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big money on licensing and celebrity- orientated deals. We already have an average attendance of 35 participants per class across the board, and I think our reputation in group exercise is strong enough to ensure interest in anything new we introduce.” Interestingly, though, LA Fitness’ marketing director Tony Orme explains that the majority of Dixon’s earnings are based on the growth of LA, meaning “it’s in her interest to make the relationship work”.

business models

But for clubs that do want to introduce more dance to their schedule, what’s the best way of going about it? Dance is ultimately a specialist discipline, even if it’s just offered for fitness, and the more research I did for this feature, the more a pattern seemed to emerge. In line with Gillespie’s comment about ‘sticking with what you know’, a dance-specific reputation emerges as a clear theme across most health clubs successfully offering more than pre-choreographed classes. Case studies seem to fall into three broad categories: clubs where dance is the core focus; separate, dance-specific venues running alongside the main facility; and operators deferring to experts to run their in-house dance offering. The latter ranges from employing dance professionals as instructors – as at SLM and David Lloyd Leisure, which will launch a professionally-run dance academy at its Hampton club this month and aims to roll out the concept later this year – to outsourcing all non-timetabled dance sessions, as at The Reebok Sports Club. Although an independent business,

The London Academy of Dance operates exclusively out of The Reebok Sports Club. It rents studio space for a fi xed number of hours each month and has the freedom to run whatever

free dance classes for

all the family Step

in the right


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FIA’s Let’s Dance with Change4Life: 600 fi tness venues participated in the event (see p16)

53831 COI DANCE4LIFE.indd 1 18/01/2010 11:30

sessions it wants within them; Reebok members, who account for only around 30–40 per cent of attendances, receive a discount on all sessions. In addition, although the Reebok club runs its own timetabled dance-based sessions, the academy takes responsibility for anything requiring specialist external instructors – for example, pole-dancing, belly-dancing, Bollywood and, coming soon, fl amenco – with Gillespie and his team vetting these instructors to ensure standards are maintained. However, in a brand new venture, the

academy is now launching dance-related fi tness classes – a similar concept to Fitness First’s Strictly Fit, but run by dance professionals – which will form part of the Reebok club’s group exercise timetable. “The sessions will be fi tness- orientated but with the infl uence of dance, getting people moving and having fun rather than focusing on technique,” explains Gillespie. “We’ll take one dance each month and there’ll be no progression

– it’ll be beginners’ level each week. “Alongside this, if the feedback from

those taster sessions has been good, we’ll launch paid-for courses for those who want to progress, as this really lies at the heart of what we do. But the timetabled sessions will still be there for those who just want to dance for fi tness.” Rochester Health Club, an

independent site owned by Terry Moore, is a good example of the second model: a club offering a separate dance studio. Established around 18 months ago and located alongside the main club, Dance Junction runs a wide range of classes and courses which maximise the social aspect

When Factory Fitness and Dance Centre introduced ballet, the instructor agreed to be paid only if members attended

50 Read Health Club Management online

of dance: freestyle sessions and even party nights are tagged on to the end of classes so participants can try out what they’ve just learnt. There are free taster sessions, but other than that all classes and courses are charged for, providing an additional revenue stream for the club. Going back to the Strictly effect, instructor Sam Moore explains that the starting dates for ballroom courses are actually planned around the TV schedule. Meanwhile, although it does offer a

traditional gym, Factory Fitness and Dance Centre has a very clear focus on dance. “Gyms can become boring, and many people are looking for a different way to keep fi t,” says Aston. Half of the club’s 1,000 members are dance members, giving them access to around 15 drop-in dance classes a week. On top of this are courses and progressive workshops, for an additional fee, which attract people from as far away as Essex.

“Most gyms have a fairly small catchment area,” explains Aston, “but courses like ours are destination activities. We have a good reputation and high quality facilities – professional dancers use us as a rehearsal space during the day – and people are willing to travel quite a distance to come to us.” The options are certainly there for

clubs wanting to tap into the dance boom, and the rewards are clear both in terms of capturing a new, traditionally non-gym going market and adding a bit of spice for existing members. But know your audience, play to your strengths, be aware of perceptions of your brand’s expertise and, if need be, bring in professional support to ensure you don’t trip as you venture onto the dance fl oor.

kate cracknell

april 2010 © cybertrek 2010

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