Get Active: Good riddims at fast-paced Maryland dancehall class

PUBLISHED: 13:00 26 February 2015

Dancehall teacher Cindy Claes (front) with her pupils

Dancehall teacher Cindy Claes (front) with her pupils


“It’s about freedom, expression, music and culture – and, above all, creativity.”

The dancehall classThe dancehall class

So says dance instructor Cindy Claes, whose enthusiasm for dancehall is infectious.

I’d headed down to one of her weekly classes in Maryland, somehow imagining that I’d instantly become like one of the dancers in a Sean Paul video circa 2002. How hard could it be?

Pretty tricky, it turns out, but I had a smile on my face throughout the simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating hour-and-a-half session, and on the bus ride home.

Thankfully I wasn’t the only fish out of water as I had fellow reporter Anna Silverman keeping me company in the studio.

Reporters Anna Silverman (left) and Janine Rasiah (middle) try to follow the movesReporters Anna Silverman (left) and Janine Rasiah (middle) try to follow the moves

Following the warm-up – a mixture of cardio and stretching – we moved on to technique.

Cindy encourages the class to “ketch di dance” – learning a combination of old school and new school moves through copying them, before later going through them in more detail.

“You just need to get in the vibe of doing the steps, “ Cindy explains. “Dancehall is not really about choreography, it’s more about freestyling.”

As you’d expect, the blasting music is amazing and it’s hard not to move anyway but it’s tricky to keep up with everyone else.

And with a wall of mirrors in front of us, even hiding at the back doesn’t mean that your mistakes go unnoticed.

But that’s not to say that we didn’t feel welcomed, and I was actually amazed at how friendly and accomodating everyone was. It was almost like we had formed our own crew.

After we learnt a routine (ahem) to a Beenie Man track we were split into two groups to perform in turn.

I was blantantly copying the girl in front of me – but having a lot of fun doing it.

The other side were supportive, whooping and cheering us on, something that I’ve never experienced in any other exercise class.

Towards the end of the class, a trio were selected to perform the routine to be filmed for Cindy’s website. Unsurprisingly, Anna and I were not selected.

It was fascinating to see the moves performed the way they should be, with such vigour and authority. One of the girls, who I later found out was just 13, was incredible.

Although it didn’t exactly come naturally, and I might have to hold off my music video dreams a little bit longer, I’m determined to enrol in a dancehall class near me.

Cindy Claes’ dancehall classes run every Wednesday at Maryland Studioz, Leytonstone Road, 8.30pm.

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