9th Way to Redefine Yourself: Modern with Helanius at Joy of Motion/Friendship Heights

modern danceFor day nine of my 10 day dance challenge, I was at Joy of Motion/Friendship Heights for modern with Helanius Wilkins. I met Helanius a few months back when I interviewed him for danceDC so was excited to take his low intermediate level class. He started the class with plenty of exercises to warm up our feet. Before moving into across the floor exercises, he taught a short combination that had us constantly changing directions. I was extremely confused when he first showed it, but I think I finally had it down by the last time we did it in groups.

One of the across the floor exercises that stood out in my mind included a cart-wheel. I can’t remember the last time I had done one so was happy to give it a try. I thought we were doing another short across the floor exercise, but it turned into a longer combination that we did in smaller groups of three or four. The combination also included lots of changes in directions like the short combo from earlier in the class. I liked that the choreography traveled across the floor and used the whole space. Helanius also had such a pleasant demeanor while teaching class. I really appreciated that. If you’re looking to learn from a positive role model and also to take a fun, modern class, I hope you’ll try one of Helanius’ classes.


8th Way to Redefine Yourself: Contemporary Jazz with Ashley at Joy of Motion/Atlas

Contemporary JazzFor day eight of my 10 day dance challenge, I was at Joy of Motion/Atlas for Contemporary Jazz with Ashley White. This low intermediate level class is described as teaching solid jazz technique while exploring choreography influenced by the music of today. Ashley started class with a center warm up that included ponches en releve and also splits on the floor. I was probably one of the only girls in the class who couldn’t do them. Definitely need to work on my flexibility. Any exercises you can recommend to help with that?

After warm up,  we did a few across the floor exercises. First up was a jazz walk, chenee and pique turn combo. Next was a petite allegro combination. Finally, we did one that started with battements, was followed by a piroutte and ended with a final jump. After each exercise, Ashley was good about giving some general feedback to help us improve the combination on the other side. The choreography she taught for the rest of class was to One Republic’s Secrets. I was familiar with the song, but still had some trouble getting the timing. When we broke up into two groups to give us a bit more room, I was really feeling the choreography. I was also excited to do the combination one last time with a select group of dancers. I’ll hopefully be able to share the video with you once it’s up on Ashley’s YouTube page. If you’re looking for a challenging jazz class with great choreography, check out Contemporary Jazz with Ashley.

7th Way to Redefine Yourself: HIP with Miasia at Joy of Motion/Bethesda

HIP with MiasiaToday, I was back at Joy of Motion/Bethesda for HIP with Miasia. This Middle Eastern inspired dance and fitness class is part of Joy of Motion’s Move Program, which also includes Zumba and Kukuwa Dance Workout. We started class working in pairs on the floor. I was partnered with Miasia since I was the only new student. Everyone else had taken the class before. I held Miasia’s ankles while she demonstrated different ab exercises. Then we switched and I mirrored what she had just done.

The class continued with students mimicking Miasia’s moves. Hip rolls, undulations of the chest and shimmying to the music had me feeling like I was in another world (and also out of my element since this was my first time taking a belly dance class). Miasia did a great job explaining how to execute moves that look deceptively simple. At one point, she had us squeezing our glutes to create an extra bounce in our hips. It is surprisingly difficult to squeeze one cheek at a time! I liked that Miasia told us what some of the moves meant. How great is it that your body can say things like “I see right through you” or “Just you wait?” My favorite had to be “I can handle it. I’m a woman.” Talk about girl power. If you’re looking to explore another culture through dance, try HIP with Miasia.

6th Way to Redefine Yourself: Kukuwa Dance Workout with Fatima at Joy of Motion/Atlas

Kukuwa Dance WorkoutFor day six of my 10 day dance challenge, I was back at Joy of Motion/Atlas for Kukuwa Dance Workout with Fatima Senghore. I didn’t realize until I sat down to write this post that Kukuwa is named after African dance performer and choreographer Kukuwa Nuamah. Kukuwa Dance Workout combines African and Caribbean dance moves into a low impact, high energy class. As Fatima noted at the beginning of class, it is an aerobics class so the focus is on getting your heart rate up and building your stamina – not learning choreography.

