Learn how to bend it like Beyoncé
Forget the treadmill – fitness classes teaching the superstar's dance moves are proving to be a sell-out. Gillian Orr wonders how something that's so much fun can possibly be good for us
I'm not much of a dancer. At parties I can be found perched safely on a comfortable seat with a drink in hand (or chatting in the smoking area). Struttin' my stuff on the dancefloor? Not so much. Sometimes I might sway my hips if I've hit the whisky too hard but generally I see the dancefloor as an area invented purely for public humiliation. The modern-day stocks, if you will.
But perhaps my trepidation towards that foreign square is because I don't really know how to dance. What if I could break out some choreographed moves that would dazzle and impress my fellow merrymakers? And there's no point learning how to, say, tango. When was the last time you were at a party and they blasted out "Adiós Nonino"? No, Beyoncé; that's where it's at. No matter how hip or square the party, you can usually rely on Bey to make an appearance.
But I know Beyoncé. I've seen the videos. I stayed up late to see her cavorting at the Super Bowl half-time show. I even stood in a muddy field and watched in awe as she shimmied across the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury. How do you even go about trying to recreate that?
Now, with the help of dance company Seen on Screen Fitness, you can learn her actual moves. Taught by professionals who have danced with the stars, they break down a song's routine for you and, over 90 minutes, aim to teach you the choreography. Its Beyoncé Dance Series classes saw a 500 per cent uplift in bookings last month, such an increase that it has had to put on two extra classes a week, as people look for alternative ways to exercise. Why slog it out at a spinning class when you can get fit learning the "Single Ladies" dance routine? It even runs a "heels master class" so you can be taught how to drop down low in 5in stilettos.
Seen on Screen was the idea of Bonnie Parsons, a professional dancer since 2007, who has performed with Florence & the Machine, Kelly Rowland, JLS, and on The X-Factor live shows. "When I was growing up I would have done anything to learn pop stars' dance routines that I'd see on Top of the Pops," she says. "I couldn't believe no one was offering it so 18 months ago I started up my own company."
I meet Bonnie in a studio in west London where she is going to teach me the routine to Beyoncé's anthem "Crazy in Love". I'm nervous but she immediately puts me at ease. "Everyone tells me before the class that they're scared but it's supposed to be fun!" she chortles. I'm not so sure; I was at a party the night before, forgoing the dancefloor for the mojitos. I confide in Bonnie that I had to buy trainers especially for the occasion and she looks concerned. I decide against telling her about the mojitos.
We start off with a warm-up that includes elements of Pilates and some serious stomach crunches before moving onto Beyoncé sassy walking. Bonnie explains the proper way to carry yourself and how to strengthen your core (which seems to be not dissimilar to clenching the muscles you would if you really needed a wee; apparently Beyoncé does this the whole time she's performing. Who knew?). The walking is a hoot and Bonnie encourages me to get more in character by tossing my hair around and amping up the attitude. At first I feel completely self- conscious but Bonnie has a way of making booty-strutting seem like the most natural thing in the world. "I like to think we empower women in our classes and improve their confidence; that's really important to me," she tells me later. We slip on some heels to really get in the right frame of mind and next thing you know I'm prancing around the studio like I'm on stage at the O2.
We then get started on the routine. Inevitably the choreography is harder than it looks and remembering how many steps you need to take and which leg you have to start on can get confusing. But Bonnie is patient and teaches it in bite-size pieces. When I finally nail it, it's ridiculously exhilarating. There are a few people watching through the glass window and instead of being embarrassed I throw myself into it even more. She was right about the whole confidence thing.
Well it's certainly enjoyable, but how aerobically effective is it? I feel like I've used long- dormant muscles and I have a pink flush across my cheeks but I'm not exactly out of breath. "You get the initial cardio in the warm-up and the dancing," she tells me. "But really it's the little secrets like how to use your core properly and how to really sit into your hip and feel that stretch down your thigh. The best thing about dancing is that you don't realise what you're actually working out. When you're on the treadmill you just want it to be over, whereas when you're dancing you're doing squats, sit-ups, tricep dips and bicep curls but in a routine, without thinking about it. It's more enjoyable. It's an all-over body workout with the fun factor." In a 90-minute class you can look to burn off 400 calories. "But you have to push yourself for it to be that effective," Bonnie says with a smile. "If you're going to do it half-heartedly then you'll burn, well, about half of that."
As well as offering other Beyoncé classes, next month Seen on Screen is introducing Rihanna dance classes, where you'll be able get down to songs such as "Umbrella" and "We Found Love". So what attracts most of her clients to the classes? "I think people just enjoy dancing as a whole," suggests Bonnie. "They're learning how to do something but they're also losing weight and toning up. Some people come just to bust a move. It's not supposed to be that serious, we just want people to have fun."
Classes cost £18 and take place across London. seenonscreenfitness.com; Tel: 0800 644 0588
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