Crash Course: Doonya is the latest Bollywood-inspired dance workout to sweep the fitness world. It fuses hip-hop, Bhangra, and traditional Indian folk dance moves into a power-packed hour of sweaty fun. Doonya also includes routines using free weights, upping the ante on the other cardio-only dance workouts. Click here for the full schedule for the DC, Virginia, and Maryland area.
I crashed a Masala Bhangra fitness class a few months ago at Washington Sports Club and absolutely loved it. I walked away with some sassy new moves and a better appreciation for all of those Bollywood backup dancers. So when I was invited to crash a Doonya class at Jordin’s Paradise in Dupont Circle, I honestly thought I had the equation all figured out. Channel Frida Pinto a la Slum Dog Millionaire, follow along to a few songs, and burn a few hundred calories.
Well, I was right on all three fronts, but was horribly wrong thinking Masala Bhangra and Doonya are one and the same. While both are inspired by the high-energy dance sequences found in Bollywood flicks, Doonya branches out from the Bhangra style and incorporates a challenging collection of moves from various other Indian traditions. Just as you think you are beginning to get one genre down, the song changes and you are all of a sudden moving in an entirely different way.
For example, the traditional folk dance we did was similar to a barre workout, with lots of precision moves focused around deep plies and calf-burning heel raises. Shortly after, we were bounding across the dance floor doing high karate kicks and sweeping arm movements. And then we were running in place, swiveling hips from side to side, and lunging to the front, back, left, and right.
This workout, my friends, is really tough. There is no built-in rest, so listen to your body and take breaks at the back of the studio as needed. If you are feeling really ambitious, a Doonya class can be 60 minutes of non-stop, heart-pounding motion. The music is loud and the beat is contagious, so even if you wanted to sit one out, it’s hard to resist joining in for too long. I had many moments of leg-burning agony quickly followed by “oh that move looks like fun, I think I’ll try it” or “I love this song, I can’t possibly sit this one out.” Check out this short video I posted on Vine for an insider look at what I’m talking about.
The class starts with a warm up song containing all of the foundational moves you will encounter during class. Don’t worry, you won’t remember all of these when things get going, but follow along with the instructor and you’ll be fine. If you can’t seem to figure out the sequence, just keep moving (on many occasions, I choose to jump in place…seemed to do the trick.) The class has a total of 12 or so songs, some of which incorporate weights, and then the entire session ends with a final cool down. At this point, I was a sweaty, happy, Bollywood-dancing mess…and I loved it.
Things I wasn’t crazy about:
As someone with no dance background or experience with Bollywood sequences, it was sometimes hard to learn moves on the fly. Not impossible, but be prepared to do a bit of interpretive dance if you lack solid coordination skills.
The use of weights was great, but I would love for them to be incorporated for more songs. Yes, I’m a sucker for punishment.
$20 seems a bit steep for a drop-in dance class. I’ve paid that much for a spin class at a boutique studio, but that also includes a post-class mimosa, refrigerated towels dipped in essential oil, and shower facilities.
Things I liked about Doonya:
It was a killer cardio workout masquerading as a Bollywood dance party. Be prepared to sweat, be challenged, and have a great time.
The class attracts men and women of all ages, sizes, ethnicities, and abilities.
I loved the incorporation of weights to help round out the full-body workout.
For those who hate the gym or need to spice up their workout routine, this is a feel-good fun way to work up a serious sweat.
Have you tried Doonya?
*Doonya generously waived my drop-in fee for this class – all opinions are my own.
Crash Course: Dance Trance is the latest dance-based workout craze to land in the District. At its core, it’s a 60-minute aerobic dance workout set to top-40 hits. There are no verbal cues, and no yelling in structors. Instead, feel the beat and do your best to keep up as instructors lead the class through simple and effective dance sequences. Intimidated by choreography? Head to one of the “breakdown” classes for a step-by-step introduction to the latest routines. Bottom line: low lighting, loud music, and a class full of folks sweating to the same moves makes this workout feel exactly like being in a night-club flash mob of the coolest variety. Click here to check out the full schedule of classes.
instructor: Sarah Spear Sands, Lauren McCaghren, Maria Jose Garcia
cost: drop in rate is $18*
I know I already said Jazzercise class was similar to going out dancing with girlfriends. But that was before I tried Dance Trance. This, my friends, feels exactly like a night on the town with a bunch of ladies who just happen to be doing the same dance moves as you. It will make all of your flash-mob, Step Up, So You Think You Can Dance dreams come true. The environment is fun (you won’t find any screaming dance-marms here), supportive, and all about leaving behind the day’s frustrations in a pool of sweat on the dance floor.
