Dance Fitness Classes Continue in Popularity at Health Clubs


With the popularity of Zumba, Batuka and dance classes developed by high-profile choreographers and dancers, such as Louis Van Amstel’s LaBlast classes for Crunch, pre-choreographed dance-based programs continue to offer group fitness options for health club operators.

Last November, in its list of top 10 fitness trends for 2011, the American Council on Exercise said that dance classes, which have been gaining popularity for years, would continue to be a major draw at health clubs. That popularity might be the result of the recent abundance of dance-related TV shows, such as FOX’s “So You Think You Can Dance” and ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” says Juliane Arney, owner of Arney Fitness Consulting and a dance instructor and choreographer who has developed classes for 24 Hour Fitness and Crunch.

Amstel, who has danced or choreographed on both of those programs, developed LaBlast, his own cardio dance fitness program for Crunch, two years ago. The hour-long class is offered at different levels, which allows beginners to learn dance skills and coordination and to burn calories. Participants can progress to more difficult dance levels as they improve and want a challenge. LaBlast is Crunch’s most popular dance class and will soon be offered at other facilities owned by New Evolution Ventures, Crunch’s parent company.

“It’s dance fitness based on all different dance styles, every genre of music—cha cha, salsa, jive. All the dances that people see on ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ I have in the LaBlast program,” Amstel says.

The variety and the fun of the program prevent participants from getting bored.

“It is a fun way of still getting the health benefits and the workout benefits without hitting the wall. It’s the diversity of movement to your favorite music,” says Amstel, who describes LaBlast as a workout in disguise.

He credits the program’s success to taking the intimidation factor out of dancing by keeping routines simple and using encouraging instructors that have a background in both fitness and dance.

“Sometimes I feel that fitness instructors in general lose their patience,” Amstel says. ”And it’s the patience that’s really the key for people who think they can’t get through it.”

Arney agrees that instructors play a vital role in making dance fitness classes a success.

“Dance programming, even more so than anything else, is instructor based,” says Arney. “If you’re going to put dance or Zumba on your schedule and it hits hard, you have to think about what you’re going to channel those people into next. Zumba is bringing thousands of new consumers and instructors into the group fitness market, but what are we going to do with them when they’re tired of Zumba?”

She says that Batuka, a program that debuted last year at IHRSA’s show, could be the next big thing in dance fitness. The music is produced specifically for the program by Grammy Award-winning writer and producer Kike Santander, which eliminates the risk of participants getting sick of hearing the same music in class that they hear on the radio.

Regardless of where dance fitness goes in the future, its strong appeal to the female demographic and continuing popularity make it a strong investment in any facility.

“I think the cool part about dance workouts, especially right now with TV and popular culture, is that they’re like a gateway drug,” says Arney. “They are the things that get a lot of people into exercising in the first place. That’s such a huge value because simple, fun dance classes like Zumba are an entry point for a whole population that hasn’t been moving before. Dance might be your first point of entry, but let’s not stop there.”

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