AFTER decades waltzing, jiving and fox trotting, Strictly Come Dancing professional, Ian Waite, had an idea to transform mundane aerobics classes into something a little more than box-steps, grapevines, tight lycra and sweatbands.
“You’ve only got to see the professionals on Strictly. We’re OK with our diet but we genuinely eat anything. It’s the dancing that keeps us in that shape."
“Fifteen years ago I used to see these Body Pump and aerobic classes and thought there should be a class with ballroom and Latin steps. When I started Strictly ten years ago, I never had the time to pursue it.” said Waite.
The right time came when he was introduced to Strictly contestant and champion swimmer, Mark Foster (he lasted until week six in 2008), who had a similar idea. Ian's professional partner and Strictly dancer, Natalie Lowe, jumped on board and the trio put plans together for a workout class that would bring a small dose of Strictly glitz to the UK’s gyms and leisure centres. Minus a tap dancing Bruce Forsyth.
Fitsteps: Mark, Natalie and Ian
“We wanted to make it so anybody could do it and anybody could teach it. It had to be authentic. We wanted it to be true to ballroom and Latin steps, we didn’t want to necessarily have aerobics in there. It had to have a totally different feel, that’s why we have lots of ballroom dancers joining in too.”
Fitsteps was born in March last year and there are around 1,500 Fitsteps teachers throughout the country.
“Mine and Natalie’s aim was for it to be completely different to Zumba, totally different feel and have a real authentic feel true to ballroom and Latin dancing. It was always going to be very different to Zumba,” Waite claimed.
And it is.
Unlike Zumba classes with exasperating rump shaking and turbo-charged wiggling, Fitsteps takes the formations, tricky footwork, poise and posture of ballroom and Latin dance and makes it easier to pick up for those a little intimidated by your usual lessons. There's a mix of low and uptempo routines and the same simple steps are taught week after week.
Plus, it’s all taught without needing a partner.
L'Oréal at Fitsteps, no partner required.
Waite said: “Lots of people want to dance and a lot want to go to a dancing school but are not able to. With Fitsteps they can learn the ballroom steps without a partner and can get fit at the same time. So it’s a no-brainer for people. I think the fact that it’s predominantly dance steps rather than aerobics – I think people like the idea of getting fit without even realising it.”
For anyone who has dabbled in dance classes, you’d know never to underestimate the athleticism of a professional dancer. Dance, in training and practice, is a taxing and gruelling exercise, but unlike wishing your life away on a cross trainer, it’s fun.
Encouragingly, Waite believes Fitsteps could transform the bodies of regular dancers.
He said: “You’ve only got to see the professionals on Strictly. We’re OK with our diet but we genuinely eat anything. It’s the dancing that keeps us in that shape. It’s the dance moves and the armography." Armography? That's a new one.
Strictly dancer bodies in the making?
"It just goes to show you how brilliant ballroom dance and Latin American dance is for you and that’s what we try and incorporate a full body work out. There's lots of hip action and lots of core work. It works all the areas where it’s notoriously difficult to lose weight.”
The 45-minute classes are being taught throughout Manchester and in Salford. It's simple, you're likely to work up a sweat and its great for beginners. Nonetheless, with the repetitive steps and classes it's probably a little too basic for those who fancy themselves a professional.
"Well, you could do the cha-cha-cha in Fitsteps, for instance, and you could take those same steps and go to a cha-cha-cha class." he explained.
What about men who want to learn the difference between the quick step and the foxtrot but are not so keen on sequinned spandex?
"I think men shouldn’t feel intimidated. We’re all in the same predicament, we’re all having a go and it’s the perfect way to learn a few steps before dancing with a partner. If you’re intimidated by dancing with a partner then this is for you."
Find out more about the Fitsteps classes in your area here. I tried Fitsteps at Fit City, Ordsall, Salford Community Leisure centre.
Follow @LOreal_B on Twitter.