Thursday, 30 May 2013

Dancing in the street

By Rebecca Almond

Those who know me will agree when I tell you I’m not at all “street”. So when I was invited to sample the new urban dance exercise class at Fitness First, I was conscious my moves would be more hip-pop than hip-hop.  

Now I’m not one to shuffle around my handbag when I hit the dance floor – 16 years’ of ballet training instilled a modicum of rhythm in my body – but this genre of dance is way beyond my comfort zone. Still, the allure of burning up to 400 calories in a one-hour ‘fun-filled workout’ led me to pack my gym kit and prepare to take centre stage…

Diversity Street Dance promises to help you achieve traditional exercise goals through high-energy street dance moves, offering a workout that boosts cardio fitness, muscle strength, balance and flexibility. And, as the class name suggests, the routines are choreographed by the winning dance troupe of Britain’s Got Talent 2009, Diversity.

“This class is for absolutely anyone,” says Diversity’s leader and man with the moves, Ashley Banjo. “We hope the class will attract more people to street dance – the idea is people have fun, gain an insight into a different style of dance and get fit.”

So, warm up done, positions taken – and my eyes sheepishly averted from the surrounding wall of mirrors – the instructor takes the class through the routine. The steps are easy to grasp, combining a series of jumps, body rolls and powerful moves both upright and on the floor. And when we’re ready to put everything to music and the beats start booming, I’m quick to realise Ashley’s get-fit pledge has grounds. Two takes of the routine and I’ve worked up a sweat and am gasping for water – but all worries of looking like a fool have been danced away.

This class is hugely energetic, but not in a humdrum, must-keep-pounding-the-treadmill sense. There’s something about dance that turns your mind away from achieving your exercise goal and focuses it instead on mastering the moves and having fun – regardless of whether your interpretation of the routine is as polished as the instructor’s.

If you have two left feet, this class probably isn’t for you as the choreography is fast, varied and high impact in places. But don’t let age hold you back – my session was filled with men and women of varying generations. ‘There should be something for everyone,’ says Ashley.

A class that burns calories and builds strength but doesn’t feel like an exercise class? I’m sold. In fact, street dance is likely to become a regular feature of my stay-fit regime. So come on Mr Banjo, I’m waiting for your call – I quite fancy myself as the 12th member of Diversity…

Diversity Street Dance is available at selected Fitness First clubs nationwide. For more information and to find your nearest class, visit

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