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... with access to

around 15 drop-in classes a week...

... as well as courses and progressive workshops for an additional fee

engaging new markets

community links

Independent operator Hi-Energy, owned by Julie Cardus-Anderson, runs two successful businesses in Keighly, West Yorkshire: a dance academy and a health club, located less than a mile apart. But outreach work is her main focus, including dance and fitness workshops run at youth clubs and community centres and a range of after-school activities for local schools, which report an increase in activity among so-called ‘disaffected’ 12- to 16-year-old girls. “My commitment to schools is predominantly non-commercial,” says Cardus-

Anderson. “However, I’m now seeing clients access my club at an earlier age and, more importantly, realise that health and fitness is for life, which improves retention.”

In certain SLM centres, the local

community comes in to use the facilities off-peak – Fareham opens its doors to a group of older local residents for a regular tea dance, for example, while the Watford centre hosts a tap-dancing club. “Most of these are deals we’ve inherited, although our sites are now becoming much more proactive in terms of going out into their local communities to identify these opportunities,” says Michelle Bletso, group exercise co- ordinator. “However, I think there’s

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even more we could be doing, as it’s a great way of bringing new groups of the population through our doors.” Jubilee Hall Trust offers a wide

range of dance courses and timetabled classes including disciplines as varied as fl amenco and burlesque. It also delivers free exercise classes for the over-50s in community locations across Westminster, funded by the city council – and dance has proved one of the most popular activities. “Dance is a particularly accessible and social form of exercise,” says CEO Phil Rumbelow. “The majority of participants are women, but ballroom dance seems to appeal to a range of ages – from 50 to over 80 years old – and 40 per cent of participants are from ethnic minorities.”

young and old

“There are only a handful of programmes that truly engage older customers and offer activities they enjoy,” says Kevin Yates, head of commercial development for Leisure Connection. “We’re launching a fantastic new programme this year, Forever Young. It’s aimed at over-60s who are young at heart and includes a range of activities, but the main one is dance; not every 60-year-old wants to play short mat bowls! We’re trialling it in a number of sites and hope to roll it out later this year.

“We’re also seeing more interest

from a younger audience in street dance and other more contemporary styles, thanks to groups like Diversity and programmes such as Got to Dance

and So You Think You Can Dance. We’re

looking at ways to offer these styles across the board.”

male appeal

Club Med, the chain of clubs in Paris, is known for diversity and innovation in its group exercise timetable. It offers a wide range of dance classes taught by dance professionals – from hip hop to rock, through African and Oriental dance, to salsa and ‘sensual move’ – in addition to pre-choreographed sessions such as Zumba, Nike Dance Workout and Body Jam, which are run by fitness instructors. Over the last couple of years, Club

Med has seen a dramatic rise in the number of men participating in its dance classes – from a maximum of one or two per session to a fairly consistent five to 10. This is particularly the case with classes that offer either dance skills that may prove useful in a social environment – such as salsa and ballroom dance – or the opportunity to develop flexibility and muscle tone in a functional way, without the use of heavy weights.

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