All it takes is one hour of a K-pop dance class, surrounded a room of high school students who must have already practiced the music video routine in their parents' living rooms, to confirm what your body already knew: If the music's right, you can bounce from side to side (or jump up and down like a crazy person) with the best of them, but if choreography's involved, you, for the love of Shakira, cannot dance.
But nowadays, dance fitness programs (Zumba being the most popular) are trying to convince us that, yes, we can dance and we can burn 600-1000 calories doing simple moves that are accessible to all types of fitness enthusiasts, even if we don't know what a chasse is and, truthfully, don't even want to know.
So here's the level you're looking for: you can handle more than doing grapevines back and forth, but if there are body rolls involved, they'll probably look a little bit like those shoulder circles you do after a long day hunched over your laptop. Anything with the words “strip” or “sizzling” may require more sass than you can muster when you're tripping over yourself, but bonus points if the music is infectious and it doesn't even feel like you're working out until you pass out that night and wake up sore the next day.
Here are five dance workouts in L.A. for people who are more likely to make others laugh, rather than impress, with their moves.
5. AfroFunk Dance Fitness
Finally, a dance where your limbs flailing in all directions is a sign that you're doing something right. Led by Tanita Fadyeyola, AfroFunk combines African, Caribbean, hip hop and funk dance movements in a way that encourages beginning dancers to not care about what you look like and, instead, soak in the positive energy while rocking out to the drum beats. The simple choreography is broken down into low, medium and high impact, and soon you'll be jumping up and down, thrusting your hips and throwing your hands in the air without a care in the world. Plus, every month at Heartbeat House, the class is accompanied by a live drummer. Heartbeat House, 3141 Glendale Blvd., Atwater Village; Mon., 6:30-7:30 p.m., Wed., 7:30-8:30 p.m. (323) 669-2821. YMCA of Glendale California, 140 N. Louise St., Glendale; Tues 9:30-10:30 a.m., Sun 2:30-3:30 p.m. (818)240-4130, afrofunkdancefit.com.
4. Richard Simmons Sweat!!!
Before you enter the studio, you might just run into Richard Simmons himself in the lobby, where he'll kiss your cheek, tell you you're beautiful and marvel at how everyone who takes his class (who literally comes in all ages, shapes and sizes) is so damn good-looking. When you get inside, you realize you're partly here for a dance class, but more importantly you're part of a community of strangers that is co-creating today's stage musical starring Richard Simmons. You get to be both spectator and participant, part of Simmons' flash mob of back-up dancers as he lip-syncs to each song and emotes up a storm. Part way through the class, he parts the sea of jazzercisers to create a big dance circle with only one rule: if you're a man stepping into the center spotlight, you must take your shirt off and possibly let Richard Simmons dry hump you. Expect jazz hands, shimmying, finger-wagging, naughty jokes, and a healthy combination of verbal berating and motivational speaking to whip you into shape. Slimmons Studio, 9306 Civic Center Dr., Beverly Hills. (310)275-4663. For schedule, see richardsimmons.com.
See also: Richard Simmons' Fabulous Poker Face
3. '80s Dance Party
Matthew Simmons likes to joke that Richard Simmons is his uncle, as they share the same last name, and the younger Simmons leads a workout class devoted to all things 1980s, the decade that kickstarted the older's success. Two years ago, Matthew Simmons (a breakdancer, stunt performer and former Harlem Globetrotters mascot born in 1980) was first inspired to teach a Zumba-like workout to tunes from '80s movie soundtracks like Back to the Future and Goonies (leg warmers optional), but his class eventually evolved to include new wave music like Duran Duran and Flock of Seagulls as well as girl groups like Exposé and the Bangles. The follow-along moves range from the classic Michael Jackson leg kick to the Molly Ringwald dance (named after those 13 very memorable seconds in The Breakfast Club), and after quizzing everyone on '80s TV trivia the class ends with a simple choreography routine that Simmons has given titles like “Rhythm of the Night,” “Who's Johnny” and “Rocky Balboa.” Moore Dancing, 11943 Montana Ave., Brentwood. Wed., 11 a.m.-12 p.m., Fri., 6-7 p.m.; (310) 500-8375, mooredancing.com.
See also: 10 Best Ways to Get in Shape in L.A.
2. Sweaty Sundays/Sweaty Sundays: Slow Jams
While Sweaty Sundays is advertised as an “open-level” type of class, the truth is that if you can't dance, you will probably be pretty bad at it. That said, you won't care. You'll do your best to follow prolific choreographer Ryan Heffington's moves and give your abs an extra workout by laughing hysterically at how ridiculous you must look — especially during moments of freestyle when people who are obviously trained dancers start pirouetting and you just shake everything you got 'cause you don't know what else to do. That said, Sweaty Sundays provides a welcoming, non-competitive atmosphere, where people are just here to let loose. (There's also Wet Wednesdays, which is basically a night-time version of Sweaty Sundays.) But if you yearn for a more downtempo version, there's also Sweaty Sundays: Slow Jams, where you may just groove to the Weeknd's “Wicked Games,” Whitney Houston's “You Give Good Love” or Kendrick Lamar's “Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe.” The Sweat Spot, 3327 W Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026; Sweaty Sundays Sun 12-1pm, Slow Jams 1:30-2:30pm, (323) 953-8089; thesweatspotla.com.
1. Doonya: The Bollywood Workout
Having just expanded Doonya from D.C. and New York to Los Angeles earlier this year, co-founders Kajal Desai and Priya Pandya understand that Bollywood dance can seem intimidating, but their goal is to make it accessible to everyone. Deemed “your happy workout,” Doonya combines elements of Bhangra, Indian classical dance, hip hop and jazz to create unique fitness routines made up of leg taps, kicks, pick-up steps, shoulder shrugs, hip movements and come-hither facial expressions that coincide with the Hindi lyrics. Set to the latest energetic hits, you could be revisiting the heart-warming Ranbir Kapoor-Deepika Padukone flirtations from the hit film Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, dancing to Priyanka Chopra's debut single “Exotic” or even rockin' out to Selena Gomez's Indian-influenced “Come and Get It.” Doonya also has a new 3-disc DVD (which includes a beginner breakdown of their signature moves), up-to-date at-home workouts on their website and an interactive fitness TV series coming up on Zee TV starting October 2013. Momentum by Iron, 1919 Broadway, Santa Monica; Tues., 6:30-7:30 p.m. (323) 669-2821. Moore Dancing, 11943 Montana Ave., Brentwood. Sat., 11 a.m.-12 p.m., (310) 500-8375, LA DanceFit, 10936 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A. Sun 12-1 p.m. (310)473-3530, doonya.com.
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