I like a challenge as much as the next person, and to be quite honest, I’m what some might call a competitive person. But only for things that don’t matter: bingo games in high school Spanish classes, who will talk first during a big freeze-out fight, any kind of car passing game during a road trip.
I had absolutely no idea what I was walking into. Dance Quarter is apparently the only studio in town that offers the class, and the description on their website (see below) didn’t clear much up. But I had set my mind to it – I was going to go. And go I did.
I arrived a bit early to talk to Jess, the instructor, and found myself welcomed into the studio, a few blocks off Louisiana Avenue in Uptown, by several employees. Dance Quarter is host to four studio rooms, three on the second floor, and a cute coffee and crepe counter. I was alerted that if I wanted to order before the class the meal I had ordered would be ready for when I was leaving, perfect for a busy weeknight.
Inside the studio, I was greeted by a purple and blue haired Jess and Elizabeth, an instructor she was training in. I was a bit surprised by how attractive the studio was: large wooden sliding barn doors, huge framed mirrors on three walls and plush sofas throughout.
Jess began to explain to me what Dance Trance was and why I’ve probably never heard of it. Although Dance Trance is worldwide, it involves more difficult choreography and a higher fitness level than Zumba does, although all levels are welcome in the introduction class.
Of course, I went on a Tuesday night full of intermediate/advanced students.
Unlike Zumba, where staying in-touch with the Zin online network erases the need to re-do workshops and certification series, Dance Trance is a high-impact cardio-fitness dancing regime that requires instructors to attend yearly workshops and re-establish their membership on an annual basis. Choreography is constantly changing; thus, instructors must keep up with the fast paced revolutions of the craft.
I lingered, as I’m prone to do, until the rest of the class showed up. They were all women in their late twenties, early-to-mid thirties, were obviously all friends and had clearly attended a class before. But at the mention of Zumba in my conversation with Jess, I wasn’t extremely worried. We were in a normal studio, no punching bags lining the wall this time, and I had the mirror and Jess to guide me.
It’s always when you say you’ll do fine that you fail.
Despite summer being an off-season for fitness, especially in New Orleans, we made the cut for what Jess estimated as the average patronage per class: between six and fifteen per class.The two instructors and myself included, there were 11 people in the studio. As with any fitness dance class, we started out with a few slow warm-ups.
Soon, I found myself sweating and losing my place. I quit ballet far too soon for turns and legs kicks to become an ingrained move of any kind. And despite a lack of instruction, I caught on easily as Jess has assured me before the class started. Like most dance-based fitness classes, the chorus and each verse has its own specific set of moves that’s repeated anywhere from two to six or more times in a particular song, giving most students enough time to begin to develop a sense for what’s coming next or how to do the move.
What I did learn is that Dance Trance is definitely a come-every-week-make-friends kind of exercise class. I felt a little strange as a random drop-in student, (although the studio does offer drop-in fees, as well as class packages) but that may have been in part with my being the only new student in a room full of advanced students.
40-minutes into the class, Jess turned off the main lights and we did two songs under a few neon lights that lit the studio up like what I can only assume a strip club looks like. To be quite honest, I rather enjoyed doing a few songs with the cover of darkness; my fumbling, lack of ability to twirl with grace and sweat were a lot less visible underneath the lower lighting. But reality came back to embrace us for the last few songs, as we ended the class each sporting a sheen of sweat.
It’s difficult to describe Dance Trance. Anyone who has been to a Zumba class and a hip-hop dancing class can imagine the mixed child of those two: the gracefulness of dancing from Zumba routines, the intensity and quick changes that are native to hip-hop. All in all it was a rewarding experience, as any new fitness class is. I’d highly recommend going to a beginners class, perhaps with a friend, and making a pact to attend five or ten classes, learn the routines and make it a part of your weekly schedule. It’s the kind of class that you learn to know the instructor, become quick friends with the other students and find yourself loving once you get the routine down.
In addition to Dance Trance, Dance Quarter is host to both individual fitness classes as well as group classes, such as swing dancing, salsa, samba and the tango. Individual classes include barre, DT, flamenco, mat Pilates and more.
Despite New Orleans’ reputation for its unhealthy lifestyle, the city offers a multitude of alternative fitness classes that can try to chip away at the deep fried shrimp you had for lunch in your po-boy.
I loved searching NOLA for its hidden workout gems. Dance Trance was my final stop for this summer’s alternative fitness series. You can keep up with more on fitness and health in the Big Easy, with NolaVie health and wellness column Summer in the City.