Get your fitness fix at twerking and pole dancing classes

Participants at a twerking class grooving, twisting and gyrating; while others at an aerial hooping class (above) contort their limbs around steel hoops or bolts of silk hanging from the ceiling. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Participants at a twerking class grooving, twisting and gyrating; while others at an aerial hooping class (above) contort their limbs around steel hoops or bolts of silk hanging from the ceiling. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Participants at a twerking class (above) grooving, twisting and gyrating; while others at an aerial hooping class contort their limbs around steel hoops or bolts of silk hanging from the ceiling. -- PHOTO: MILAN POLE DANCE STUDIO SINGAPORE
Participants at a twerking class (above) grooving, twisting and gyrating; while others at an aerial hooping class contort their limbs around steel hoops or bolts of silk hanging from the ceiling. -- PHOTO: MILAN POLE DANCE STUDIO SINGAPORE

Unlike most peers her age who hit the treadmill or pool for their weekly workout, Ms Sue-Anne Lim, 35, gamely chose to burn calories in a racier way earlier this year - by joining a twerk class.

Along with 19 other women, she grooved, twisted and gyrated her way to a fitter body - under flashing strobe lights and to the thumping, bass-heavy rhythms of popular hip-hop hits like Australian rapper Iggy Azalea's summer smash Fancy.

"I did it because I'm always up for new things. You get to feel sexy and it's great fun, especially when you go with friends. I got a fantastic full-body workout too, from my thighs to calves to my back," says Ms Lim, who runs an art and design company with her husband.

One move she recalls is "booty-popping", which uses the hips and lower back muscles to thrust one's posterior in an up-and-down motion - similar to what is executed in the music video for American rapper Nicki Minaj's raunchy booty anthem Anaconda.

Ms Lim and her classmates also tried out these moves in a full dance routine choreographed by the instructor.

They are part of a growing number of exercise junkies here getting their fitness fix from increasingly popular alternative sports such as hip-hop dance and aerial fitness.

A check by SundayLife! found that at least four pole dance studios in Singapore have started classes teaching routines for musical genres such as pop, rhythm and blues, as well as hip-hop, in the past year.

The bulk of these students are working professionals and tertiary students, mostly women aged between 20 and 35, although there are also a handful in their 40s and 50s.

Ms Tracy Mak and Ms Celeste Wang, who run the Singapore branch of the Milan Pole Dance Studio, say demand for its twerk class has been strong, with a full attendance of 20 almost every week since the studio opened in July.

"It's something extra on top of our core curriculum of pole and aerial fitness classes, where students can have fun, shake their booty and get a full body workout," says Ms Mak.

At all-female Groove dance studio, which teaches about 800 students a week, demand has shot up for its new Diva dance classes, which started early this year, says its director Renee Tan.

Students learn sequences modelled after those by artists such as Beyonce and Shakira, famed for their frenetic, complex dance routines.

"It improves your self-confidence and you get to look cool and feel like a pop star while exercising," says Ms Tan, adding that the big hit at her studio is still the K-pop classes that teach dance moves by Korean superbands like 2NE1.

Another new studio, Pole Dance Academy Singapore, which is barely two weeks old, has about 20 people signing up for its Groove & Sass class, say its owners, copywriter Sueann Tan, 26, and associate banker Jaclyn Fong, 33.

"It's like zumba for the a**, with lots of feminine attitude and street-style dancing thrown in, like in Step Up," says Ms Tan, referring to the popular dance film series that has spawned four sequels.

While some choose to get their workout by dancing like there's no tomorrow, another group is getting fit by apeing the work of acrobats and circus artists.

Aerial fitness, in which participants train by stretching and contorting their limbs around either steel hoops or bolts of silk hanging from the ceiling, is also catching on here, say operators.

"When we first started offering classes, many people shied away. They said that it looked dangerous, even impossible. But now, there's more awareness because of performances. People are generally becoming more adventurous when it comes to sport and they find these classes visually impressive," says Ms Leong Ming, principal of local pole-dancing school Acro Polates, which introduced the classes here in 2010.

The school holds 10 classes weekly now, compared to about three or four in 2012, she adds.

The classes are great for training the body's core, flexibility and upper body strength as they require students to pull themselves up and stretch, says pole dance and aerial fitness instructor Lydia Koh, 29.

Aerial fitness classes are also available at the Asia Square branch of the Pure Fitness gyms here.

Advertising executive Daniel Goh, 43, who took up classes there last year, says: "It's given me a lot of confidence to try other things like trapeze exercises. I used to struggle with doing chin-ups in the past, but I can easily do six or seven now."

jianxuan@sph.com.sg