Join the club: Ballet boys
By Luke Blackall
Not so long ago, starting a series of ballet yoga class for boys might have seemed like a questionable business plan, but the new Movement Warriors classes at Studios 52a in Kingston upon Thames, are packed.
The courses' popularity might be helped by the fact that they are run by BalletBoyz, the internationally renowned male dance company. Since being put together by dancers and artistic directors Michael Nunn and William Trevitt in 2001, BalletBoyz has performed internationally and been featured on TV and film.
The Movement Warriors classes are for various age groups, from the under-fives to 10 to 13 year olds. They can then graduate to the contemporary dance fitness classes for teenagers.
"The stigma has gone – dance is now cool, it is not just for girls but for boys too," says Karl Morgan, one of the teachers, and a former West End musical theatre dancer. "Half my pupils will turn up in a football kit; they come off the pitch from football practice straight into the studio for dance class. Street dance has helped change the image of dance and reality TV dance shows have made it more accessible. Everyone wants to dance!"
Morgan says that he uses themes such as 'space' or 'superheroes' and high-energy games to help engage the boys, while he fuses classical and pop music with basic ballet techniques, as well as simple jumping and changing direction exercises.
"My little boys come into the studio and see the grown men rehearsing next door and think, 'I want to be like that when I am older'," he adds. "'I want to dance for a living'."
Cheapskate's version: tell your child to Jane Fonda-along to your 'Billy Elliot' DVD
The cyclist: Christmas gift ride
By Simon Usborne
It's a question I get asked fairly often at this time of year: what do you get the cyclist in your life for Christmas? For some non-cycling gifters, the challenge can be as tough as that which greets, perhaps, a misguided husband in search of lingerie, or a grandfather sent to the Furby aisle at Hamleys.
Cyclists were traditionally viewed as another breed, you see, and their paraphernalia as niche as cycling itself. What do you buy the trainspotter in your life? More specifically, the trainspotter with a particular interest in certain types of trains. I dunno, a pencil?
I have in my loser's cycling drawer under my bed, behind the leg warmers and assorted mitts and spanners I need, a gift stash of stuff I really don't, but don't have the heart to throw out. Nor do I have the heart to identify them, so I asked some buddies for bad-present anecdotes.
As cycling becomes more fashionable, the challenge has thankfully reduced, but there were still lots of replies (bells, mainly). I'll conclude with one from Toby that also serves as an easy answer to the central question.
"A girlfriend who said she wanted to support my hobbies bought me a kickstand, reflectors and a bell. The store had said they were important safety devices... I feigned thanks for 10 minutes before she said she was joking and that if I took them back, they would exchange them for a gift voucher. I proceeded to buy a Garmin 500."
Modern gym rules: Smell
Sniffing seats after spinning class is never acceptable. Even if it's your own
Gear: SnoKart Kabin bag, £84.99
A carry-on bag designed for ski boots and more that has wheels and won't fall apart? We'll raise a glass of schnapps to that.
Takin' it easy: 'The baby frame'
By Larry Ryan
On a recent familial visit I witnessed the horror of child rearing. Obviously the kids are lovely and all that but sweet Jesus, does it look tiring. At one point I was put in charge of the buggy and couldn't help but think that despite the exhaustion, it was also nice to have something to rest myself on while I walked. For me, the baby stroller is the acceptable version of a zimmer frame for those requiring no walking aid but who nevertheless remain determined to take a load off in the pro-leagues.