We recently got down at a Saturday morning Zumba class. It was the first dance class we’d been to in, oh, at least a decade. Yes, we felt nervous and silly and embarrassingly uncoordinated at first, but by the time it was over, we were laughing, drenched in sweat, and promising each other we’d be back the following weekend.
A dance class can be a fun way to get in a workout, but since we know it can be intimidating if you’ve never been before — or haven’t been in many years — we asked Sadie Kurzban, founder of 305 Fitness dance studios, for advice. “Imagine an environment where people feel empowered, rather than judged,” Kurzban says. “There are no rules: Get water when you need; look in the mirror and give yourself a little slap on the butt; let your hair down. You do you!”
Here’s what else she told us.
Wear something comfortable that makes you feel confident.
Tight or lose clothing totally works for dance class — maybe just avoid jeans. “Since there is a lot of movement, a supportive sports bra is a must,” Kurzban says. “I’m also a fan of running shoes that offer lateral support, which helps protect both the knees and ankles.”
You don’t need to have ever been to a dance class before.
Newbies are more than welcome in adult dance classes. Anyone can do it — from teenagers to seniors. “It’s as easy as jumping in and going for it,” Kurzban says. “As long as you don’t take yourself too seriously, you can do this workout.”
It’s normal to feel nervous.
Whether you’re taking your first dance class ever or just trying a new studio, being anxious is normal. “As women, we get tons of messaging about what our bodies should look like,” Kurzban says. “We’ve been in environments, as early as elementary school PE class, where we are publicly shamed for not being good enough, fast enough, fit enough. Dance is all about letting go and enjoying yourself.”
The nervousness goes away fast.
As soon as you start moving, the nerves usually disappear. Let yourself get lost in the movement and the music. “We can all connect with music — it is a universal art expression that is in our blood,” Kurzban says. “Allow yourself to connect with that and get swept away by sounds.” Hear the music, catch the beat, and the rest is history.
The moves won’t be as hard as you think they’re going to be.
If you’re new to a studio and they have different class levels, sign up for the beginner option to start. But if it’s a studio where all classes are mixed levels, you’re fine no matter what amount of experience — or lack there of — you have. “I wasn’t even a trained dancer — I started dance by taking classes just like this,” Kurzban says.
It’s OK if you mess up.
No one is perfect — especially the first class — and no one is expected to be. Messing up is part of the fun. If you find yourself lost, “jog in place, do a little dance, just keep moving until you pick up the next step,” Kurzban says.
Stay out of your head and in your body.
How can you dance when you’re not thinking? That’s the thing — if you think too hard about dancing, you trip up. Trust your muscle memory and move to the music. “Dance is creative, so it’s all about your right brain, and we are so programmed to use our left brain — or the part that is obsessively trying to ‘understand’ what the instructor is doing — that we aren’t able to use our right brain in class,” Kurzban says. “Shut off the thinking. Let it be as easy as Simon says or monkey-see-monkey-do. No thought: That’s my mantra.”
You’ll feeling amazing after.
Stepping out of your comfort zone can be hard, but you’ll work up endorphins and finish class feeling empowered and stronger than before. “Dance should give you a little nudge in the right direction — it should make you feel happy, not self-conscious; liberated, not berated; unique, not a cog in the wheel,” Kurzban says. “If you come to class and you leave feeling a little more like yourself, the class and instructor have done their job.”