Fitness: Getting primal with your dance workout

By Beth Allcock on January 15, 2014 3:15 PM |

AfricanMichelleMorleyWEBBY.jpgBack in school jewellery in gym class was a no-no.

Aside from forgetting your kit and having to search through the sweaty lost property box for some shorts and an over-sized top, sticking plasters over newly-pierced ears or handing over your bangles to a stern teacher came a close second in the embarrassment stakes.

But at one of Virgin Active's newly-launched fitness sessions for 2014 - Fierce - sparkly adornments are positively encouraged.

Decked out head to toe in tribal make-up, bracelets and neon sweat pants, group exercise manager Michelle Morrey said the gym's latest offering, using moves picked up on a trip to Cape Town, was one-of-a-kind.

"It's a dance-based fitness class but it's African dance," she said. "That's what makes it different from any other thing that currently runs.

"It's about connecting with that inner warrior. Some of the moves are quite aggressive as they are tribal warrior dances while others are a bit more fun.

"It's for everyone to take something different away from it. Someone might enjoy the tribal stuff and someone else might enjoy the dance and movement side - you're not worrying about whether you're doing the right steps - it's about what you get from it and letting go."

AfricanWEBBBYyy.jpgAnd gym-goers are encouraged to get into the tribal spirit before they take their first steps in African dance, by donning eye-catching gym kit.

But it's not all about the visuals. Michelle said the 60-minute dance sessions should ensure a full body workout.

She said the routines were good for cardio and general body toning and that participants would use more muscles than usual including parts of their bodies they don't normally exercise.

She added: "When people come to work out, they do like to have a frustration release. It could be going crazy on the bike, but you can do Fierce and get rid of it that way if you have had a rubbish day.

"By the time you have finished, you have let go of the frustration - you should leave what you don't want in the studio and take what's really good away with you."


We've all heard of Zumba packed with its Latin American beats but Fierce is a new African, warrior style dance-based fitness class, set to whip Virgin Active Canary Riverside into a tribal storm.

First things first, time to get in the zone, warrior-style.

I was given a chunky Aztec-style collar necklace - which handily complemented my fluorescent orange top - that got me in the mood for a session buzzing with energy.

Starting with some warm ups and African hollers, Michelle and her colleague took us through four different routines inspired by original dances from the continent.

We practised steps and arm movements from picking fruit to stabbing spears with venom, crouching squats and left-to-right gliding steps, every second accompanied by a lively beat and notching the enjoyment level higher and higher.

Certainly. Although I sampled a 30-minute taster session - as opposed to the typical one-hour class- I felt my heart pumping and my muscles working, both with the leg and arm routines.

And all this with a smile on my face. The beauty of this class is it's all about the energy and spirit you put in.

So although you're having a thorough workout in a lighthearted group session, it feels nowhere near as intense as a solitary session on the treadmill.

The class will be launched at Virgin Active Canary Riverside this month and is free for members. Go to

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