Emilia Richeson isn’t a fitness guru. She’s a queer punk ray of sunshine with an infectious smile who grew up as a misfit in a small town in Vermont in the 90’s, finding her “people” through a shared love of underground music: Goth, Punk, New Wave, Brit Pop, and Synth Pop. She also loves to dance.
In 2014, Emilia found herself in Los Angeles, out of the bar and club scene but desperately missing the dance parties. She started making up dance routines to her favorite songs in her bedroom and sharing them with her close friends. They begged her to start a class, and Pony Sweat was born.
What started with a few people in a studio in Highland Park has grown into a movement — Emilia’s weekly classes around LA are packed with Pony enthusiasts, growing ever fuller as friends invite friends and social media posts welcome new converts of all body types and abilities: Pony fever is contagious. People are drawn to Emilia’s message of inclusivity and body-positivity, danced out to a soundtrack that feels like a mixtape your best friend made just for you. The moves are combinations of steps you might remember from 80’s VHS tapes of iconic aerobics gurus Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda, cathartic punches, kicks and “ponies” that just feel good in your body, and even moves that could fit into music videos of your favorite bands from classic MTV and today’s top YouTube hits — Kate Bush, Peaches, the Cure, Santigold, Siouxsie Sioux, Nine Inch Nails, Robyn, Prince, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Cyndi Lauper, Bikini Kill and Psychedelic Furs.
As people started asking how they could Pony outside of LA, Emilia worked with friends from Pancake Mountain and Evidence Film Studios to develop her first full-length dance aerobics video, “Pony Sweat: Volume One.” It’s the first of many videos to come and is available to for free via YouTube. It’s a goth punk twist of classic aerobics with a visual nod to “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” and “Desperately Seeking Susan.” It’s dance aerobics for fitness misfits of a new generation.
“Pony Sweat,” says Emilia, “is not about looking cool or put together or doing anything perfectly.” As a kid who grew up terrified of gym and feeling awkward in dance classes, she wanted to share with others the confidence that dance aerobics finally gave to her. Pony Sweat, she says, is about learning to trust in your body and practicing radical self-love. It’s about expanding a circle of friends, growing community, and knowing that whoever or wherever you are, you are not alone.
From Emilia’s bedroom to the world! Let the Pony Sweat Revolution begin.
Caleb Miller is a musician and visual artist living in Los Angeles. She is a member of sociopolitical agitators, the "Clueless" soundtrack-worshipping punk upstarts, dimber. As a trans woman she is no stranger to having felt a lack of confidence in her own form, the waves of doubt in her body's abilities and movements. Finding Emilia and Pony Sweat helped her combat these mental and emotional trappings, discovering the power that comes from loving and challenging your own physicality. She dances proudly, fiercely and defiantly. And she sweats.