Start at ground level

October 8, 2013
Dana “Spirit” House teaches his Breaking Bootcamp students how to do a “swipe.” (Teddy Wolff/For Express)
Dana “Spirit” House teaches his Breaking Bootcamp students how to do a “swipe.” (Teddy Wolff/For Express)

There are probably a few things you can’t do. But dancing isn’t one of them, says Dana “Spirit” House.

“I can teach anybody,” promises House, a hip-hop instructor who can make even spinning on your head seem like child’s play. (He taught his 2-year-old how to do it.) Now he’s putting that boast to the test with Breaking Bootcamp, a new class in Joy of Motion’s Move program for adults.

What it is: House came up with the class format while teaching teenage boys who weren’t interested in the technical side of dance — they didn’t want to count or think about form. So instead, House broke down his choreography into individual moves, showing how they were like elements of boxing, baseball and other sports. He had the teens repeat each one until they were out of breath. Then he turned on the music and shouted out which step to do when. House sounded like a drill sergeant, and his class looked like real B-boys.

That same structure lends itself to a drop-in class for adults looking to get a workout while they work it.

Moves: At Breaking Bootcamp, jumping jacks are called “ego jacks.” Instead of sweeping your arms above your head, you stick them straight out to the sides and then bring them together in front of your chest. That gets the heart rate going, and House keeps it going with an increasingly tricky repertoire.

At class last Wednesday, he had his students squat down, put one hand on the floor behind them and then alternate kicking their legs out as quickly as possible.

After a variation on The Running Man and a side-to-side step while picking up the ankle to the opposite knee, it was time for “swipes.” Start in a crab walk position, then flip your body over, pop into a handstand and twist your hips around before your legs land.

Workout: All of that breaking can make you feel broken by the end of the hour. “You’re using your entire body. It’s a full-contact assignment,” House says. That’s why he takes his stretching seriously, and uses a good chunk of class for touching toes.

Crowd: When House asked how many people in Wednesday’s class had any previous break dance experience, not a single hand went up. So it’s a comfortable environment to teeter and sometimes topple over.

“I was able to pick up the basics, but the flipping will take more practice,” said Ramita Dewan, 22. Which is exactly why she’ll be coming back.

Several new Joy of Motion Move classes, including Breaking Bootcamp, are free through Oct. 20. (Normally, they’re $17 per class) Visit joyofmotion.org for details. Breaking Bootcamp is 7 p.m. Wednesdays at 7315 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda; and 11 a.m. Sundays at 1333 H St. NE.

Jamile McGee’s Motown Move can turn anyone into a Temptation. (Teddy Wolff/For Express)
Jamile McGee’s Motown Move can turn anyone into a Temptation. (Teddy Wolff/For Express)

Fitness Flashback

When “So You Think You Can Dance” alum Jamile McGee was in a Vegas show with Wayne Brady, the whole cast went crazy for a medley featuring The Temptations and The Jackson 5. He realized he could use similar tunes — and the foot-stomping, hand-clapping choreography of the ’60s — to put together a class.

“Everybody loves that era,” says McGee, who’s just launched Motown Move at Joy of Motion’s Bethesda studio (7315 Wisconsin Ave.), taking place 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays. The concept is similar to Zumba: follow-the-leader moves that welcome dancers to add their own flair.

Gaby Sherman, 48, of Chevy Chase, was impressed by last week’s crowd: “It’s all ages and abilities, and everybody got something out of it.”

What Nyekah Washington, 24, of D.C.’s NoMa, got was a good time. “I can’t stop smiling,” he said.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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Vicky Hallett · October 8, 2013