Dance Trance is on my list of 13 crashes to complete in 2013, so you can imagine my excitement when I was invited to test out a class last week. The studio is part of the Balance Gym in Thomas Circle, which is actually split between two buildings. Dance Trance classes are held in the second building located behind the main entrance on 14th street (pictured above). Head down the well-lit alleyway to the left and you’ll run right into where you need to go. There’s a big sign and lots of bright lights – you can’t miss it.
Sign in at the front desk and use the narrow staircase on the left to get to the dance studio on the third floor.
From what I could tell, there wasn’t any defined storage area for personal belongings, so head in through the studio doors and set your stuff along one of the walls. It seemed like this was what everyone else did, and I was able to keep an eye on my things the entire time. There is also a small restroom on this floor, so if you need to change into clothes when you arrive, plan to channel your inner Clark Kent and use the bathroom stall for a costume change.
The dance studio has wall to wall mirrors, which is helpful for some and horrifying for others. I was perfectly okay with keeping my flailing arms and two left feet to myself, but for everyone who witnessed the entertainment of watching me try to break it down to Shakira, you’re welcome. Personal awkwardness aside, I can see how the mirrors are helpful in some instances, especially for the hour when the class dissects a few of the dance routines. When the High Cardio hour kicks into full gear, the lights turn off and the mirror is no longer such a big deal.
Things to know about Dance Trance class:
If you’ve never been, I highly recommend attending the Breakdown hour to learn a few essential moves.
It gets really hot and humid in there, so be prepared to sweat.
The lights turn down low during class and there are a few colored, flashing lights to add to the night-club effect.
Similar to Jazzercise, all of the songs played have corresponding dance routines. The more often you attend, the more likely you’ll be able to pick up the entire sequence.
If you ever get lost in the choreography (like I did for every song)…just keep moving. I recommend the running man and the Carlton when in a pinch, but use your own discretion.
The class is led by three instructors strategically placed throughout the room. They use easy-to-follow hand cues to help convey what moves are coming next.
You will bump into someone. You may even fall down a few times. Laugh, smile, get up, shake it off, and try again. It’s all about having fun and getting in an awesome workout.
Finally, a huge “thank you” to the Dance Trance team and Lacey from Lululemon for inviting me to join them for my first DT experience. I had a blast and am looking forward to coming back again soon. Until then, know that every time I hear Too Close by Alex Clare, I do a little Dance Trance two-step in your honor.
Dance Trance, Zumba, Masala Bhangra, Jazzercise…do you have a favorite?
* Dance Trance DC generously comped my fee for this class. This post is not an endorsement and all opinions are my own.
Crash Course: Put away the leg warmers and the unitards, ladies, because this isn’t your mamma’s Jazzercise class. While the name may spark visions of big hair and shiny spandex, today’s Jazzercise is a lot like what you find at other dance-based classes gaining traction in gyms across the city (think Zumba, Masala Bhangra, etc.). The difference? Jazzercise is the original dance-party-turned-workout, and takes its role as leader of the pack seriously. The classes blend aerobics, yoga, Pilates, strength training, and kickboxing to the tunes of Top 40 hits. Think of it as going out dancing with your girlfriends…while burning up to 600 calories and without the creepy onlooker at the bar. Click here for a full schedule of class times.
I admit it – when I heard that Jazzercise was still around, I was shocked. Wasn’t this the exercise phenomenon of the 80s, where ladies in unitards bopped and leg-lifted leg warmers to the tune of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”? At least in my mind, that was totally the case. So when an email from Jazzercise of Arlington landed in my inbox, I started to break a sweat just thinking of the time warp I would have to keep up with. It would be Richard Simmons. Jane Fonda. And me.
So imagine my surprise when I stepped onto my designated purple square on the studio floor, bracing for impact, and heard Ke$ha come over the sound system. That’s right, the “I brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack” 25-year-old pop star was helping us kick things off. Mind. Blown.
That’s when it hit me. Jazzercise is all grown up and making a headline-worthy comeback. The total lack of leg warmers or leotards when I walked in should have been a dead giveaway, but the remaining dread I had about participating in a “Sweating to the Oldies” style workout was dashed within the first few minutes. The entire class was set to current pop music, including hits from Ptbull, Pink, Rhianna, Taylor Swift, and the ever ubiquitous Gangnam Style. To be honest, the entire hour felt like a night out dancing with the girls. Singing along at the top of your lungs optional.
A few things to know about Jazzercise:
Jazzercise is the original dance aerobics class and got its start way before newcomers Zumba, Bhangra, and Dance Trance.
Unlike other dance classes, there are no mirrors in any of the Jazzercise studios. No mirrors means no self-judgement and no need for self consciousness. Go nuts. The instructor is trained to give easy-to-follow verbal cues, so follow along with her and you’ll be just fine. It’s like a live version of the Dance Dance Revolution video game.
According to the website, you can burn up to 600 calories in one class. I couldn’t tell you how many calories I burned, but if you want to reach that upper range, you’re going to need to come down with some serious dance fever. Go big or go home.
