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Programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing have, says Sylvia Caplin, re- introduced people to the simple joy that all generations can get from dance

those who might otherwise be non-gym goers. But is it really that simple? “Anything that promotes the benefi ts

of dance is a good thing,” says Gillespie – NHS research shows that ballroom dancing can burn up to 300 calories an hour; it’s low-impact, so there’s less stress on the joints and less risk of injury; and it improves balance, posture, fl exibility and co-ordination. Older people participating in ballroom dancing have even been found to have less risk of dementia, while a number of studies have looked into the use of dance as therapy. “However, it has to be taught properly,”

Gillespie continues; his academy, which operates as an independent business renting studio space at London’s Reebok Sports Club, employs only professional, qualifi ed dancers as instructors. “That’s not elitist. If you were going for driving lessons, you’d want your instructor to be accredited by a recognised professional body. Dance is no different.” Michelle Bletso, group exercise co-

ordinator for SLM, agrees: “We have dance fi tness in some of our clubs, and that’s one thing. But when it comes to ballroom, where you really need technique and progression so people feel they’re achieving something, you need

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If you go for driving lessons, you want your instructor to be accredited by a recognised professional body. Dance is no different

specialist instructors. It’s not our area of expertise and would be a bit like asking normal instructors to go and teach yoga – it would lead to a very different workout.” Gillespie continues: “In theory, all

health clubs can offer dance. However, it’s important to stick with what you know rather than stepping into a world that isn’t yours. Health clubs’ expertise is fi tness. If you can bring dance into that via dance- themed workouts – nothing too technical, but introducing people to the benefi ts and fun of dancing – that’s great. Fitness First’s Strictly Fit classes, for example, have the potential to be fantastic if they do it right. But if clubs try to teach proper ballroom – which is actually much more technical than you see on Strictly – it won’t work.”

no guarantees

So what of Fitness First’s Strictly Fit programme – a licensing deal struck with the BBC, for an undisclosed sum, to run Strictly-themed classes across the chain’s UK estate? “Over recent years, some of the

creativity in group exercise has been lost,” says David Langridge, head of group marketing for Fitness First.

“Strictly Fit really brings the instructor’s personality back into the equation: we provide them with guidelines on how to run the class but give them the flexibility to work within this. In Asia, instructors are known as ‘superstars’. We want to bring an element of that to our offering.” Although the instructors teaching

Strictly Fit tend to have a dance background, their qualifi cation is in group exercise – but then it’s unashamedly dance-based fi tness, thereby falling to the right side of the fi ne line drawn by Gillespie on the topic of accreditation. The format is a drop-in class for

members (included in the membership) and non-members (£10 a class, or £25 for fi ve classes) – no need to commit to a course or come every week. Each session incorporates a bit of each the dances: waltz, cha cha cha, quickstep, jive

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