I Tried the Buzziest Dance Workouts in L.A. and Lived to Tell the Tale
From kindergarten through high school, I lived and breathed dance. I had more pairs of tights, tap shoes, and budge-proof bun forms than I did jeans and sneakers, and when I wasn't studying or sleeping, you could find me at the studio.
I'll admit that in elementary school it was more about the social aspect of the sport, the glitz, the excitement of performing on a huge stage with spotlights, music, and patent leather rhinestone-studded costumes. Though as I grew older, my relationship with dance became a bit more dynamic and even a tad complicated.
By eighth grade, I was on my high school dance team, had a close-knit group of dance friends, and a physical, time-demanding activity that basically robbed me of any opportunity to get into typical teenage mischief. (Not surprisingly, my parents had no problem with this.) Sure there were dances, a few short-lived romances, and even a couple of groundings—the horror—but when it was time to decide if I wanted to continue dancing in college, the answer seemed eerily obvious.
Finally, I had the opportunity to walk away from the sport that had dominated 85% of my existence for almost 15 years. I wouldn't disappoint my high school team members or fail to meet the silly, reputation-entwined expectations I had set for myself. I knew I would miss it, but all I felt was relief.
I've never regretted my decision to stop dancing, but I can't say its absence didn't leave a little bit of a hole in my heart. Essentially, it was my one form of therapy, and I never had to worry about squeezing in a trip to the gym, or having fun people to hang out with. And though I didn't notice the hole as much in college (because classes, beer pong, and the like) I've found myself missing it more and more since graduating.
Therefore, when I found myself in a massive exercise rut recently (I've worked my way through all obligatory obsessions: cycle, hot yoga, HIIT, and Reformer Pilates), the solution seemed fairly simple: Dig back to my roots and try out some of the buzziest dance workouts available here in Los Angeles.
One month—and lots and lots of sweating—later, I finally feel like I've found my groove again. I've tried five different amazing classes, and it's been a long, long time since I've felt this motivated and relaxed in my workout routine. Interestingly, I didn't realize how much I had been stressing over my workouts (fitting them in, dreading them, etc.) until I had actually committed to something that felt fulfilling mentally and not just physically.
Hardly revolutionary, any fitness expert will tell you the key to routinizing a workout regimen is finding something you love. And though it may have taken a few years and an objectively obvious aha moment later, I'm glad to have finally taken that advice to heart. Below, I'm breaking down my experience. Keep scrolling for five dance workouts sure to switch up a ho-hum workout routine.
With central locations in both L.A. and NYC, modelFIT is aptly named. Boasting a model-esque clientele (think Karlie Kloss and Chrissy Teigen), the workout gracefully infuses cardio and strength with a science-backed MO. Inspired by applied functional science, the magic behind the modelFIT workout is steeped in low-impact, results-driven strategy and the intention of targeting small, stabilizing muscle groups. The result: long, lean, ballerina-like muscles.
Though they offer three different class-types (sculpt, cardio sculpt, and dance cardio), I opted for the cardio sculpt class with Sarah Rector (a goddess-like British instructor with legs for days and washboard abs). Before we began, she instructed our cozily sized class (there were only about six of us, which I loved) to grab a towel, glass of water, and some workout gear like a mat, ankle weight, and a pair of three-pound hand weights.
As promised in the description, the class was a fast-paced mix of dance-inspired cardio (e.g., grapevines, jumping jacks, and box steps) with isometric training exercises that hone in on the smaller muscles groups most workouts neglect. Though I would have a loved a little more variety where the cardio dance portion was concerned, the hour-long class flew by, the playlist was great, and I couldn’t walk quite right the next day. Success.
Body By Simone
In the fitness and dance world, Body by Simone founder, Simone de la Rue, is somewhat of an icon. Trained in classical ballet and with numerous professional dance performances under her belt (ahem, Broadway), she embarked to transition her passion for dance into a nationwide fitness operation.
Her celeb-loved program (Reese Witherspoon and Emmy Rossum are avid fans), includes a variety of workouts all feature a strong foundation in dance with unique, strength-based twists depending on the specific class you take: Dance Cardio, Full Body, ABC (arms, back, and core), HTB (hips, thighs, and buns), or Trampoline Cardio.
To get the most bang for my buck (I always try to incorporate some strength into my workout routines, I took a 6:00 p.m. Full Body class in the studio’s Brentwood location (there are two other locations—West Hollywood and Chelsea, NY). And to be honest, I was instantly in love.
