And Up, and Down, and Up, and Down 

Tess Sweet needs a sex fitness instructor. Can you hang with it?

Tess Sweet stood on an empty stage inside the Berkeley Rep on a recent Sunday afternoon and said, "I've got that nervous feeling that no one is going to show up."

She was hosting an open audition to cast the instructor role in her sex fitness video, Sweet Moves 2. The original Sweet Moves, which she produced in Berkeley's public-access television studio last year, has acquired a cult following among the East Bay's young 'n' hip. Led by Sweet, who adopted a 1980s Jazzercise look, the film was part sex-positive sermon and part workout video kitsch - "And one and two and in and out and push it!" The video ends with Sweet performing Kegel exercises that she says will help you "make love like a rock star!"

Since completing Sweet Moves, Sweet has been learning some new lessons of her own. She recently hosted an all-female Masturbate-a-Thon in New York City that is set to air on HBO's Real Sex in November, and she'd just returned from a film festival in Los Angeles where Sweet Moves played before an Annie Sprinkle documentary. Afterward, "People were asking me for my autograph," she said. "It was wild."

She briefly allowed herself to bask in the moment. After all, the acclaim garnered by Sweet Moves has teased her with a whiff of the Dream: A life built on her artistic vision, a touch of fame, and enough cash flow to make a decent living. The only problem now is the other people. You have to work with them. Depend on them. Wait for them.

Sweet booked eight would-be rock stars for today's audition. A major distributor recently contacted her about carrying Sweet Moves, so her project is now primed to go to the next level. "You just never know who will show up," she said. "Or if they'll show up."


Kimmy Chen, a 26-year-old student from San Francisco, arrived on stage wearing a strawflower hat, white silk blouse, and a black miniskirt with a slit up the side. She wore white platform tennis shoes and white ankle socks. She giggled like a freshman ready for a tryout with the spirit squad, and made a point to shake everyone's hand, hold eye contact, and then offer a firm, "Nice to meet you."

"I'm going to try and remember everyone's names," she said, rolling her shoulders back.

Chen removed her hat and took a seat across from Sweet and three men who had worked with her on the first video. Chen said she had just driven from Los Angeles, where she was up until 5 a.m., playing Truth or Dare at a party. She was the life of the party, she added, and skinny-dipping had occurred at her urging. "But I was the sober one," she said.

Sweet asked Chen to fill out the written questionnaire. One question asked, "What interests you about this audition?" so Chen wrote, "Sexy moves, doing sexual things. Love dancing. Dancer = good in bed."

When she finished, Chen handed the clipboard back to Sweet, who asked her again why she wanted the gig.

"I just like the idea of it," Chen said. "It's, you know, as a kid ... I was a big fan of Michael Jackson. I liked his dancing."

Sweet and her panelists nodded, not sure what to make of this reason.

"Your passion carries through in bed," Chen continued. "That's what I tell people. If I go out dancing, and you're out there on the floor and I see a guy who's out there dancing ..." Her voice trailed off to suggest that she was watching a male dancer exude passion. "Then I know he's fuckin' hot in bed."

Sweet and the panelists raised their eyebrows and smiled. They liked this answer.

"Same thing with a girl," Chen added. "See, in my culture talking about sex is taboo." She said she liked to tease her mother about her old-fashioned ways, just to get a rise out of her. "I say, 'Mom, what would you do if you ever caught me having sex with two girls at the same time?'"

Chen laughed hard and held her stomach. The panelists smiled back and laughed along with her.

"Okay," Sweet said, "can you show us some of your moves?

"I'd love to," Chen replied. She cued the CD player to a Britney Spears song and began bobbing her head, instantly finding a rhythm. She walked to the front of the stage as Sweet and another panelist fell in behind her in a triangle formation. The dancers each dropped a blue workout mat at their feet.

"Okay," Chen yelled over the throbbing music, "We're gonna work on this right here." She began gyrating her hips up and down and side to side. Sweet and a male dancer followed the motion.

Chen followed the beat into her next move, a more seductive version of the first: She looked like she was hula-hooping in slow motion, keeping the hoop from dropping to the floor every few seconds. After she was done, she circled around, bent over, stuck her butt out, and palmed her inner thighs. "Feel it burn in here," Chen coached, as she squatted and rose up. "You feel that?"

Chen was leading her partners just fine, but Sweet was hoping for more pillow talk. Chen led her partners into a minutes-long set of crunches; Sweet, wiped out, stopped for a breather.

"I want to see if you're comfortable talking about sex," Sweet said, politely. "So ... if you could ... you know?"

"Okay, okay," Chen said, with a determined enthusiasm, the music still blaring in the theater. For a moment, she looked challenged by the demand to ad-lib hot talk: What to say? Then she recovered. Dancing her way down, she got on her knees and assumed a woman-on-top position. "Straddle him," Chen demanded, the sound of forced empowerment in her voice. "You want to be able to go a long time."

A minute later, she rolled over flat on her back. Her fitness partners followed her lead. Chen paused, looking up at the ceiling, searching for inspiration.

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