Review a selection of dance classes that take place in London’s Pineapple dance studios, and Danceworks dance studios. I’ve done a few dance classes in the past but I would still consider myself a beginner.
I packed my trainers, top, tracksuit bottoms and headed off into London not quite sure of what awaited me.
- Pineapple Dance Studios
- Nicky Bentley – Street Jazz
- Jimmy Williams – Street Locking
- Hakeem Onibudo – Xpress Yo’self
- Stuart Bishop – Rudeye
- Maria Yacoob – Jazz
- Mark Battershall – LA Jazz
- Lil J – Street Hip Hop
- Xavi Monreal – Hip-Hop/Street Jazz
- Dennis Wonder – Dancemania
- Kate Prince – Zoonation
Note: This article on London’s Pineapple and Danceworks classes was first published on reviewmylife.com in 2007. I’ve moved it over to here as I’m not maintaining that site any more. I’ve updated the class times where necessary, but the main text (with minor edits) is from the original 2007 article.
Pineapple is the UK’s most famous dance studios. It is so named (legend has it) as it used to be a warehouse which stored pineapples. There are over 10 different studios of various sizes on four floors. They do everything from Ballet to Jazz to Egyptian to Hip Hop. If you can dance it, they do it. You can just turn up and do a class. If you turn up on a weekday evening then you have to pay £4 for day membership at the door and then you have to pay the teacher for the class. Some teachers collect payment at the beginning, others after the warm up and some at the end. Most classes cost around £6 for the hour. It is certainly not cheap but then this is London.
I arrived at Pineapple, checked that the classes I wanted were on (class updates are shown on a LCD TV outside reception) and headed downstairs to the changing rooms. I got changed and then headed up to the first floor where I awaited the start of my first class.
Nicky’s class is the class that you get pointed to if you are a beginner and want to learn some pop moves. Her classes are hugely popular and she has even stared in the Street Jazz DVD, one of a growing number of DVD dance classes that Pineapple have produced.
I decided to do the beginner class but there is also an intermediate class available if you are feeling more confident. The studio is very big and it needs to be. I counted over 50 people in this class! I went and took a position in the middle of the class. In a class of this size standing right at the back is not recommended as you won’t be able to see anything.
Nicky starts the class with a relaxed warm up which is Jazz influenced. There are cardio-vascular moves to get the blood flowing and stretches to get you ready to dance. Some of them can be a bit painful if you are not used to them so don’t push yourself too much on your first class.
Once the warm up was out of the way it was onto the class. Nicky teaches a routine of around 4 lots of 8 in length. This seems to be the typical routine length for beginner classes. It is enough to do a good routine but without being too long to remember. Nicky’s choice of music is straight out of this weeks top 20. Expect Beyonce, Jamelia, Blu Cantrell or whoever else is in the chart this week. After leaning the routine she splits the room into two groups so you can have a chance to dance without having people treading on your toes all the time.
Verdict: A good fun class and ideal for beginners which is really good exercise. It does get very crowded so don’t stand right at the back or you’ll never get the routine.
2010 update: Sadly Nicky died of breast cancer in 2009. Her classes and style do however live on – now taught by her assistant choreographer Mark James. Same time, same place.
Links: Street Jazz – Dance Masterclass DVD
No sooner had I finished Nicky’s class then it was straight into Jimmy’s street locking class. Luckily going from one to the other is easy as they happen to be in the same studio.
Street Locking is somewhat harder to explain for people not familiar with the style. It is a really funky dance style where you ‘lock’ one part of your body whilst another moves. It may sound odd but it makes sense when you do it. Jimmy includes both locking and popping moves in his routines.
Whereas Nicky’s class was full of beginners it is clear that Jimmy gets a slightly different crowd. It is still a beginners class but it does attract some people who have been putting in a lot of practice. Jimmy doesn’t bother with a traditional warm up. There are no stretches. He goes straight into popping and locking exercises. These are difficult to do right. When Jimmy demonstrates them they look amazing, when I look at myself in the mirror they aren’t quite so good.
Then it is onto the routine. The actual routing is fairly simple but it is great fun. The more talented dancers really get into the routine which pulls the atmosphere of the class up. The music is as funky as it
can get, making a very enjoyable class.
Verdict: Really good fun. Slightly different to the average dance class.
2010 update: Same time, same place.