Here was the format: cardio dance, arms, cardio dance, legs, cardio dance, core. The choreography was a bit more complicated (which I personally liked but could get a little tricky if you’ve never had dance experience), and I loved the alternation between strength and dance. I knew what was coming, yet I was constantly distracted by the super-stellar song selection and the low-impact strength intervals utilizing my bodyweight and various ankle, wrist, and hand weights. In fact, I didn’t realize how tired I was until the full 60 minutes was up.
In all honesty, I was probably most excited to try LEKfit, as my interest had been insatiably piqued ever since our co-founder Hillary Kerr had begun including post-LEKfit selfies on her Instagram stories. (If you don't follow her, you should.) Though she's perpetually put together and radiant, I could tell from her flushed cheeks and sweat-soaked hairline the workouts were good—very good—and I was intrigued to know more. Plus, The Thirty's managing editor, Victoria Hoff, recently tried a class and said it was borderline life-changing.
The epitome of boutique fitness, LEKfit was created by fitness expert, celebrity trainer, and all-around queen, Lauren Kleban. The workout is rooted in dance with the concentrated goal of crafting long lean muscles via high-intensity cardio intervals and low-impact sculpting exercises. The classes are 55 minutes long, cover the full body, and are located in Kleban’s Los Angeles garage studio. My consensus two minutes post-arrival: such a cool workout aesthetic.
To switch up my schedule, I took the 8:00 a.m. Saturday morning Fusion class (a bold choice, mind you, following a Friday beauty event that had involved more than one hot pink martini.) However, despite that regret, I immediately vibed with the intimate class setting in Kleban’s garage and appreciated how in-tune she seemed with each and every client. Though the space was slightly cramped (and warm!), her high-powered mix of dance-inspired cardio (jumping, kicking, and easy-to-follow choreography) and strength (bodyweight work and light weights) kept me on my toes for the entire duration of the class.
Admittedly, I was the sweatiest after this workout, and completely on board the LEKfit train by the time I collapsed into my car. In addition to the Fusion class I took, Kleban also offers sculpt classes (inspired by ballet and yoga) and bounce classes (not for the faint of heart because it involves low impact, high-intensity sessions on mini trampolines).
Since the majority of the dance workouts I had tried were high-energy blends of strength and dance cardio, I decided to dial it down (for the sake of some diversity) and try Romi Rivera's 7:00 p.m. Ballet Basic class. (Ballet Bodies also has Sculpt, Stretch, Burn, and Reformer offerings.) Set to a fun playlist (a far cry from the classical fare I was used to from my previous ballet experience), the entire workout takes place at the barre with traditional, classical ballet sequencing involving precision, strength, and yes, a hint of musicality.
Though this class was by the far the easiest workout in the sense that I barely broke a sweat, it did require a lot of concentration, which, as a perpetual worrywart, provided me with some much-needed respite from the mid-week frenzy. I wasn’t sure how I would feel back at the barre after an overdue absence, but after a few series of dégagés, rond de jambes, and grand battements, I experienced a comforting wave of nostalgia and found myself enjoying each and every second of the class. After a long workday, it was incredibly therapeutic, and though not overly taxing, the class still felt like a solid workout.
The NW Method
I first heard about Nicole Winhoffer's the NW Method from a co-worker and was instantly intrigued. After all, Winhoffer has a unique approach. During the 55-minute workout, the class concentrates on three prominent parts of the body (arms, waist, and bum) for a total body incineration—a dramatic, albeit accurate description, and my word, not hers. Overall, the feel is one part sultry, one part unconventional, and one part innovative. Oh, and though it’s ridiculously hard, it’s also a lot of fun. (As in, you might even forget you’re working out.)
In addition to the kick-ass routine and playlist, there’s even more to love about the NW approach. Unlike so many of the trendy workouts on the market, Winhoffer grounds instruction in self-empowerment and the idea to cultivate a spiritually rich connection with the body while going through the dance-inspired movements.
Unlike any other dance class founder, Winhoffer expertly combines her passion and knowledge of dance sports science, anatomy, chakras, and even acupuncture points, for a completely unique experience. Her classes (which take place at The Playground on Melrose Avenue in L.A. and at The Standard, High Line in NYC) book up well in advance (so grab a spot, stat!) and her celebrity following includes the ultra-toned likes of Kate Hudson, Martha Hunt, Lais Ribeiro, Madonna, and more.
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