Step into a new groove with dance workshops at the Esplanade

Esplanade rolls out dance workshops for beginners. Life!Weekend tries two of the classes

Reporter Nabilah Said finds it easier to do a sexy shimmy in belly dancing than to look cool while isolating muscles in hip-hop dancing (above). -- PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Reporter Nabilah Said finds it easier to do a sexy shimmy in belly dancing than to look cool while isolating muscles in hip-hop dancing (above). -- PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Reporter Nabilah Said finds it easier to do a sexy shimmy in belly dancing (above) than to look cool while isolating muscles in hip-hop dancing. -- PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said: "We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once."

Unless you are a dancer by profession, most of us do not get a chance to cavort daily, beyond the occasional stolen moment in the comfort of our own rooms when a favourite track comes on the radio.

But if you really love dancing, try out the workshops for beginners offered by the Esplanade in the next two months.

Part of the Footwork series which has been running since June, these workshops are intended for those with little or no background in dance who wish to try something new.

The classes are taught by professional dancers from schools here, such as Danz People and Jazz Inc.

The series, which is made up of 64 classes across 24 genres, is meant as a build-up to the annual Esplanade da:ns Festival, which runs from Oct 9 to 19.

The genres range from contemporary and salsa to bhangra and K-pop music video-style dance, giving even seasoned dancers the opportunity to learn a new skill.

Held on weekends, the 90-minute classes are segregated into three categories - Youth and Adults; Parents and Kids; and Twinkle Toes. Adult classes can take up to 40 participants and children's classes up to 30.

The Youth and Adults classes include genres such as flamenco and waltz. Some of them come in two levels: level one classes are for beginners while level two ones cater to those with experience in that particular genre.

For women who feel a little shy strutting their stuff in front of men, there are women-only Ladies Night belly dance classes.

Those with children aged seven to 10 can opt for the Parents and Kids classes.

There is also a one-off line dancing class for grandparents and kids on Sept 27 which will unite the two generations on the dance floor.

Twinkle Toes classes are designed specially for children aged three to six. These workshops combine dance and play, allowing children to explore space and improve their coordination and social skills.

Tickets start from $12 for an adult class and $24 for children's classes (for one adult and one child).

Act fast if you are keen to cut a rug. Of the 22 classes left in the next two months, only 16 are available.

Tickets for classes such as hip-hop and K-pop get snapped up quickly, and there are only two Twinkle Toes classes, offering ballet, left for grabs.

For those who are nervous about going to a dance class for the first time, Ms Marlene Ditzig, 23, a programmer with the Esplanade, has this piece of advice: "As with any dance, the most important thing is to get into the spirit of it. As long as you have the desire, interest or passion to learn and just try a dance, that's really all you need."


When I hear the words "belly dance", my mind immediately goes straight to my gut.

It was to my delight then, that upon my arrival at a belly dance class early this month, I was handed a belly chain.

I took the accessory - a sheer piece of cloth with dangling gold beads attached - and gleefully wrapped it around my not-so-trim waist.

Of course, its actual purpose is to accentuate your hips when you dance, as you have to move that body part a lot in belly dancing.

After leading us in some light stretching, Ms Nawal Alhaddad, a freelance dance instructor who also teaches zumba and yoga, spent the first half of class time teaching us some basic moves such as the shoulder shimmy and hip drops.

Within five minutes of trying to isolate my hips and making them move in staccato rhythm to some catchy Middle Eastern music, I got a stitch in my stomach.

It's something I'm not too ashamed to admit, though - isolation of muscles is challenging and for those not used to doing it (especially us office dwellers). It requires sheer will and concentration.

Looking around the class of about 40 women, I noticed that there were many women who looked 30 and above (I'm 29, by the way).

Despite it being Ladies Night, there were some nervous giggles when we tried out our first few hip thrusts to the sensual-sounding dance music.

Belly dancing is inherently sexy - just look at Latin pop crossover star Shakira, who popularised it in her music videos.

Ms Nawal, 24, who is of Arabic descent, channels that exotic vibe herself and repeatedly called us "sexy ladies" during the class, which led to a lot of laughter once again.

But along with our hips, the participants soon loosened up as everyone got used to the movements. Frowns turned into smiles and that translated into confidence.

We were taught a simple choreography for the second half of the class.

As we moved in synchrony, hips moving this way and that, belly chains shaking and catching the light, it made me realise that the dance celebrates the female figure.

A dance that champions the curve of a woman's body. What could be sexier than that?

I left the class feeling pretty good, not least because of the amount of sweat I had worked up.

It was a good workout and made me keen to try more belly dance classes.


While belly dancing made me feel sexy, it was a different matter altogether with a hip-hop class I attended two weeks ago.

Interestingly, the first few moves taught by instructor Jootz See from Danz People involved muscle isolation as well.

Hip-hop, a form of street dancing, involves the isolation of different body parts. Mr See explained that except for the knees, almost every part of the body can be isolated with practice.

He first led the class of about 40 through head isolations, which was challenging because you have to keep your neck and shoulders still as you move your head from front to back and side to side. This was followed by chest and hip isolation.

While isolation in belly dancing is meant to be sexy, in hip-hop, the focus is more on making sure you isolate the body part cleanly.

What I found most difficult, and what makes hip-hop just radiate "cool", is that relaxed, almost slouchy, stance and attitude of fearlessness that dancers of this genre embody.

Case in point: Mr See, 30, showed us how even a simple clap can become a "hip-hop clap" with just some added forcefulness and an angry facial expression.

As we grooved to the sounds of Mary J. Blige's Family Affair, it seemed that the younger people in the class picked up this grungy attitude more easily than the older folk.

Perhaps it was because some of them had prior experience, but it did feel like it was easier for the younger ones to be "angry" at the world.

But as we went through the choreography a few times, I soon realised that familiarity with the steps made me look more confident. Perhaps that was the first step to acquiring that level of swagger that is associated with hip-hop culture at large.

Another interesting point about hip- hop is that there is plenty of room for individuality. In between the kicks, thrusts and dips, Mr See showed us how to incorporate our own little moves to look more confident, such as touching your hair or collar.

What I enjoyed most about the class was that confidence, even if feigned, can somehow translate into the real thing, making you feel that bit more (to borrow the street lingo) "fierce".

The two classes I went for made me realise that dancing is about being comfortable in your own skin and they did make me feel more connected to my body.

They also reminded me of the beauty of the human form, not just of professionally trained dancers, but also the uninitiated such as myself.

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