Meet the fitness scene’s dance cardio divas
Dance cardio has never been hotter. In just the past few months, more and more instructors (AKA dance cardio divas) have debuted on New York’s fitness scene, with classes that meld heart-rate pumping choreography and strength-training moves for a workout that oozes good times and serious cool factor.
Tracy Anderson, of course, started the craze, proving that dynamic movement set to club music could slim and sculpt. And many of the women now growing the fitness genre are her former disciples that have struck out on their own.
Some bring barre influence, others emphasize athleticism—all allow you to burn calories to the beat while flooding your body with dance-floor endorphins. Meet New York’s eight dance cardio divas... —Lisa Elaine Held and Melisse Gelula
Photo: Mahri Relin
Tracy Anderson Method
Anderson is the woman who started it all, elevating fitness dance classes into a sexy, sculpting workout that svelte celebrities now swear by.
Her method pairs cardio dance sequences with dynamic arm movements using small weights, as well as strength training with ceiling bands. They're all aimed at targeting the body’s small muscles to create a lean, toned look.
Anderson became a household name when Madonna hired her, and she soon became a go-to star trainer, for celebrities like Courteney Cox, and, of course, Gwyneth Paltrow, who’s now her business partner.
While spin-offs abound, her original method is still going strong in New York, the Hamptons, and LA, even with one of the highest price-tags in the business.
She's also a branding machine, with popular DVD workout system, Metamorphosis and pre- and post-natal programs, as well as leggings, and “Detox Weeks.” Next up? A teen program. www.tracyandersonmethod.com
Body By Simone
Simone De La Rue's chic West Chelsea fitness studio called Body By Simone (BBS) is a little over a year old. She's just the second instructor in the dance cardio clique to create a flagship for her workout, and she was the first offer a la carte classes ($35 each) in this formerly membership-based fitness model.
The energetic Aussie left lead roles on Broadway for private training celeb clients (Anne Hathaway, Sandra Bullock) in her waist-wittling, lean-muscle-making method.
At her "body gallery" (her preferred name for her fitness studio with 20-ft ceilings), she and her team hold about 30 hour-long weekly group classes, including niche ones like "Hips, Thighs & Buns" and the new "BBS Men" for gents.
BBS workouts use weighted gloves, trampolines, wall-mounted "body bands," and some tough choreography (we're not gonna lie). De La Rue will give you cues, but you're almost better off taking her online class to learn them at home first. You'll sweat bullets to the moves that are fitness-focused and never cheesy. www.bodybysimone.com
AKT IN MOTION
Anna Kaiser—trainer of Kelly Ripa and Sarah Jessica Parker, and choreographer of pop-stars like Shakira—is the founder of AKT INMOTION.
Until now, she’s boogied slightly under-the-radar with 60- and 90-minute classes at Downtown Dance Factory ($35).
But this spring, the vivacious 5’3" trainer is set to open her own downtown studio with seven or so NASM-certified instructors in tow.
Kaiser’s a genius at creating dance sequences that build slowly, so even two-left-feet-types can follow along. Classes are about 2/3 sweat-soaking dance and 1/3 strength and flexibility training with weights and resistance bands.
“I’m teaching high-intensity interval training using dance instead of plyometrics,” says Kaiser, who was a professional dancer, then changed course, racked up fitness credentials, and for two years, according to Kaiser, served as Tracy Anderson’s chief content officer.
These days, Kaiser is giving her obsessed students an amazing sweat session they can rock—and bliss—out to. aktinmotion.com
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Dance Cardio by KGBody
Like many mavens on the dance cardio scene, Greiner has a dance and fitness background, worked at Tracy Anderson, and has a ton of respect for how music and movement help people get healthy, happy, and super fit.
“We all know how to run, how to hold plank, and do yoga, but dance cardio requires you to be present through movement; it’s a mind and body workout that's really fun and works you really hard,” she says. Especially in Greiner's case.
Greiner teaches dance cardio privates and group classes at SLT (where she also leads Megaformer classes). There are no mirrors in the studio “so you can really enjoy class instead of worrying and judging yourself,” says Greiner, whom you just follow.
Her class is one of the easiest to pick up because you don’t have to memorize any long dance phrases. Read: four jumping jacks and four hip shakes. “It’s geared for those who mix their workouts and go to spin and do SLT,” she says.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not tough. Greiner, who’s taught at Barry’s Bootcamp and is a NASM-certified personal trainer, punctuates her classes with tons of high-knee twists and on-tempo lunges that make your muscles join in the dance party. www.sltnyc.com or www.kgbody.com
Photo: Evan Gunville
Lindi Duesenberg, a popular Physique 57 instructor, created this happy-making (super sweaty) workout.
DMF stands for "dance, motivation, fitness," and although the classes have just launched, they're already packing two dozen women into the cardio party.
For this 50-minute workout, each song gets a simple(ish) choreographed routine. Expect to hear Beyonce, P!nk, Tina Turner—and to learn some of their signature moves. It's a blast, even MC Hammer’s "U Can’t Touch This," when you'll scuttle across the floor on your tippie toes. Duesenberg gives you the satisfying gift of handing you music-video moves on a silver platter.
About halfway through class, you'll stop and drop into a low squat for quad-quaking moves, to add muscle-building pain to your cardio pleasure. For Duesenberg, positivity is the point. "Your mind is too busy learning the choreography to worry, or go over your to-do list, or dwell on whatever negativity occupies your head," she says.
"As Elle Woods says in Legally Blonde," shouts Duesenberg during class, “Happy women don’t kill their husbands.” www.dmfnyc.com
Mahri Relin, a NASM certified trainer, started at Tracy Anderson and went on to serve as the creative director for Flybarre at Flywheel.
“What I did was took some ideas that barre taught me, the creativity that Tracy gave me, and my dance experience, and went from there,” she says.
The result? Her dynamic Body Conceptions class, where dynamic, non-stop cardio is followed by mat sequences where you can feel the "athletic barre" influence. There's also a free-form dance party at the end, which Relin graciously turns the lights down for, so you can really let loose.
After founding Body Conceptions, Relin was teaching privates and classes in various spaces around the city, and she recently found a home at Dance New Amsterdam, where she holds six classes a week (three are taught by Joanie Johnson). www.bodyconceptions.com
Pryce is New York’s under-the-radar dance cardio star. The former professional dancer and Tracy Anderson trainer teaches one class a week at Bari and her schedule is packed with private clients, but four times a week her devotees gather for group classes in rented dance studios.
“It’s underground, but I prefer it that way. It’s all people who bring friends, friends of friends, it happens naturally and organically,” she says.
Pryce’s focus is on melding functional, athletic movements with dance movements and (tiny-weight) toning. She’ll also throw lunges in between grapevines—and will challenge you with endless planks and push-ups.
“You actually do need to work those large muscles to build muscle that burns calories, and those muscles allow you to move in a functional way in real life,” she says. [email protected]
The dance cardio scene’s bubbly little sister is 23-year-old Kurzban. She popularized her Miami-club-style classes as a student at Brown University, where hundreds of co-eds would show up to sweat with her.
After graduating, she launched 305 Fitness in New York, where her classes, currently based at Stepping Out Studios in Chelsea, are picking up steam.
Everything about her approach is big—the movements (from squats to booty shaking), the music (Shakira and Ke$ha), and her exuberant energy, which can barely be contained by her tiny frame. www.305fitness.com