jazzercise HQ in Carlsbad, California, a spokesperson denied allegations that Jazzercise was plotting against Prancercise®. "We think Prancercise® can stand on its own merit," said Michelle Escala, adding she didn't know whether any inter-fitness-program sabotage had ever occurred. "Internally at Jazzercise, we've had a laugh at Prancercise®, but it hasn't gone any further than that.")

This paranoia isn't unusual. Gawker's Zimmerman says immediate fame can be terrifying and addicting. He "very consciously" passed on writing about Prancercise®. There was a rare sincerity in Rohrback, he says, that didn't deserve the dark repercussions of internet notoriety.

Rohrback "could be any person with any name from anywhere in the world," he says. "It's that action that propels [someone like her] into fame, but as soon as we find the next thing, we just move on. They try to recover, but they'll never again re-create it no matter how hard they try. It's just serendipity. And it hits them hard... I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy."


By now, you know the four points of Prancercise®," Rohrback stuttered into the camera at an undisclosed location in western Broward. She wore black tights and a white blouse, but her expression didn't carry any of that cocky delight that made her first video a hit.

"However, what about a prance to romance to?" Rohrback murmured, barely looking into the camera. "If you're pregnant or nursing, you should consult a physician before you romancercize."

The shot fades out, picking up with Rohrback trotting the leafy streets to "Paper Doll," John Mayer's first single off his new album, Paradise Valley. As Rohrback tells it, Mayer, who never spoke to Rohrback, had been working on the song when he saw the Prancercise® clip on mute. "He realized his song synced perfectly to my movement," she says.

In Mayer's video, her gallop is described as "Advanced Prancercise®." At one point, an image flashes of a man named "Jarrad Rohrback" in subtitles. Though the song's slow-dance beat is antithetical to the Prancercise® ethos — which is high-energy and effervescent — this partnership with the rock singer, released on June 18, hit the national media like an atomic bomb. And Rohrback, who had been worried about her fading media attention, was suddenly back. "Everything had really gone into a lull there for a few days, and I told her, just wait until this video comes out," Schwartz remembers telling Rohrback.

Rohrback's phone was again aglow with interview requests from Rolling Stone and CNN. But it was different this time. Rohrback felt tricked. "They didn't tell me they were going to use 'Advanced Prancercise®'! There's no such thing as 'Advanced Prancercise®'! They made that up. They also didn't tell me they were going to use my last name. They were just feeding me lines."

And "there is no Jarrad Rohrback!" she says. "I was naive to trust them. I was not happy with how they edited it." (Rohrback declined to reveal how much the musician paid her but declared it a "substantial amount.")

Rohrback felt "in a state of confusion." She adored her growing number of fans; she'd waited decades for all of this attention — so why did she miss her old life? Did anyone realize Prancercise® was a creation of sincerity? Had she been a fool?

Days later, Rohrback's phone chirped. It was the promotions manager at the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek. Rohrback was scheduled to perform a Prancercise® show there that night. She hoped to sell some shirts and books and to show the exercise was more than a gag.

But after she hung up the phone, she seethed, "I'm not a happy camper! I'd thought it was going to be just me Prancercising, but now I find out it's going to be a competition, and I'm the judge."

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Terrence McCoy