Five Local Dance Classes to Shake the Winter Away

By Sarah Davin

Before I could write, I danced. As a small girl, my parents signed me up for ballet lessons and bought me tiny ballet shoes with one goal in mind for my teacher: “Teach her how to skip.” This led to many new discoveries and character-building moments during the subsequent 10 years. I will never forget the unrelenting, full-bodied itch of a purple-sequined leotard; that every dressing room smelled overpoweringly like hairspray during recital night; and that 45-second split drills would seem much shorter if you didn’t whine about it. I remember my uncontrollable excitement when I finally did my first pirouette in my parents’ basement; my sense of maturity when I got to be a big toy soldier in the studio’s annual production of The Nutcracker; and comforting, footstep-like repetition of going to dance class every Monday.

Whether you have been dancing for a long time or are someone with a newly budding interest, taking a dance class is a great way to strengthen the body or relieve the mind, focusing on the next two steps rather than the next two days. If you are hoping to incorporate a little more shimmy into your life, here are some local adult classes to help you find your inner Beyoncé or Fred Astaire.

Allison Mann’s AfroJazz class.
Photo credit: Contemporary Dance and Fitness Studio.

AfroJazz with Allison Mann

AfroJazz is an easy-to-follow and low-impact form of Afro-Haitian, Afro-Cuban, and Jazz dancing. Taught by Allison Mann, who has more than 25 years of teaching experience and has spent more than 30 years studying dance, “The dance style and instruction are ideal for taking proper care of the joints and spine, and people put out the amount and type of energy that is right for them,” said Mann. Participants will hear jazz, soul, folk, and drumming, and also incorporate hand weights, core strengthening, and yoga. The class meets twice a week, on Saturday at 8:30 am and Tuesday at 5 pm at the Contemporary Dance and Fitness Studio on Langdon Street in Montpelier, with the Tuesday class having the smaller class size. The drop-in fee is $16.

Emma Manion.
Photo credit: Emma Manion.

Fusion Class with Emma Manion

“If you can walk, you can dance,” says Emma Manion. Her Fusion class uses Manion’s playful choreography to explore multiple dance styles such as contemporary, hip hop, African, ballet, and Latin. Manion is a certified movement coach/personal trainer and a graduate of Bennington College who has been teaching dance classes throughout Vermont and California’s Bay Area for more than 12 years. Manion’s class is accessible for both beginners and more advanced students, with no prior experience required. “Professional dancers can get a lot from this class as well as those who are still working on the ‘step-tap.’ “I accommodate all levels of background and ability,” she said. The class meets from 11 am to 12:15 pm on Sundays at the Contemporary Dance and Fitness Studio. The drop-in fee is $10.

Jazzercise at the Barre Jazzercise Center

Barre Jazzercise offers a wide variety of times and types of Jazzercise, including DanceMixx, Express, and Strike, which incorporates kickboxing. Diane Hood, who is one of 13 certified aerobics instructors at Barre Jazzercise, described the space: “The room is 2,000 square feet of very cushiony rubber flooring with the instructor on a stage in front leading the class with a microphone. The music is all top 40.” The DanceMixx classes, which were formerly known as regular Jazzercize, are one-hour long. If you are looking to fit in something a bit shorter, the express classes are half the length. The most popular classes happen at 5:30 pm, after work and weekends. Class rates can be found on Barre Jazzercise’s payment page.

Step ‘n’ Time Line Dancers of Central Vermont

Sid McLam, who has been teaching since 1995, holds line dancing classes in Barre and Randolph. McLam described the class: “Our first hour is warmup dance, and then we teach at least one dance a week, and we review whatever we taught the previous week. The second hour of the evening is open dancing, so I play their requests and whatever folks would like to dance to.” The dances are typically patterned and set to eight counts, except for the waltz, which is six counts. The genres most often danced to are country and pop music, but other genres such as rock, rap, and even Celtic can also make an appearance. Leather-soled shoes are recommended. The Randolph class meets on Wednesdays, 6:45–8:45 pm at the Chandler Music Hall, and the Barre class meets on Thursdays at the Old Labor Hall, 6:30–8:30 pm. By donation.        

Vermont Swings

Have you ever wanted to break out into the Charleston during a Gatsby-themed party or wished to up your Lindy Hop game? Vermont Swings is a dance collective, a nonprofit group led by a team of board members who teach, DJ, and otherwise donate their time to bringing their love of swing to the community. Vermont Swings hosts its events and classes at the Champlain Club in Burlington. Beyond dancing, cleanliness and etiquette are also important elements of swing dancing. “Following dance floor etiquette helps everyone to have fun. Simply put, it means being courteous and respectful to those around you. It’s more important for a social dancer to be a considerate and thoughtful partner than to be a technically expert dancer,” says the Vermont Swings website. Vermont Swings hosts a weekly practice session every Tuesday from 7:30 to 9 pm.

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