I saw the Groupon offer for ten dance classes at iDance and thought, “Perfect! Dance classes just three blocks away–it’s the closest thing to my place other than Tantra (two blocks) that is leaving the area!” But when I looked up the address, I learned iDance had moved from (but left their sign at) their 2nd Avenue and Alberta location to east of Main on 5th Avenue, nine whole blocks away.
(Sorry, Vancouver, but I divide in my mind the city into “Direction I want to go in” and “Direction I don’t.” Heading east is always less desirable and a few blocks in between my place and iDance are Sketch City in the evening.)
Given iDance qualifies as being in the neighbourhood and after I viewed the class schedule, I still wanted to try it. But I also decided to get my 10 classes over with with minimal visits, i.e., two or three classes in a row. If it’s anything like Tantra Fitness, an hour-long class is not so strenuous you couldn’t do a second one.
On the iDance website, their Best of Vancouver Runner-Up badges are prominently displayed. They are the runner-up in 2011 to 2013 (inclusive) to the most centrally located and perennial winner: Harbour Dance Centre. There is also a little table – I love tables – with the following guide.
“Best for Newbies: Dancer’s Body Bootcamp
Best for Burning Calories: Zumba
Best for Stress Release: Hip Hop
Best for Expressing Yourself: Lyrical”
Good thing I plan on trying all of these styles! (btw, when is a “Bootcamp” class best for newbie?)
On my first visit, I learned iDance would be moving! Again! The new location would still be nine blocks away from my place, but the distance is less. I thought that meant I had gone to the old studio in vain but I was simply really early for their first class of the day. I told the receptionist I would take three classes and she processed my Groupon 10-class pass and only took one class off. Like Tantra Fitness, iDance is set up for online registration for classes on zenplanner.com.
To start off my experiment at the runner-up dance studio, I took the ballet class. There is only one level of all the classes, no real explanation of the exercises was given and the demo was brief and not particularly deliberate to teach technique to even an astute observer. However, perhaps being new attracted the teacher’s attention and she attempted to correct my technique. It goes to show that even if you’re a veteran at beginner ballet classes, a new teacher will introduce challenges. Further, I found the floor was too slippery and I struggled to not let my feet slip away on me.
Three moveable barres that each accommodated four people were set up in the center and it was a full class. The lower barre was too short for me while the upper barre was too tall and the whole barre shifted under our weight as we did some exercises. All the exercises were fast as it was a one-hour class – half an hour at the barre, half an hour of center work.
I wore my standard ballet gear of pink tights with black shorts and black t-shirt and ballet shoes. For an informal school, I was pleased so observe most of the students also wore ballet shoes.
iDance Contemporary / Lyrical / Modern
You can’t help but notice when you check in on Foursquare (to the 5th Avenue location), the rave reviews for Rae’s contemporary and hip hop classes and a contemporary class followed my first class, the ballet one.
We did a 20-minute warm-up where you get nice and intimate with the cold hardwood floor. How flexible did we need to be?! Then she introduced the song she choreographed to and it’s one of my favourites – Gary Jules’ Mad World. A slow song is always better than fast song although I’m sure I looked more wooden than I felt. The sequence we did had a large element of pantomiming style and we did some “breakdancing” in the very first bar. I’m just not so very keen to be so close to the floor.
Dancer’s Body Bootcamp
iDance’s “gateway” class is their Dancer’s Body Bootcamp as it requires no dance experience and is offered at least once a day. It contains cardio, movement across the floor, partner work, abs, and stretching.
It was at Tantra where I was first ever exposed to partner work in a dance/fitness class and I didn’t like it. I like how we were holding hands, using each other to balance but also challenge either with our own unsteadiness while we did a series of degage and attitudes.
My biggest dilemma of the day was deciding between wearing socks or no socks! I was back and forth on that throughout the class. I don’t understand how professionals slide their bare feet across the floor! It was also definitely a leggings kind of class else you suffer floor burn (or freeze your legs) in shorts.
That evening, a substitute came in for Rae. We did a half hour of stretching and warm-up and she snuck in some formal jazz moves. Our combo to a song I did not know incorporated jazz arms, kicks and other details swimming in my head. I didn’t love the routine.
iDance Lyrical Jazz
The Lyrical Jazz class followed immediately the Jazz class and it was also suppose to be Rae’s class and a different substitute (Samantha) stepped in. We got even more intimate with the floor, sheesh.
To the song “Rolling Waves” by The Naked and Famous, we learned a routine much more like Contemporary Dance I know of from watching So You Think You Can Dance – again, slower songs are better. The routine included such classic contemporary moves like clutching your front torso, head and upper body crumpling, the backwards running/flying jump on the spot, contemporary-style spinning spread eagle jump, and nice incorporation of a rond de jambe.
