I was more than a little intrigued when I heard that the So You Think You Can Dance TV show creator and judge had decided to cash in on the Emmy-award-winning reality show's success by releasing two "get fit" DVDs choreographed by some of its most popular dancers. Purchasing the So You think You Can Dance Get Fit: Cardio Funk DVD was a challenge in itself. It took me about a week to pluck up the courage to do it. The cover is impossible to hide in a supermarket basket, no matter how much you are buying, with its three ridiculously happy-looking dance teachers dazzling innocent queuers with their rainbow-coloured outfits and gleaming teeth. It looks like it would be more at home on the Disney movie shelf, so if it's street cred you're after, I'd send someone who owes you a favour to get it for you.
Once I managed to get it home, away from mocking eyes, though, things started looking up. First, the Cardio Funk edition features three dance routines and cost me just Dh80, so immediately it earns points for being great value for money. Most dance classes in Dubai these days cost at least Dh60 per session. The three 20-minute dance routines include a range of styles - hip-hop, contemporary and disco - and are designed to get your heart rate up and, when you get the technique right, sculpt your abs, thighs and backside. You rarely see an overweight or out-of-shape dancer.
The structure of all three routines is the same. Each of them begins with the instructor breaking down the routine, focusing on one move at a time. As they demonstrate, they encourage you to practise with them. Every time you learn a new move, you go back to the beginning and put them all together, until eventually you have the dance routine - albeit, slower than the real thing, and minus the music.
The first time I gave the DVD a go, I found myself having to rewind a few times - particularly when attempting the hip-hop portion where the "ball change" step caused me no end of problems. But that's the joy of dancing in your living room, too: there's no class to keep up with, no one else to bump into or feel awkward in front of, and a remote control with a rewind button. I have attended some brilliant dance classes in Dubai and would never compare them to this DVD because, of course, having a qualified instructor in the room with you to keep check on your technique is always going to be the preferred method of learning for any fitness session. But group classes and wall-to-wall mirrors are not for everyone, so if you are a bit self-conscious, looking to have fun, want to let loose and get moving, then this is the perfect alternative.
Each instructor has a different way of teaching, though all are young, enthusiastic and great dancers. Of all the routines, I found the contemporary class led by Travis the easiest to follow and the most effective in working my abs and thighs. After running through the dance routines in full four times with the instructor, they then call in a couple of other dancers to "dance with you" for four more rounds at increasing speed. Eventually you dance to music, eight times straight through - the first four times with the instructor counting you through the routine and the next four times without them calling out the routine.
"I am asked all the time if it is too late to start dancing," Nigel Lythgoe explains on the DVD. "Most of the time I say yes, it is too late to start dancing, but it's not too late to start moving, and there is a separation that should be taken here. You are not going to be a great professional dancer if you start too late, but at any point in your life you can start moving and feel like you're dancing."
He's right. I caught a glimpse of myself mid-way through the last routine and must admit, while I felt like I was giving Ciara a run for her money, the reality was far less MTV-friendly. By the end of the hour, though, I had worked up a sweat, managed to awaken muscles around my hips that I thought had gone into retirement, and generally felt great.