The slave drivers at reviewmylife allowed me a nights rest after my first two classes but on Tuesday I was to do two more. My first one was to be at Danceworks studio near Bond Street underground underground station. It is in a side road opposite the Selfridges clock.
Danceworks is a similar place to Pineapple but on a slightly smaller scale. It has 5 studios in an attractive building – a more modern studio than Pineapple. There is definitely a different atmosphere here. People come here for fun and to get fit. They also do that at Pineapple but Pineapple has a definite core of people who really want to ‘make it’ as dancers. Danceworks is more relaxed.
Again to take a class you need to be a member. £5 for a day membership and then around £6 for the class. In most cases you pay for the membership and the class at reception. In a few cases you pay the teacher direct, just ask at reception so you know who to pay. One major difference with Pineapple is that the numbers to the classes are controlled.
Each class has a quota and once it is full you can’t get in. For some classes such as Xpress Yo’self and Dancemania it is worth getting there at least 20 minutes before the class to make sure you get in.
I don’t know what Hakeem has for breakfast but if we all had it then life would be more fun. He comes across as a powerhouse of energy confidently launching the class into a funky warm up. He adds in some stretching and then it is onto the routine. This is apparently a ‘level 2’ class. He does other easier classes which are level 1 and an intermediate class which he calls level 3. So if you find this class too easy you can move up, if it is too hard you can try the beginners class.
Hakeem does street style choreography. His movements can be very physical so this is a good work out. His choreography is quite unique, somewhat different to most other hip hop classes. You have to try it to understand.
Hakeem is full of enthusiasm and pushes us to do our best. I really enjoyed this one.
Verdict: Very enjoyable class with a good atmosphere thanks to Hakeem.
2010 update: He no longer does a class at this level on Tuesday. The intermediate class is on Tuesday instead and a beginners on Monday. Check with the Danceworks website for the latest class times.
Links Impact Dance
I now had to walk half an hour from Danceworks to Pineapple for my second class of the day. The walk allowed me to cool off after a tiring class.
Stuart’s class has a definite buzz about it. The dancers who attend are the most dressed up of the classes I’ve been to so far. The regulars are easy to spot, they look like ‘dancers’. At the back are some beginners like me.
He starts with a really fun choreographed warm up to the tune of Michael Jackson’s ‘You Rock My World’. It is the regular warm up which is quite complicated if you are doing it for the first time. The regulars at the front made it look easy. The high standard of the people there could be intimidating to a newbie but fortunately Stuart makes it clear that he is very happy to have beginners in the class. He says that we should just get as much of the routine as we can.
A number of people in the class are professional. Having them in the class is good because 1) their performance pulls up the level and energy of the class and 2) it allows us beginners to see exactly how the routine should be done.
The routine itself is amazing. It is hip hop based with plenty of locking and popping moves. It is the longest routine I’ve done so far, and I have a lot of trouble remembering it but it is still really good fun. Many people in the class pull off a flawless performance of it at the end when we are split into two groups – girls vs boys. Luckily Stuart does each routine for two weeks so we have a chance to improve next week.
I guess if you are feeling really keen you could even practice at home.
Verdict: Brilliant choreography and a good atmosphere in the class. The routines are difficult so you’ll have to persevere to get the most out of them.
2010 update: Same time, same place.
Links: Rudeye Ultimate Street – Dance Masterclass DVD | Rudeye Website
Jazz is one of the most popular styles at Pineapple. There are many kinds on offer – street, latin, LA, modern – but Maria just calls her class ‘Jazz’.
She adopts a traditional jazz approach to her class. The warm up takes over half the class and includes a variety of different jazz positions and stretches. The warm up is quite gentle but you have to put effort in and ensure that you do the positions correctly to make the most of it. Maria comes access as very personable. She makes an effort to remember peoples name’s – she seemed to know pretty much everyone in the class by first name. She extends this thoughtful approach to making sure that people are doing the warm up exercises correctly. Whereas some teachers will just leave you to make mistakes she will help you to do them correctly.
Once the warm up is done we move onto the routine. Her choice of tunes is very pop. On the day I went there it was Britney. The routine incorporated jazz kicks, poses and a pirouette.
Verdict: If you are looking for a traditional jazz class then this one is for you. Maria makes sure you understand the theory of the positions as well as giving you a fun routine.
2010 update: This class is now on Thursday at 7pm, but check the Pineapple website for any updates.