When it comes to learning these routines, my first order of business is to get the timing, to be in the right place, on the correct footing. If you don’t have that, you’re hooped for the next portion. Then I’ll try to get the exact movements, but all too soon, the class ends. Samantha video taped our final run through and I’ve been checking out the iDance Studios channel on YouTube. This class renewed my appreciation for how contemporary dancers can throw themselves around and make it look effortless
iDance Hip Hop
Another Rae class and it was Hip Hop (ugh) instead of Lyrical Hip Hop. In any case, I wasn’t a huge fan of the music, some old song called “Break the Window” or something. It was too fast for me and I don’t like being “edgy” – the routine was largely isolations and that sounds fine and well but I couldn’t keep up with the beat or lyrics.
To this class, I wore and felt approaching normal a t-shirt, tights and my New Balance Minimum shoes. Warm-up was fine and well until we had to get down (again!!) to the ground with a crazy series of blanks and crunches!
Hip Hop was my first class in the new studio. The location has better visibility than their most recent one but I don’t see it as place where they can stay long-term. They moved into a space previously occupied by a school of aesthetics and without knowing that bit, I could still tell from the tacky 19080s reception area the former tenants were Chinese. But it’s the studios that count, right? A huge, positive difference is the windows letting light into the larger studio but you’re eye-level with the second floor of surrounding ugly buildings and the window frames are old and look mouldy. Their previous studio had a converted warehouse feel with infinitely high ceilings and now it felt like 7-foot ceilings. Several sinks line the back corner, useful for the last business but ugly when reflected in the wall of mirrors. I felt like I was in a crappy studio apartment with only the advantage of new hardwood floors with the laundry machines, a bathroom and kitchenette inside the studio. No one wants to say it but the space is disappointing, so what I heard a patron soothing say was, “It’s not about the studio, but the instructors.” That’s one way to put it.
iDance Floor Barre / Pilates Mat
There was a lot of back work and less discernible barre work on the floor. It was a slow-going and boring class.
After the chill and boring Floor Barre class, I thought I would have ample energy to do Bollywood. But the warm-up was crazy! It was at 11 on a scale out of 10 for intensity immediately! There was a lot of bouncing – a bra with support is required! I wore tights and my New Balance minimal shoes.
We focused on just four steps and repeated them in sequence then strung them together for “choreography”. Karima Essa, the instructor, is super high energy and took the time to correct people and framed the moves in terms of resistance and isolation exercises. It challenged me and inspired me to get better.
Karima also regaled us with stories of performing in the Canada Day and Pride parades. Hey, that would fulfill my dream of dancing in a parade! But it’s brutal. It’s constant physical work and under potentially sweltering conditions.
I was back six weeks later and mentally prepared for the ass-kicking first half an hour. In the meantime, Karima was away in Toronto vying for the top prize in Canadian reality dance/acting competition Bollywood Star. She was a finalist! That is stupendous. But she was eliminated during the second episode – which is not stupendous. :( I feel sad about that lost opportunity for her but she is definitely someone who will create more in her future!
The second class wasn’t quite so bad since I was prepared with a bottle of water and mentally prepared. I was still challenged and since the front desk associate had recommended I extend my membership, I seriously consider that the Bollywood class was worth sticking with iDance for. It is loud and high-energy and doesn’t required “mood lighting” and the current iDance studio’s state isn’t an issue for me as it was for a real dance class.
iDance Yoga Dance
On a Monday I did not have to go to work, I took the opportunity to attend a 10 a.m. class. I also wanted to go to a 5:00 p.m. class at Harbour Dance that I would otherwise never get to but iDance was in my neighbourhood and Harbour isn’t and one class happened and the other did not.
I had some fancy idea about what Yoga Dance could be but this was just a flow yoga classes. I wasn’t unhappy to get a good stretch in.
My original plan was to do a triple-header on Sunday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. of Bollywood, Zumba and Pussycat Dolls. But that’s awkward scheduled across lunch hour and when would I have lunch? 2:30?! I’ve had enough of wannabe-sexy classes and nixed the Pussycat Dolls class with no intention to try it.
Zumba is a different story, especially since it was (as above) “Best for Burning Calories.” The Sunday class is co-instructed by Hercy and Rolson which is a cool duo. Hercy was fast paced and dove into each new song’s choreography without a word of explanation but with ample repetition to catch up to the moves, roughly speaking, by the second iteration. Rolson brought the dancehall/hip hop moves and we could catch our breath during his segment. The class was split kind of 35 minutes Hercy and 25 minutes Rolson. We did Gangnam style! It was a fun and satisfying class which and I can see why it is a full class. I felt super limber after the class which is exactly what I need to shake up my running-and-ballet routine.
After trying ten different classes at iDance, I have gone from decidedly not renewing my membership to agreeing to a 10-class card which I will use for Bollywood-Zumba doubleheaders in Sundays. The 10-class card expires after just three months so I have to take care of (i.e., attend) some other dance studios I have class cards for before purchasing another iDance pass!
On this day..
- Vancouver, the City of Glass - 2006