I Tried It: My Search for Philly’s Best (And Sweatiest) Dance Class

Can a fun, sassy dance class really be a good workout? (Yes. Definitely yes.)

Beginner's Hip Hop at Koresh Dance Company | Photograph by Gene Smirnov

Beginner’s Hip Hop at Koresh Dance Company | Photograph by Gene Smirnov

My legs are shaking, sweat is rolling into my eyes, and for about three minutes in the middle of it all, I have to focus what little energy I have left on not barfing. True, I’m just doing some aerobic dancing in Lithe Method’s Rock Steady class, but it’s intense aerobic dancing. Aerobic dancing on Four Loko. With complex choreography. I wonder: Is this how Kevin Bacon felt working on Footloose? Probably not — Kevin Bacon wasn’t attached to the ceiling with stretchy bands for added resistance. He also wasn’t taking breaks to drop down for a hard-core arms/abs/legs series. No, this is definitely harder than anything anyone has done ever — so when I finally figure out the moves and push through the whole routine (without barfing), it’s a major high. I’m killing it. Forget Kevin: I am basically a Laker Girl. 

Still, I won’t lie: I’m relieved when Cardio Bellydance at Philly Dance Fitness turns out to move at a less frenetic pace. The class builds steadily from the moment you don your jangling hip scarf, as you work on individual moves that are later put together into a routine. More experienced belly dancers in the class are adept at moving their hips independently of their core; my subtle shimmies look more like whole-body shakes. (A good hip wiggle takes practice, evidently.) No matter — the vibe is completely nonjudgmental, and my abs and obliques are so sore in all the right places the next day that I’m confident I’ve worked the same muscles while dancing that Shakira does, even if our techniques vary.

In fact, I’m still feeling the belly-dancing burn a few days later when I drop by Ploome’s Vavoom Cardio Burlesque, which offers even more of a full-body strengthening workout but shares the same convivial energy: Something about combining your squats with bootie bumps, working hair flips in amongst leg lifts and meshing planks with sexy body rolls creates an instant party vibe, even if it is Saturday morning and you’re wearing your Gap sports bra. (The Beyoncé soundtrack helps.)

Hands down, though, the fly-est of all dance workouts is Beginner’s Hip Hop at Koresh Dance Company, where instructor Tyger B really expects a lot from his students. For the most part, he gets it, likely because the music, the moves and — let’s be honest — his physique are nothing short of inspirational. If you’ve watched even one J.Lo video in your life, you know that hip-hop dancing demands high levels of energy, concentration and precision: Halfway through the class I’m sweating through my top, on take 25 of trying to make my steps, my pops and my slides look anywhere near as cool and clean as Tyger’s. This may take a few return visits.

This article first appeared in the 2015 Be Well Philly print magazine. To get a free copy for yourself, go here.

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