Dancehall Days

dancehall reggae dance instructors new york city tavia n tamara
Tavia N Tamara
Photo Brukwine.com

One of the most popular songs  of this Summer so far is the sweet and catchy tune “Rude” by the Canadian band Magic. It got me thinking that I need to brush up on my reggae style for those parties (even the parties of one that take place in my living room) where this and other reggae music might be coming through the speakers. I caught a glimpse of some videos featuring reggae not so long ago and realized that reggae dance is not exactly the same as it used to be. 

Reggae, like everything else, has evolved. In fact, you are very likely to hear reggae now referred to as dancehall although the two are different versions of the same type of music. Dancehall is a sub-genre of reggae so, although dancehall is reggae, reggae is not dancehall.  Dancehall is a faster, somewhat naughtier version of reggae. However,  dance classes that teach reggae technique, tend now, to be named dancehall. Got it?The fundamentals remain the same, however, and what you learn in dancehall class can definitely be applied to all types of reggae music.

hannah herbertson
Hannah Herbertson, Photo Courtesy Brooklynexposed.com

So, now that you have decided to take the classes, where do you go? Hannah Herbertson, in my opinion, is one of the best dancehall teachers in New York City. Born in S. Korea and raised in Sweden, Hannah brings an international perspective to dancehall. She has traveled all over the world including trips to Jamaica numerous times to soak up reggae culture from its roots. Her respect for that culture is evident in the way that she conducts her classes. Hannah also has that “Irie” vibe that makes learning what can be a challenging technique very laid back and stress- free. She offers classes at the Bed Stuy YMCA as well as one-on one and small group classes.

Heather Fay Photo rateyourburn.com
Heather Fay
Photo rateyourburn.com

Heather Fay, is also a fantastic teacher. Her page describes Pon De Flo as, a Caribbean Reggae dance-based fitness class that incorporates high energy, easy to follow choreography and intense body strengthening moves.” A former instructor at New York Sports Clubs, Heather now teaches at her signature “Pon de Flo” style at Crunch Fitness. She also offers classes to the general  at DANY. Heather’s brilliant smile and energy makes her classes effective as well as enjoyable. 

Tavia N Tamara at Broadway Dance Center is yet another option. Yes, here you get two instructors for the price of one! These two bring the sexy as well as lots of technique! They also offer dancehall technique at Crunch Fitness in their signature “Brukwine” classes. They also conduct Brukwine in Heels (yes, it is exactly what it sounds like- you do the routine in high heels) classes for those of you really want to take on a challenge! Then there is Yaminah Logohn who I have heard great things about who teaches Dancehall at PMT Studios at Union Square.

Yamina Legohn Photo Yaminah Legohn
Yamina Legohn
Photo Yaminah Legohn

Finally, if you want to mix it up a little, classes at all the popular gym chains offer Zumba classes which inevitable include a section or two to reggae or dance hall. So there you have it- all prepared to get down to any reggae tune that comes your way this Summer!

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Location, Location, Location: New Dance Studio Makes It Even Easier For Some Dance Lovers To Get To Class

Ejoes_Class_TheSpot

photo- Robyn Baltzer

Even though many  recreational dancers like to take most of their classes at the gym, we also love exploring new opportunities to take dance classes in different settings. If you are one of them (and I know you are), have I got news for you! There is a brand, spanking new dance studio that opened up this week in New York City.  The Spot Dance Center opened its doors this week.

It is a nice mix of familiar instructors from Broadway Dance Center and Peridance with some new but equally talented faces. The offerings reflect the make-up of the staff with a lot of club style and street style genres with which we are familiar such as Locking, Breaking, and Waacking and some interesting newer styles- i.e.Boogie Fusion and New Style Hustle.

What is of note as well about this new facility is that it is located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, making it easier for some of us dance fans to get to and from class. Many Brooklyn-based dance lovers will also d=find the location to their liking as well as it is just over the bridge! Apart from that, it is always great to just have plain old more choices of dance classes in the city each day.

 

Check out this new spot and tell us what you think!

Thinking Person’s Gym

As I was passing by a branch of a competing gym chain the other day, I caught site of one one of their posters proclaiming that they offer workouts for “thinking people” or something to that effect. Maybe it said, “The Thinking Person’s Gym.” I stopped in my tracks for a few seconds. While looking into  an additional gym membership in my

never-ending quest for classes/ classes I like/ different styles/ different instructors, I had checked out that particular chain of gyms. I remembered I found it wanting due to the paucity of dance classes that was offered. They had the usual menu of requisite equipment plus cardio/ strength/ spin/yogalates classes but not much more. There was nothing that I would characterize as demanding any more brainpower than the other gyms or studios out there. Was I wrong though? Was I, in fact, going to a gym for idiots? Did my choice of gym reflect a seriously challenged intellectual capacity? Admittedly for me, the most important aspect of any gym is the class schedule- specifically the dance classes- and this boastful gym chain’s menu was practically devoid of any. How could it then lay claim to being “the thinking person’s gym.”

 

Naturally insecure, I have always been aware of my otherness in this respect. Socially speaking, I had no friends who just went to dance class the way other people go to the movies or to bars. At work, I was always the only one or one of a few who had dance as an avocation indulged on a practically daily basis (pre-Masters program). I often wondered why this was. I came to the conclusion that perhaps I was weird, perhaps freakish. I did not think, however, it was proof of my intellectual inferiority. I mean, I write poetry, I read the New Yorker, I listen to NPR! Still… This company’s copy combined with said insecurity forced me to stop and consider whether or not they had a point.It was certainly easier for me to get through a ninety-minute dance class than a forty-five minute toning class or run on the treadmill. Spinning, weight-lifting, ellipticals, stair machines, and yoga classes were uphill battles for me. They took… effort. Dance didn’t. Or did it?

 

Generally speaking, fifty to seventy-five percent of dance class is spent learning the routine. There is usually a new routine each week or two weeks depending on the instructor. Moves are incrementally added until they result in a whole routine. You have to be mentally sharp to keep the various movements as well as their sequence in order in your mind. After every one or two eight counts, you do whatever part of the routine has already been taught all the way through. Sometimes the instructor will dance as well, sometimes not. In any case, in order to keep up with the music there is only so much “following” you can do as you go through the routine to the music. By contrast, when you use exercise equipment, there aren’t any surprises. It is repetitive and demands not much more than endurance. Non-dance classes such as Yoga or Pilates will change routines every so often but again, basically remain the same. Although it can be argued that you are tested at a higher level than when you just hop on equipment. Dance, however, asks you to not only actively recall a sequence of movements and execute the movements on a physical level but also to meet the emotional demands of the music and that you match the style of the music. You must pay close attention to what the instructor does as well as what he or she says. There are only so many ways to do a “downward dog”. However, there are a myriad number of ways to execute a pas de burre. So, I beg to differ. Any gym that does not offer dance classes cannot, in comparison to one that does, call itself “the thinking person’s gym.”

 

What do you think? Let me know!