My Beginners Guide to Dance Classes

I teach Zumba and Les Mill Sh’bam. I’m not a natural dancer but that’s ok. I think I’m actually an excellent example of how anyone can enjoy dance based exercise classes.

I’ve written in the past about how classes that look tough can be scary to start- but I totally get that for many dance classes are maybe even more off-putting. A lot of people put themselves into the two left foot category and think they will look stupid.

But – hand on heart these classes are so much fun.

Tough day ? Try going to a dance class and I challenge you not to leave smiling. The benefit of having exercised is almost just an added bonus.

So if you’ve been debating giving a class a go but haven’t been sure here’s my what you need to know tips so you walk into the room with some idea of what to expect (because let’s face it the unknown is always the scariest thing)

  • First – Don’t worry about whether you think you can dance or not – just go and try
  • This isn’t going to be learning a complicated routine to perform in front of your friends and family this is using dance moves to get the body moving and the heart rate up to burn calories and feel healthier and fitter
  • It is still exercise so you may find the odd squat disguised as a dance move – it will help you tone up without even realising!
  • Nobody cares what you look like – the other participants are going to be too caught up in what they are doing to watch you
  • Likewise – there is a lot less technique to worry about in dance classes than some other classes out there so the instructor probably won’t mind if you are freestyling or doing something differently to them!
  • It’s supposed to be fun – you are allowed to smile!
  • If you get a move wrong you can just laugh and carry on – honest
  • No instructor I know takes these classes so seriously that they will be offended if you freestyle a bit- if you aren’t sure about a move do whatever feels right to keep dancing – If you love a part of a track and go want to add your own style – do it. In fact I love it when regulars bust out their own moves on certain tracks
  • Don’t think you won’t sweat- it sounds bonkers but my Fitbit normally tells me I’ve burnt more after teaching Zumba or Sh’bam than Body Pump! I put this down to enjoying it so much I forget how hard I’m working and so keep the energy high all through the class. It doesn’t mean you are unfit – it means the class is working as it should!
  • Like all classes there are levels you can take. If your new or have any little niggles(back, knees etc.) you can walk moves through and take out the jumps (in fact you can do this just to get used to the class)- as you get more used to the routines you can take the energy as high as you like
  • Don’t worry if everyone seems to instinctively know the moves and you feel like a fish out of water- we tend to repeat routines so regulars will know what’s coming – in a few weeks time you will too and the new person in the class will be looking at you thinking how do they know what’s coming!
  • You can wear any gym kit that feels comfortable – do wear trainers though. We will not let you join in in bare feet (unless the class specifically says it is to be done this way!) – this is to stop you getting injured so don’t be offended by this

So which class should you choose?

I am obviously a bit biased towards the ones I teach! Honestly though – best thing I can suggest try all the ones on offer at your local gym and see which one you enjoy the most. There’s so many different styles there will be one for you and the best way is to give a few a go.

Your options include:

  • Zumba – probably the best known dance class. These classes are all based on some key steps and contain a mixture of international music and rhythms. Each song is its own little self contained routine. The instructor won’t speak but will direct you with hand gestures and their movement. Every instructor will put their own spin on the class and prepare their own routines so if you can try a few different instructor’s classes to find one you gel with – and be aware if you go to someone elses class it may feel like starting Zumba all over again a bit!
  • Les Mills Sh’bam – Different to Zumba in that it is choreographed, so whilst every instructor will bring their own personality, whichever you do it the moves will remain the same. New routines are introduced every three months for variety and there will be a variety of styles of dance and music but again each track will be it’s own little self contained routine – normally containing a couple of basic steps which are built up into a little dance combination.
  • Les Mills Body Jam- Another pre choreographed class which means it will be the same whoever takes the class. Unlike Sh’bam and Zumba though this class builds up into one big routine. Each track will focus on one part of a routine which you dance through towards the end of the class. Slightly more dance focused whereas the moves in Zumba and Sh’bam tend to be more dance based exercises (in my opinion)
  • Freestyle – Classes where the instructor designs the choreography and may use a mixture of styles or specify a type of dance (e.g. Street Dance) – these will all be different so don’t let one put you off trying another until you find your fit.
  • Other choreographed classes e.g. Beachbody Cize, SOSA Dance – all with their own style and formats.

As well as being great exercise these classes can be freeing and massive mood boosters so I’d urge you, if you’ve been thinking about it, to give it a try. Remember nothing you do will be wrong and anything goes and just have fun!

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