My Favorite Dance-Based Workouts

cardio-barI’m just not a gym-goer. I never have been. Even when I lived in an apartment complex with a small free gym for its tenants, I just didn’t go. Working out needs to be fun, and for that, I need to be in a class with other people and an entertaining teacher. And I love dance!

So was so happy when I moved to L.A. to find an absolute abundance of dance-based workout classes. There are a bazillion, and I tried practically all of them. My favorite quickly became Cardio Barre (pictured left).

It’s very ballet-based. One of my teachers actually calls it “ballet on crack!” It’s basic ballet – with tendus and grand battemants and deep plies and arabesque holds and kicks and releves for calf strengthening. They teach you what everything is when you take a class; you don’t have to know the terminology! But unlike a regular ballet class, this one adds, as the name implies, cardio. So you’re doing everything very fast to spiked-up pop music. In addition to burning off calories by working up a good sweat, the instructors teach you how to extend your lines and stretch and strengthen so that you’re toning your muscles as well as elongating them. So you build long, lean muscles – like a ballerina – instead of just bulk. I love it.

When I first moved to California I gained a lot of weight – about forty pounds! Basically all the sitting in cars and eating Mexican food. I was used to walking all around New York, and NY did not have very good Mexican food. I credit Cardio Barre with losing all of it. I’m serious. I dieted a little bit but I still ate what I wanted. It was the workout that made the difference. Plus, it just makes you feel pretty while you’re doing it – like a ballet dancer 🙂

Today, I had a teacher who had actually competed on the very first season of So You Think You Can Dance. She was really encouraging everyone, and handing out these words of wisdom about moving better and improving your body, and just about life in general. It reminded me of the yoga teacher in Maria Murnane’s delightful novel, Katwalk, about a young woman gaining courage to make big changes in her life – my favorite type of story. Part of her acquiring that courage came from a yoga teacher’s simple little words of advice before and during class. Like the classic hairdresser / therapist but teacher / therapist instead!

lablastI’m also a big fan of LaBlast. This was founded by Louis van Amstel of Dancing with the Stars and is a Latin-dance-based workout. I love it for obvious reasons 🙂 It’s kind of like Zumba but more Latin than Hip Hop. Not that I don’t find Hip Hop fun; it just doesn’t look as good on my body, or I just seem rhythmically challenged or something. I just like Latin better. So LaBlast is a lot of the Latin ballroom-based steps but with more cardio, kind of bouncier and done in sneakers rather than heels.


aura-yoga1Third is hot yoga. I don’t know if yoga is officially dance-based but it always feels balletic to me with the stretching and strengthening, and even acrobatic in the more crazy poses. It’s just classic. Yoga always relaxes me – especially in a nice, darkly-lit studio, like the one I go to (Aura Yoga). I can really clear my mind when I’m cocooned in that little room, in those deep stretches. And the poses build a lot of core strength, which is so important to prevent injury when you dance or do other kinds of workouts, or just in everyday life, lifting things and whatnot. The more strength you have in your center – your abdominal muscles – the less stress you put on your back or hips. I always love stretching and the feeling of lengthening my muscles. And if the room is heated to 85 degrees or above, you can go really deep in to those stretches. Plus, being from AZ, I love heat 🙂

Did I miss anything? Do you have any favorite workout?

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