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10 Fun Ways to Get in Shape While Supporting the Arts

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Bandaloop workshop at Eastern Sierra. Photo: Conrad Chan.

It’s that very special time of the year when you can’t escape people (including yourself) bemoaning their New Year’s resolution to get in shape and banish that holiday pudge. Lately, people have also been ranting about the exodus of artists and the diminishing art spaces in the Bay Area. So I decided to put together a list of fun ways to get in shape in the New Year while also supporting local arts organizations.

If you can still afford to live here, you can put your money (rather than all of those holiday sweets) were your mouth is. Oh, and if you think that you are too old or not physically fit enough to dance, (re)watch this viral gem:

  1. Aerial Dance:

    For the more adventurous types, aerial dance is an amazing way to whittle away at that pesky arm waddle. Zaccho Dance Theater offers weekly aerial yoga and dance classes. Both Flyaway Productions and Bandaloop in Oakland (pictured above) offer workshops throughout the year. And if you are afraid of heights, then at least check out these groups’ inspiring performances.

  2. Ballroom:

    If, from the comfort of your couch, you’ve ever watched Dancing with the Stars and thought, “Geez, I could totally do that,” then maybe it’s time you give it a twirl. And you can even take classes at the studio founded by Cheryl Burke, one of the Dancing with the Stars champs, in Mountain View. For those in the north, there’s the Arthur Murray Dance Center (Santa Rosa), which is currently offering one free private lesson for new customers. Additionally, The Metronome on Potrero Hill in San Francisco offers a variety of beginning classes on a weekly basis, as well as hosting a number of social events to practice your fancy new steps with partners — or complete strangers.

  3. Bhangra:

    For fans of Bollywood films, check out bhangra, which is a high-energy workout for both men and women. Dholrythms offers bhangra classes in both San Francisco and Berkeley. Dance Mission offers a class on Monday nights. And once you’ve got some moves under your sari, you can show them off at Non Stop Bhangra, a monthly dance party at Public Works. No idea what I’m talking about? Get schooled along with Conan O’Brien.

  4. Circus Arts:

    On the (very) rare occasion that I’m asked how I stay in shape, people tend to be surprised to hear that my answer is acrobatics. Although I’m not sure why the amazement, since who doesn’t want to do cartwheels (in a very safe environment)? You too can get your tumbling on at the Circus Center and at Acrosports. Both offer acrobatics as well as introductory classes in many other circus arts, like contortion, tight rope walking, trampoline, and tissu. Athletic Playground in Emeryville also offers beginning classes in acrobatics, aerial skills, and acroyoga. For the adrenaline junkie, check out trapeze classes at the Circus Center or at Kinetic Arts in Oakland.

  5. Dance-Pop:

    To be honest, before writing this article I didn’t know that “dance-pop” was the terminology used for the choreography that one tends to see in popular music videos from the likes of Lady Gaga and Britney Spears. It’s ironic since it is one of my favorite genres! Both ODC and Dance Mission offer a Vogue and Tone class — yes, we are talking about Vogueing a la Madonna-style. And there’s a group out there, called Pop Star Technique that teaches a Beyonce-inspired dance class, which we hear might be hard to get into (since it fills up quickly and is not offered regularly), but is worth the effort if you can get a coveted spot. Read more about it on KQED Pop.

    But wait, there’s more… Yes, that same group is dedicated to choreographing to crowd favorites like Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake, rehearsing for weeks, and then performing the routines as the Bay Area Flash Mob. They are always looking for more dancers. Here’s one their performances:

  6. Fire Performance:

    For those with tendencies towards pyromania, you can build up to dancing with fire at Temple of Poi, starting with a 6-week series for absolute beginners. The Crucible in Oakland also offers classes in a variety of genres, including poi, fire staff, and fire eating.

  7. Hip Hop and Break Dancing:

    Have you seen this KQED video yet?
    http://youtu.be/pLVGrZGSFXg
    If that inspired you to do some popping and locking in front of the mirror, then head over to City Dance, where they offer weekly classes devoted to both of these classic moves. They also offer beginning break dancing and hip hop. Acrosports offers a beginning break dancing class as well, but in a room that has a decent supply of padding should you be brave enough to try something more ambitious, like wind milling or the worm. And for those who just want plain old, hip hop classes, you can find them at a variety of places including ODC, Dance Mission, and the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts in Oakland.

  8. Hula Hooping:

    Battling muffin-top? Want to look cool on The Playa? Then check out a workshop series with Cherry Hoop or at Hoop the Flow. If you are feeling particularly hardcore, The Crucible offers a fire hooping class. Hot.

  9. Roller Skating:

    Is retro more your thing? Disco skaters have been gathering in Golden Gate Park (near 6th Avenue and JKF Drive) weekly since the ’70s. Why not join them? You can also take lessons or just practice at The Church of 8 Wheels. They are open to the public Tuesday through Saturday. Plus, they have a roller disco themed camp at Burning Man.

  10. World Dance:

    Are you a world traveler? Indulge in the wide variety of world dance classes around the Bay Area while you daydream about your next trip. You can learn Mexican folk dance, Argentine tango, or Brazilian samba at the Mission Cultural Center. ODC also offers samba, along with flamenco, hula, and many more. Live in the East Bay? Then why not try Balkan dance, Cape Breton Scottish-style step, or Egyptian belly dancing at Ashkenaz in Berkeley? Or Congolese dance, Chicago stepping, or Haitian folkoric dance at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts?

If you have any other ideas of fun ways to get in shape while supporting our vibrant art scene, please include suggestions in the comments below.

Editor’s Note: The following changes were made to this post: On January, 7, 2015: Dyon Lain was replaced with Pop Star Technique; On January 22, 2015: “… take classes with Cheryl Burke” was replaced with “… take classes at the studio founded by Cheryl Burke.”

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