Get Dirty on the dance floor

This story was first published in The Straits Times on April 5, 2013

Move over Zumba, here come Bokwa and Dirty Dancing.

These are the latest dance-fitness crazes in town after Zumba, a popular mix of dance and aerobics set to Latin and world music.

Another dance-fitness hybrid, Bokwa is what you get when you cross Tae Bo with Kwaito. The first incorporates kicks and punches into fitness routines, while Kwaito incorporates African beats into slower versions of traditional house music.

Bokwa dancers groove to pop hits, following a sequence of moves where they trace letters of the alphabets and numbers on the ground with their feet. The rhythmic sequence of steps mirrors the boxing style in Tae Bo. These steps are then accompanied by music, much like in Kwaito dance.

Developed a year ago in Los Angeles, Bokwa has spawned classes with more than 10 private instructors and dance studios in Singapore, as well as two flash mobs in Orchard Road.

Dirty Dancing is a form of dance incorporating fitness moves. The name comes from the 1987 movie of the same name, although its moves are more contemporary compared to the film's Latin-inspired choreography. At least one gym here offers such classes.

Bokwa's fans like its simple but fun moves, while Dirty Dancing appeals to women who like flaunting their sensuality while having a good workout.

Bokwa was developed by Los Angeles-based fitness dance instructor Paul Mavi, who was influenced by the dances of his native South Africa. The first batch of instructors in Singapore was certified by the international group, Bokwa Fitness, last October.

Two Bokwa flash mobs were organised last November and in January in Orchard Road, where about 30 participants hit the streets in a surprise performance. They were led by Bokwa instructor Pamela Sim, 34, of Flyte Studio, a dance studio at Tanjong Rhu.

Ms Sim, who also teaches Zumba, attributes the popularity of Bokwa to the simplicity and immediacy of tracing the letters and numbers with one's feet. Dancers can also choreograph their own routines.

She says: "Unlike Zumba, where students depend a lot on the instructor's choreography, Bokwa allows students to add their own variations to the set steps."

She says that on average, a person can burn up to 1,000 calories in a one-hour dance session of Bokwa, which is comparable to the calories burned doing Zumba in the same amount of time.

She teaches about 30 students a class. Most of them are working professionals, though children do attend her classes accompanied by their parents. She says the simple moves make it easy for children to pick up Bokwa.

One such parent is mother-of- three Karen Lay, 40, who took part in the two Bokwa flash mobs with her eight-year-old son, Carter.

Both mother and son have been going for Bokwa classes for six months and she says her son enjoys learning the straightforward steps and dancing to popular songs.

She adds: "Because he likes performing as well, he really loved being a part of the flash mobs."

Dirty Dancing, a hybrid of dance and fitness, was developed by dance instructors from boutique gym Physical ABuse in Havelock Road.

Compared to exotic dance, which often conjures images of sensual belly dancing, pole dancing, or even striptease, Dirty Dancing incorporates an element of fitness into the dance.

Gym manager Edmund Tan says this lets dancers get a good cardiovascular workout while gaining confidence while dancing.

Physical ABuse introduced the dance in February and now offers the classes three times a week. Regulars include students, working professionals and housewives, whose ages range from early 20s to mid-50s.

The classes are loosely ruled "girls only", though instructor Charmaine Wong, 30, says men are welcome to join. She says: "Because it involves rather sexy and sensual moves, it might be more appealing to women."

She says Dirty Dancing "is unique because it is a blend of fitness and a sensual dance form".

Ms Jasmine Tan, a senior marketing executive in her late 30s, says: "It is a fun way to exercise. It is not about taking your clothes off."



Flyte Studio

Where: 69 Tanjong Rhu Road Dance class fees: $125 for 10 sessions, $230 for 20 sessions Open: 9.30am to 10pm daily during dance class hours only Info: Call 8200-9222 or go to

Phillip Wain Fitness And Beauty

Where: United Square, 04-10/19 Membership fees: About $120 a month for 12 months Open: Mondays to Fridays, 7am to 10pm; Saturdays, 7am to 8pm; Sundays, 9am to 6pm; public holidays, 10am to 7pm Info: Call 6250-0100 or go to

Lifesparks Studio

Where: Pearl's Centre Office Podium 04-13 Dance class fees: $15 for a class Open: Mondays to Fridays, 4 to 9pm; Saturdays and Sundays, 10am to 2pm Info: Call 9002-3158 or go to


Physical ABuse

Where: 2 Havelock Road 2HR 01-28/29 Membership fees: $119 a month for 12 months Open: Mondays to Fridays, 7am to 10pm; Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, 8am to 8pm Info: Call 6536-5580 or go to

This story was first published in The Straits Times on April 5, 2013

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