Photo by avp17 from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.
There’s a more interesting way to keep those “this year I will get in shape, no, really” New Year’s resolutions than a membership to some stuffy gym that you’ll stop using in a month and a half anyway– a way that can even help you show off your new buffness and make you appear cooler on the dance floor next New Year’s Eve, in the last sloshy moments before you resolve to resolve all over again.
That way is called “dancing,” Toronto, and this city is brimming over with quality dance instruction. Somewhere out there is a style for you and a devoted teacher just waiting to help you find your groove, partner up, and coax some grace and tone into those flailing limbs.
We know that if you’re new to this idea they call dance, or if it’s been a while since you last joined a class, the whole idea can be a little daunting: Where should I go? What if I suck? Will they make me wear tights?
To that end, we’ve prepared a short list of Torontoist-tested classes in some of our favourite styles. Most classes in the city start up again next week after the holidays, so your timing is perfect to try something new. Beginner classes abound. You will not be alone.
And to answer those other questions: it’s OK if you suck, it’s fun to just try, and no, they won’t make you wear tights– unless you really want to.
Studio: B-Girl Maehem’s Street Dance Academy
Styles: Breaking, popping, locking, hip hop, stepping, house, reggae, lindy hop, plus workshops in more obscure club styles like wacking.
Location: It doesn’t get more convenient or streety than 160 Spadina, at Queen.
Forte: A menu of styles for all levels, so broad, you could find a different class every night of the week and never get bored. What ties it all together is the community atmosphere, the beautiful new dark wood floors and the scrappy, magnificent history that each funky-in-its own right street and club style shares with its brothers. Discover your new obsession, or pick up a new attitude to take back to the clubs.
What to wear:Loose comfortable clothing and relatively clean, not too grippy sneakers. No heels. For breaking: something you can turn upside down in, no rings or jewelry. A hat, some knee pads and wrist guards won’t hurt if you plan to stick with it.
$$: $12-$15 drop-in, or grab an 8-class card for $90
Motivational Film: Kool Herc says, watch The Freshest Kids,
Re-motivational Live Performance: See Maehem throw down courtside at any Raptors home game this season.
Studio: Shawn Byfield’s Tap Skool
Styles: Urban Tap & Hip Hop
Location: Metro Movement, Good Life Fitness
Forte: Without a home to call his own, Shawn Byfield’s contribution is more than a studio, it’s a one-man-driven operation that must, at all costs, convey to you the storied, heartfelt awesomeness that is tap. A dancing veteran of stage and screen, Shawn B teaches with more energy and enthusiasm than can be contained by four walls. Music used in class spans soul, funk, hip hop, r&b and just the occasional tune from 42nd street, and the style is modeled after the late, Great gregory Hines and Bill Bojangles. This is not the tap you quit at the beginning of high school because it made you feel like a dork.
What to Wear: Comfortable clothes that move well and make you feel pretty darn hot. You don’t need tap shoes on the first day. Sean will tell you what to get and where to get ’em.
$$: In the range of $150-$200 / 10 classes, with good discounts for returning students and newsletter subscribers. Register online soon for classes beginning January 12.
Motivational Films: Tap — Burglar or tap dancer? An educational film about how your career options will change once you start taking these classes.
Re-Motivational Live Performance: Look for upcoming shows from the Funk Factory
Studio: Kevin Pugh’s Dance Teq
Location: The dreamy Walter Carsen Centre For the National Ballet of Canada
Styles: Ballet overload, plus some jazz, modern and bellydance
Forte: If you think ballet is just for rail-thin little girls in pink tulle, who happen to have a freakishly high threshold for foot pain, think again. It might just be for you, too. Develop strength, flexibility and excellent posture in the same beautifully-lit, high-ceilinged studios where the National Ballet of Canada rehearses every day– an experience that really is unique to Toronto, and so inspiring, you’ll practically melt right out of your slippers.
What to wear: Comfortable workout clothes (do you see the pattern developing here?), a pair of simple soft-toed ballet slippers.
$$: $10-$15, plus many different discounted card options.
Re-Motivational Live Performance: March 2007 is ballet month at the Four Seasons Centre, choose from the competition for the Erik Bruhn Prize, the knee-slapping funny Taming Of the Shrew, or a programme of mixed contemporary shorts, all from the National Ballet of Canada.
Studio: City Dance Corps
Styles: Salsa (and many others)
Location: 539 King Street, West of Spadina
Forte: Salsa Classes from absolute beginner, through the most challenging advanced, in a strict, regimented programmed of progressive levels.
What to wear: Workout wear, no outdoor shoes, soles without too much grip
$$: In the range of $15-$25
Motivational Films: Salsa. This movie is from 1988 and features the work of Dirty Dancing choreographer, Kenny Ortega. You have been warned.
Re-Motivational Live Performance: Get out into the clubs and practice! Or check out the fun, welcoming, Toronto Salsa Practice at Trinity St. Paul’s Church at Bloor & Spadina– all the dancing none of the potential salsa sleaze.
Also Recommended for Salsa: Toronto Dance Salsa‘s popular and friendly lessons, beginner through advanced.
Studio: Kathryn Beet’s Yoga Space
Location: Ossington Ave. between Dundas & Queen
Forte: OK, it’s not a dance, but it is the perfect companion to just about every other form of movement out there. It’ll make you breathe, loosen you up, build your core, and with powerful styles like Ashtanga, can make you sweat and bring strength-training benefits. Yoga Space offers a lot of detailed, personal attention to help you prevent injury and find your way into the correct form of every pose, in a relaxed, none too chi-chi atmosphere.
What to wear: Don’t be intimidated by all those Lululemon moms you saw wandering around Queen West on boxing day. Grab some light sweats or shorts, a t-shirt, and a decent sports bra for women and you’re good to go. Prepare to go barefoot.
$$: They have a great deal for n00bs: first class free, or your whole first week for $20.
Motivational Film: Naked Yoga?
Re-Motivational Live Show: How about a yoga getaway in Mexico?