Time for another jazz class. This time my teacher is the fabulous Mark Battershall. He calls his jazz ‘LA’. I don’t really know why but it sure is good. Be warned that his warm up is tough! Sit ups to make your abs burn, jazz moves and stretches. I was ready to collapse after completing it.
Mark is a very cheery teacher and carries his enthusiasm from the warm up to the routine. Plenty of shaking, and touching are the order of the day. If you are very shy this may not be the class for you. If you are willing to give it a go then this class will make you feel really good.
The music is mostly chart based pop. Once the routine is learnt Mark makes half the class sit at the front of the studio and watch the other half give their performance. Then it is time to swap.
2010 update: Mark no longer does beginners classes, but does do more advanced level ones. Check Pineapple’s website for details.
Lil J is so called as she is ‘Lil’. This she may be but she has plenty of energy in her small frame. The first thing I notice about this class is that the attendees are somewhat younger than many of the other classes. The average age must be around 18. I felt a little old but I stepped in and took my place.
After a very quick warm up, it can’t have been more than two minutes, we got straight into the routine.
The style is Hip Hop and incorporates plenty of ‘tick tock’ moves. These are so called as they involve many short fast movements like a clock ticking. It is difficult to do right but looks good when done by the regulars.
Unlike most other classes Lil J doesn’t stick to one song for the whole class. She plays a large selection of Hip Hop through the class. Some of the earlier tunes are slow but she brings faster tunes in as we get better.
Verdict: Young crowd and lots of tick tocking!
2010 update: Same time, same place.
Links: Lil J Website
Off to Danceworks on Saturday. My teacher today is Xavi. He starts with a funky warm up before moving onto the routine. His class is hip hop based but with definite hints of jazz. As opposed to other hip hop classes whose moves can be somewhat jerky his movements are very smooth. The routine flows from one section to the next which feels very good to do.
As well as showing us the routine he explains that we have to really give it our all each time we practice. He says that if we just keep ‘marking’ the routine we won’t get the most out of. All sensible stuff if you want to dance well.
He comes across as a really friendly guy – I think he is Spanish in origin. He has a lot of enthusiasm and pushes us hard until the end when we split into two groups.
Verdict: Be prepared to dance hard and you’ll enjoy this one.
2010 update: Xavi no longer teaches at Danceworks, but has classes at Pineapple. Check their website for the latest class times.
After my week of classes I was somewhat shattered, but there were a few more that I wanted to try out. I hadn’t been able to do these in my first week as they clashed with the previous classes.
Dennis runs a very popular beginners class at Danceworks. Out of all the classes I’ve been to this turns out to be the easiest. The moves are pretty simple and certain sequences appear from one week to the next. After warming up and stretching he starts teaching us the routine. His technique is very much to show us and we follow. There is very minimal explanation but then the moves are simple so it is not needed. I hardly hear Dennis utter a single word throughout the class.
At regular intervals he rotates the people from the back to the front. Everyone should therefore have a chance of being near the front (if you’re brave enough that is). The music is a mixture of pop and hip-hop designed to please the crowd.
Verdict: A good class for beginners.
2011 update: He now teaches at the Marshall Street leisure centre, W1
Links: Facebook Group
Like many dance teachers Kate runs a dance troupe. In her case they are called Zoonation. In this class she teaches her ‘Zoonation’ style. The crowd are definitely of an intermediate level. There are few beginners here so Ifeel somewhat out of place.
After a quick warm-up she gets into the routine. The routine is funky and smooth, the moves make sense with the song’s lyrics. It does however prove too difficult for me. Many people in the class manage to execute the routine brilliantly so I’m obviously out of my depth. This is a good one to watch if you want to see how good dancers do their moves. If you are brave enough take part!
Verdict: Good choreography. But hard!
2010 update: Zoonation don’t appear to do classes at Pineapple anymore, but they do classes elsewhere. Look at their website for details.
Links: Funk Fusion – Dance Masterclass DVD | Zoonation Website
There are a lot of very good dance classes out there in London. They are very varied so don’t give up if you don’t like the first one you try. Keep trying lots of different classes until you find a style that you enjoy. Theses dance classes are really good exercise and much more fun than going down the gym. I can also recommend them if you suffer from knee pain, or wrist pain. Exercise as long as you are careful can help to reduce aches and pains that you may have.
Dance class times
Please note that although the class times were correct at the time of publication you should confirm the class days and times with the dance studio website as they do change from time to time.