From start to finish, Kukuwa Dance Workout is exactly what it promises to be – a workout. Some of the moves that have me in pain today include getting low while shaking your hips and circling your fully extended arms while moving forward then pushing them back while stepping back. I found myself taking frequent water breaks during the class, but Fatima was going strong the entire time. I loved the energy she brought to the class. It was really motivating and makes me want to work out a lot so I can have the stamina (and toned arms) that she does. If taking this class on a regular basis doesn’t help me shed some pounds, I don’t know what will. If you’re looking for an incredible workout, definitely check out Kukuwa.

5th Way to Redefine Yourself: Street Jazz with Maurice at Joy of Motion/Bethesda

Street JazzWhen I first started my blog, I also created my Twitter account @dance_DC. I’ve connected with several dancers through the social media network and on occasion ask for class recommendations. Street Jazz with Maurice Johnson has been a response from many dance tweeps so I was excited to include it in my 10 day dance challenge.

The class is described by Joy of Motion Dance Center as a dance form that combines jazz, hip hop and funk. The level is considered advanced beginner (at least six months dance experience), but I thought it was more of an intermediate class. Maurice started out with a fast, choreographed warm up. He also did a decent amount of ab work including plank exercises and crunches. The combination he taught was extremely fast paced. It had a lot of sassy moves and reminded me of a hip hop class I used to take and absolutely loved while I was living in Boston. I forgot to ask Maurice what song he chose for the class, but it was one I had never heard before. I think I overheard him after class mentioning that the artist was some kind of MySpace sensation (not Tila Tequila). According to Maurice, he teaches the same choreography at his intermediate level class which he teaches on Saturdays. The difference between his advanced beginner and intermediate level classes is that he teaches at an even faster pace. If you’re looking for a challenging advanced beginner class and love sassing it up, Maurice is the man for you.

4th Way to Redefine Yourself: Hip Hop with Jenny at Joy of Motion/Atlas

Joy of MotionI was excited to take a hip hop class for day four of my 10 day dance challenge. Although I initially started my dance ‘career’ as a ballerina, I mostly take hip hop classes now and consider it my strongest style. Tonight, I headed to Joy of Motion/Atlas for Hip Hop with Jenny Mayo. About 15 students dropped in for the beginner level class. Jenny started off with a basic warm up that included head isolations, stretches, sit ups and push ups. After warm up, we actually switched rooms because another class was canceled. It gave us more room to spread out and learn the combination Jenny had in store.

Jenny taught a combination to Rihanna’s “What’s My Name?” It was a combination she had taught the previous week and at the end of class said she might add on to the following week. While teaching the choreography, Jenny broke down many of the steps by first showing the feet then later adding the arms. She also gave students plenty of opportunities to ask questions and encouraged us to speak up if we were having trouble with any of the moves. We ended the class by performing the choreography in two groups then doing the combination one last time altogether. If you’re looking for a fun beginner hip hop class, try one of Jenny’s classes.

3rd Way to Redefine Yourself: Revolution with Heidi at Joy of Motion/Friendship Heights

For the third day of my 10 day challenge, I made my way to Joy of Motion/Friendship Heights for Revolution with Heidi Schimpf. The class appeals to dancers who love retro music and people who enjoy dances from the last four decades. Revolution was another first for me and for a few of the other dancers in the MOVE Program class. Heidi started with grape vines and heel digs to get the blood moving. We did some stretching, shoulder and head isolations then moved into a combination to Katy Perry’s “California Girls.” Heidi said she was inspired to choreograph to the song because of the cold weather here in the District.

Heidi was a great teacher who really paid attention to the needs of her students. She broke down moves when she noticed dancers were having trouble and gave lots of positive reinforcement when the students were getting it right. After doing the combination full out a bunch of times, we cooled down by working our abs with sit ups and plank exercises. A few more stretches on the floor and Heidi was congratulating us for a job well done. If you’re looking for an upbeat, jazzercise class or enjoy dancing to popular music, give Revolution with Heidi a try.

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