After failing to make it to any classes in Dubai, I was determined to get back into action in Singapore. Its was a mixed bag, especially in comparison to Cape Town, who really spoiled me.
I did my usual pre-arrival emails to local instructors. I discovered a large amount of incorrect/incomplete info on zumba.com… its surprising how many people don’t keep their class info up to date! How do they find new students? Is it entirely through word of mouth?
I also came across quite a lot of “requires a membership” venues, and not just for gyms… dance and yoga studios either had mandatory year-long memberships or made you purchase packages of classes. I was struggling to find anything that would work for a short visit. (one place was around $15,000 to join… it was more than just a gym, but still!)
Hip Hop/”Swag Fitness”
My first success was Rhomeiny’s class. I found him through zumba.com but he let me know in advance that he was in the process of transitioning his class to something he calls “Swag Fitness”. It’s predominantly hip hop and pop music, and the choroeography is more complex than Zumba but it is still easier than a regular hip hop class. I figured I’d give it a shot.
Overall, I loved the music and enjoyed the challenge of more complex routines. There wasn’t as much cueing, though, so suffice to say I was the white girl bumbling around in the back of the room. The toughest part is that he used a lot of the same music as I did for Zumba (like Dessert and Shawty Got Moves), but the routines were totally different. This meant my body wanted to do something other than what my brain was telling it to do, which often manifested in some less-than-graceful results. Still, the class was a lot of fun and I imagine it would get easier over time (especially some of the crazy footwork).
Jammin’ with Gerald
I managed to secure a spot at a Jam Session with a Singapore instructor, Gerald. (Jam Sessions are classes held for Zumba instructors to learn new choreography.) In addition to leading jam sessions, he teaches regular classes every day of the week. He knew everyone in the room by name – I suspect he’s a local Zumba celebrity.
It was a generously-sized studio for 30+ instructors, with plenty of mirrors and a platform for Gerald so it was easy to see him. He was super-sassy and very positive – I loved his sense of humour and all 4 of his routines were great (which is a rarity for a jam session – usually there’s at least one I don’t love.)
The session was non-stop for over 3 hours. (Typically there’s at least one break built in.) We rarely stopped moving! First we all danced through the 4 songs, then broke down and repeated the individual sections, and then everyone took turns leading them. Gerald was particularly organized how he handled who led which song, which I appreciated. I was surprised (though exhausted) when the time was up!
Zumba with Erich
Classes here are pretty expensive… anywhere from $11-$15 (or more). I was excited to find I could do a free demo class at True Yoga, which in addition to offering a million yoga classes also has some Zumba. Erich’s class was a lot of fun. He did a lot of pantomiming to the song lyrics (including pretending to take shots) and ended every song with sassy poses. I absolutely loved it, of course, but I felt a bit bad as the other women in the class weren’t as enthusiastic about all the campy fun.
The studios were all gorgeous and they have very nice facilities – they provide towels, yoga matts, and have a lounge with free wifi and drinks in it. Unfortunately, the smallest number of classes I could buy came down to $29/class, so I won’t be going back.
Halfway through our visit I moved to our pet-sitting gig across town, which meant starting all over again with the class hunt or spend over an hour going to and from each class. I was excited to find a studio closeby, but then disappointed when it appeared it was actually of business (despite still having events posted on MeetUp.com and a website advertising classes). Sigh.
Luckily, I discovered 1Fiesta who offered drop-in classes in 5 different locations around the city. They offer multiple classes every day and have a bunch of different instructors (like Gerald).
Some classes were better than others, and that’s partially because of the attendees. I wound up in one mid-week morning class that was mostly older ladies. The class was so shoulder-shimmy inept that the instructor tried breaking it down for them. These women barely moved the entire time… the instructor was trying her best to amp them up and I was trying to be extra-energetic to support her, yet they were somehow just sucking the life out of us.
Tomomi’s class was particularly good. She’s very high-impact so I got a great workout, plus my arms were sore the next day (a rarity!). I was a little worried as I was the tallest (at 5’6) and whitest woman amoung the 40 students, but Tomomi was easy to follow so I didn’t stick out at all.
And Gerald’s regular class was just as great as his jam session – he’s got an enthusiastic group and he is very playful with everyone. And as you’d expect, he’s very easy to follow.
Classes in Singapore are very quiet. No clapping at the end of song or cheering or singing along or shouting “hey”… I’m not looking for a cheerleading squad, but its a little weird that its absolutely dead silent between songs.
One instructor was trying so hard to get her class to make any noise at all, I thought I’d compensate for their silence with my booming American voice. It was comical – the two of us shouting, call & response style, in a room full of slient people. It was almost like I had Zumba tourettes.
Classes At A Gym: Zumba, Kpop, HipHop
I had to buy some additional workout clothes since I was going to class so much (and was tired of doing laundry every day). At the shop, they gave me a 7 day pass to a local gym. I was especially excited as not only was it free access to some Zumba classes, but it would only take 20 minutes to get there (whereas the other studios were 40 minutes away or further).
I should have known it would be too good to be true. Just finding the gym in the massive mall was problematic. Then I had to deal with a very pushy sales guy. He didn’t listen to anything I said about my experience or fitness goals, gave me a half-hearted tour (which included no practical info, like how to sign up for the classes), followed by a hard press to sign up for 12 months (even though I hadn’t even used the gym yet). When I repeated that I wasn’t a permanant resident, he was reluctant to honour the pass and then badgered me to give him names & phone numbers of friends he could call and try and sell memberships to!
While the gym had a great view of the harbour, the facilities were pretty tired. The dance studio was nice, but the gym equipment was old and the locker room was far from inviting. And they don’t keep the class schedule updated, so you might show up for a Zumba class and find that it’s something else.
The first class there was with Tomomi, so at least I got one great Zumba class for all the time I spent trying to get the guest pass out of them.
Later in the week I went for a class which was called “Kpop” (with no supporting description). I assumed it would be like Zumba, but in reality it felt more like a dance workshop for professional dancers learning music video choreography… except that everyone in the room was far from being a professional dancer.
In less than an hour she tried to teach us 40 seconds of very fast choroeography for the chorus of this music video (:58-1:38). (I have new respect for those girls in the video – they make it look easy!) The moves were cute, but she was going through them really quickly, not breaking them down very much, and not giving us much time to run them. I’d wager she spent as much time cueing up music as we did dancing.
Suffice to say, everyone in the room was lost. It wasn’t even clear when we should start dancing since she wasn’t always counting us in. And then there was a part where you supposed to trade places with the person next to you… people were literally bumping into each other.
Then she very abruptly proclaimed it was the last run-through. We all bumbled through it one last time, then she grabbed her stuff, and ran out the door. No cool down, no “thanks for coming”, nothing. It was very odd.
Since I didn’t feel like I got any kind of a workout, I decided to stay for the next class. The schedule said Zumba but when I went to the front desk to sign up for it, they let me know it was going to be Swag Fitness instead. (Why can’t anyone provide accurate info here?!) At least this was a pleasant surprise. While his format is certainly a little harder than Zumba, it seemed like a breeze compared to the Kpop class and I was certainly glad I stuck around for it!
So while it took a lot of effort (and commute time) on my part, I did manage to go to 4 classes a week throughout our stay! I also spent some time recording myself and then watching it back for places where my movements could be cleaner or my cueing could be better. (We used to do this for bellydancing all the time – why have I not done this for Zumba before now!?) It was a little tough to watch, but a very useful exercise. I definitely want to continue doing this.
Next up is Penang, Malaysia… its a much smaller place, but I know they have Zumba there. Fingers crossed I can find some drop-in opportunities!