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Doing the Double at Dance Base

All workouts should be this much fun!

Dance Base  is  Scotland’s National Centre for Dance and has been promoting and delivering dance activity in the city of Edinburgh since 1994, moving to the current site in the Grassmarket in September 2001.  Although Dance Base is the home for professional dancing in Scotland and a fantastic venue during the Fringe Festival, their philosophy is to encourage and develop the potential for dance in everyone.  They achieve this by encouraging dancers of all ages and abilities, to participate in a varied programme of fun, non-competitive classes that provides a friendly and enjoyable way to keep fit and develop new skills.

 ‘Over 2500 people a week currently experience the physical and emotional benefits of dance through a Dance Base activity.’

There are over 100 public classes in over 40 different forms of dance throughout the year, including: Under-5s, Hip-Hop and Breakdancing, Cuban Salsa, Ballet, Tap, Contemporary, Tango, Ballroom and Egyptian Belly Dance.  Classes are either run in a Block or some are available as Drop-in sessions.  Every season they have a new catalogue of classes, workshops and events which can be viewed online or you can pick up a copy at reception; the Spring 15 catalogue is out now….

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From my previous adventures, you’ve probably realised that I love music and dancing so you may be surprised that although I’ve been for shows during the Fringe, I’ve never been to a class at Dance Base.  Many of classes are only available as a block, so that you go every week and all progress together, but there are still lots of drop-in options all year round.  I thought it was about time to get to a class – so as I skimmed through the online schedule two drop-in classes jumped out at me – Dance Aerobics and Musical Madness – and they were on the same night one after each other!  Seems like the perfect chance to do the ‘dance base double’.

Dance aerobics sounded fun and challenging – a workout to cool tunes using a mix of dance and workout moves.  But musical madness – that’s was intriguing – and generated a lot of interest (and perhaps even some envy) from my friends.  This class uses music from Broadway or West End Musicals! Can anyone say ‘Jazz Hands’?

Once again I had a willing accomplice.  We entered the ‘tunnel’ off of Grassmarket and were greeted with a bright welcoming reception.

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The friendly staff told us that since we registered online as members (free) we got a ‘dance card’ which gives us points for every class we attend – which we can then use to get free classes – that will definitely come in handy!  We had 30 min between classes so it was good to see there were comfy sofas to hang out on and through the back were tables, toilets, changing room, showers and lockers (which require a pound coin).  We got changed, put on our dancing shoes (clean trainers – no outside shoes allowed) and were ready to start our dancing double.  First up, Studio 1 for…..

Dance aerobics….

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This totally lived up to my expectations.   A fast-paced aerobics class with a twist.  No dodgy ‘Jane Fonda’ moves here.  These were cool, funky dance moves executed in a concise, repetitive way.  Paul cleverly introduced the moves at the start of each track, at half speed.  Starting slowly, we learned the steps, then added the arms, added another step… and then…. just when I thought I had it sussed – it was double time.  Sometimes I got, most times I got muddled up but it was giggles all round so I wasn’t alone.  We just watched Paul and picked up when we could.  Suddenly the song would change and it was back to a slow start – sometimes re-using steps from the last track – or it was time to move to the next era –which brought all new tunes and dance moves as Paul’s motivating selection  took us time travelling through the decades.  The fast jive steps of the 50’s turned into Disco clubs of the 70’s and finally – we paid tribute to the 80’singing and dancing icon – Michael Jackson as we all became ‘zombies’  in the Thriller video.     Throughout the hour, Paul managed to give instruction and demonstration without breaking the flow – this really kept the heart rate up and the sweat flowing.  Luckily I was wearing layers; it wasn’t long before it was ‘tops off’.  Paul’s sharp choreography, music selection and skill ensured that this was not your typical aerobics class – we knew we were working with a dancer – not a fitness instructor.  A few of these and I just might become a dancer too :D.

Musical Madness…

Well, where do I start?  Did it meet my expectations?  NO – it exceeded them!!  I could never have predicted this would be so much fun.  Everything came together to take this dance class to the next level. The delivery.  The choreography. The concept. And my fellow students – all totally into the class with inhibitions left outside the studio.   I expected it to be the same style of the first class – except using a playlist of songs from musicals.  But, this was more like being in the cast of a musical.  We became the dancers, learning the moves, the facial expressions and the story.  Chris, our instructor told me after class that he picks a different song from a featured musical – for my class we learned a 1920’s cheeky Charleston routine from Cabaret.  The signature Charleston moves we used in the warm-up ensured we were all into character (playing puppets on the stage), ready to learn the main routine.  Chris’ delivery ensured we were having fun yet he somehow managed to keep us in line – making sure we learned the steps as technique was just as important as exercise. This meant we got some sneaky short breaks for Chris to demonstrate and for us to learn the steps slowly and repetitively.   We were puppets on a string, being pulled into funny moves, whooping high kicks, cheeky grins and hip slapping, head slapping madness.  I suppose it was just living up to its name….Musical Madness it was indeed.  I couldn’t think of a better way to get over that Wednesday hump day.

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Free-style Madness

Free-style Madness

By the end of both classes, I was exhausted, with shaking legs, and very sweaty….. who knew jazz hands could be so tiring!!

I loved both classes and think they worked really well together.  The Dance Aerobics class was a higher intensity workout – with the flow rarely slowing down.  The dance steps were quickly introduced so that we didn’t get much of a rest; we learned through repetition and watching.  Musical Madness was more of a proper dance lesson.  The moves were more difficult and technical so required a bit more skill; but the time taken to teach the technique and perfect the hand gestures, facial expressions and footwork gave us a bit of a breather so it wasn’t as taxing a workout.  I really think the Dance Aerobics class physically and mentally prepared me for Musical Madness.  My muscles were warm and responsive and my brain was getting used to trying to learn quickly and memorise the steps.  If these class represent the calibre of the other classes on offer at Dance Base, I can’t wait to try them all.

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