Classes involve warm up, cardio dance segment, aerobic cool down, toning with weights, and a final warm down. Each and every segment is adaptable for all ability levels.
New songs and routines are used every 10 weeks to keep things fresh. So, if you hate Ke$ha or Taylor Swift, stick it out for a few weeks and there’ll be a new crop of pop stars to dance with next time.
The Jazzercise Arlington crowd was absolutely awesome. From the first moment I walked in the door, I was greeted by friendly faces who helped me store my belongings in the row of lockers and walked me to the restroom to change. There is no changing room at the studio, but a bathroom stall always does the trick in a pinch.
One thing that blew me away was the incredible range of ages and abilities in the room. There were women in their twenties all the way into their 70s, those who had dancers bodies and those who didn’t, and each one was able to follow along and do the routines. The other thing that blew me away? The positive, fun, supportive environment that exploded from the dance floor throughout the entire class. Women were singing along, laughing, interacting with the instructor, and slapping high-fives. Kind of like this:
Renee was leading the class tonight. I could not get over her energy and passion. She was on the ball for every song, gave excellent verbal cues, and I would highly recommend her class for anyone who wants to try Jazzercise for the first time. Thanks Renee!
Would you try Jazzercise?
* Jazzercise kindly comped my walk in fee, but all opinions are my own.
Crash Course: Imagine your favorite Bollywood movie and plant yourself squarely in the middle of it, because you’ll shake, grove, and twist your way through this hour-long Indian dance class. All those times watching the dance scene in Slum Dog Millionaire didn’t hold a candle to actually getting off the couch and doing it myself. The Masala Bhangra class delivers a modern spin on traditional Indian dance moves and is way more fun than doing cardio on the treadmill. Great for beginners and accessible for all fitness levels. Click here for more information.
perks: one of only few gyms in DC to offer this class
sweat score: 4 out of 10
wear: comfortable shoes and clothes
cost: drop in rate is $15
After having a ridiculously fun and sweaty time crashing Zumba, I was so excited to try Masala Bhangra class. Same concept, different continent. I was especially excited to try it at the Columbia Heights Washington Sports Club because I had heard good things about the instructor, Earla. Mainly that she was fun, kept things interesting, and didn’t mind if you couldn’t keep up with the choreography…just as long as you kept moving (read: I defaulted to running man on more than one occasion).
Masala Bhangra is extremely popular and because the class sizes are typically large, it’s held in the basketball court area at the back of the gym. There were two issues with using this space. One, the instructor didn’t have a microphone, and because the music was so loud and the space so big, it was impossible to hear her instructions. This means you need to play Simon Says and pick up the sequence by following along. Two, the sound system is located at the back of the gym, so after every song ended, Earla had to run back there and press play on a new song. It was disruptive to the class and gave it a disjointed feel. It was still really fun, don’t get me wrong, but it’d be a better experience if they could fix these little tweaks.
The class involves building on a series of basic steps until we have an entire routine down. Then we practice, practice, and practice again. We had dance offs, team competitions, and partner dances. We did the routine so many times that there is really no chance you won’t get it by the end of class. The best news is that we did it so many times I can now remember all the steps – so if you invite me to a party I’m almost guaranteed to break it out. You’ve been warned.
And a huge shout out to Anita for inspiring this crash! This blog has been such a fun way to meet local fitness fanatics like myself, and I am incredibly thankful to have added a few new crashing buddies to my list. Anita is a local fitness instructor at Sculpt and Washington Sports Club, and asked me if I wanted to try Masala Bhangra with her. It was wonderful to meet face-to-face (or IRL, as the internet lingo goes) and hear about all of her awesome fitness classes. Her calorie scorching turbo kick class is definitely on my “to-do” list. Thanks Anita!
If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ll know that I brought home a major haul from Trader Joe’s the other day after Bhangra class. They had a bunch of new items on the shelves and I couldn’t help but bring a few of them home with me. I should know better than going to the grocery store hungry – oops! Let me know if you have any new favorites, I always love branching out. Here’s what I’ve tried so far:
Strawberry Chia Smoothie: tastes delicious and perfectly filling for a mid-afternoon snack. The chia seeds were ground so there was no icky texture. The only other ingredients are strawberries and apple juice. Will definitely buy this again.
Zesty Nacho Kale Chips: at $5 per little bag, I don’t know if I’ll spring for these again. That said, they were very good and had a big serving of flavor.
Egg White Salad: no mayo, cholesterol free, 7 grams of protein and 2 grams of carbs per serving. Good for an easy snack but don’t know if I’d call it “great.” May be easier and cheaper to make at home.
That’s it! Masala Bhangra, meeting a new friend, and an epic amount of Trader Joe’s goodies equals a wonderful day. Hope you had one too!
Have you tried a Masala Bhangra class? Tell me about it!