What To Expect In A Dance Or Dance Fitness Class

Dance class. Dance cardio. Dance fitness. Barre Class. Feeling confused?

If you’re reading this you’re probably toying with the idea of taking up some kind of dance-inspired workout but you’re not sure what to expect and whether you’ll actually be able to to do it without tripping over your feet or feeling like the odd one out.

Fear not, in the first in this series of posts about getting started I’m sharing with you my top tips on the different types of dance classes out there so you can decide which one’s the right one for you.


There’s a world of difference between a dance class (let’s not even get into styles of dance here) a barre class and a dance cardio class.


What Is Dance Class like?

In a traditional dance class the focus is on teaching you how to dance, so you could spend half the time learning technique and then usually you’ll learn a choreographed combination of moves that the instructor will break down slowly and repeat.

The goal is to create something that looks great, not to get you in shape or to keep you safe. You’ll be a better dancer but the exact content and calorie burn is going to depend on the style, routine and teacher.

(It’s well known in ballet circles that the technical training alone that ballet dancers spend hours doing ISN’T enough to get them performance fit, so they have to do other workouts to increase their fitness, power and stamina.)

I think dance classes are a huge amount of fun, more mentally challenging than dance fitness classes but the most intimidating option if you’re a newbie to dancing. (Corio Dance is our dance-lovers version of this class with more complex moves and a slower breakdown.)

If you’re new pick the most basic level of class and work your way up.

The key with trying to learn anything new is to build confidence slowly so you feel empowered and capable, which encourages you to stick with it!

If it’s too easy…no big deal, simply go to a more advanced class next time.

(One of my pet peeves is dance classes “for beginners” that are taught by excellent dancers but who aren’t qualified, experienced or trained in the art of teaching. Often the cueing, choreography and routines aren’t matched to the level of the class and this can leave you feeling frustrated and not getting the most out of your session. If you have a bad experience, try looking for another instructor who is qualified or experienced as a teacher and not just a great performer.

In fact, we created the Corio Method Instructor Training Program to ensure that all our teachers deliver an amazing experience and because I never want someone who’s got the courage up to come to class to feel inadequate or frustrated when in fact the problem lies with the instructor, this happens all the time in the dance class world, believe me!)


What Is Dance Cardio Class Like?

What do Body By Simone, Tracy Anderson, BodyJam and Zumba have in common? Dancing non-stop!

In a pure dance cardio class, the goal is to keep you moving at an elevated heart rate for a continued period of time. Think of it a bit like aerobics but with cooler moves. Each class can change depending on the skill of the instructor but often you won’t find the moves broken down slowly, it’s more a case of doing simple moves or combinations over and over again non-stop and setting yourself the goal of keeping up! By the end of the class you’ll probably have repeated the combos enough to have memorized the moves.

In dance cardio the classes are less specialised, the moves are simpler and the crowd is usually non-dancers or non-professionals who just love to boogie for fitness and with friends.

While I love dance cardio and think it’s a great way to burn calories and stop your cardio being boring (I just can’t love running no matter how much I try), it won’t change your body shape or boost your metabolism as effectively as other forms of exercise.

To do that you need to sculpt and build lean muscle mass and the most effective way to do this is with resistance training.

Dancers these days aren’t waifs, they’re athletes and if you’ve seen a Britney Spears show or Beyonce’s dancers getting down you’ll realise that the dancer physique is powerful, agile and strong as well as lean and graceful. Modern dancers cross train to get their bodies in shape and aren’t stuck to the barre in second position plies all day long. Which brings us to barre class…


What Is Barre Class Like?

A barre class is a form of resistance training that uses light weights and repetitive isometric exercises (meaning you hold a position or pulse in the same spot for a long until until the muscle burns!) to increase your endurance. In most barre classes there’s no actual dancing, no routine, and no scary leg warmers, which I think is why it appeals to people who are curious about the dance body but who aren’t ready to go for it just yet.

If dance cardio is at one end of the spectrum, then barre is at the other. Some barre methods include more cardio than others, some just make your legs wobble. It’s generally low impact and much more similar to Pilates than ballet. Like anything, barre class can change your body but you need to do it consistently and I believe that you should be cross training to get the best results and to avoid injury. I love barre class for a less intense cardio workout or an active rest day in my week.


Which type of dance or barre class is best?

That’s really up to you!

I like to mix them up from time to time which keeps you physically and mentally challenged and engaged.

The key takeaway is that even if you have no dance experience, the biggest hurdle is getting to the class and knowing that it won’t be as intimidating as you first think. Sign up and go for it, or grab a friend for support. You won’t know what you like until you actually get out there and try it for yourself.

It’s not a secret that I believe anyone can dance. It’s the whole reason I started my very first business almost 20 years ago.

I would be whipping my hair on the dance-floor and my friends would say things like “I wish I could do that but I’m a terrible dancer”, “ I have two left feet,”, “I’d rather die than go to a dance class, it’d be so embarrassing!”.

I realised as I was mid ‘step-touch-hair flick’ that what I was doing was physically really simple and could be taught to anyone without it being complicated and without them needing any natural dance ability.

The problem was that traditional dance classes were scary AF. We all fear judgement: what will other people think if we trip over our feet? What if I suck?

So I set about creating dance classes that fostered an inclusive, no judgement attitude and that enabled non-dancers and even the least coordinated of us to be able to master the moves and feel as badass as Beyonce. The classes were a huge hit and we helped thousands of women learn to dance for fun all over the world.

Fast forward 15 years and I still love to dance but I’m more demanding about results. If I’m going to get just a few hours a week to myself to sweat, I not only want to love those sessions but I need them to be an effective workout too.

After working for years as a personal trainer, certified barre instructor and women’s fitness expert, I started to fuse the elements of dance I loved (choreographed routines to great tunes!) with the exercises that I know change my clients bodies, like resistance training, intervals and core conditioning.

That’s how Corio, my dance-inspired workout method was born.

The Corio Method combines the joy of dance with the science fitness by using dance cardio, band and bodyweight resistance training, HIIT intervals and barre-inspired core conditioning moves to change clients bodies in as little as 3 classes per week.

For more info on Corio classes, enquire about private training.


Elle Kealy