x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Jordan's gyms offer dance lessons

Gym packages, especially designed for women - including oriental, Latino and Zumba sessions - are gaining popularity in Jordan's capital.

Huda Bahri, above, this year introduced modern dances to several gyms in Jordan.
Huda Bahri, above, this year introduced modern dances to several gyms in Jordan.

AMMAN // At a city gym, the male Egyptian dance instructor Othman Othmani showed about 25 women how to sway their hips, shake their shoulders and vibrate by moving their knees past each other rapidly to the rhythm of Arabic songs.

Dancing lessons, from oriental to Latino, included in several gym packages in Amman in recent years, are offered exclusively to women, many of whom are eager to shed off pounds and let off steam.

"I have always enjoyed dancing," Hala Bandak, 53, a housewife, said after attending a one-hour oriental dancing lesson. "It releases the stress and I always feel happier afterwards. I even encourage my son's fiancé to join me."

"I come for fun," said Suzan, another housewife in her mid-50s who gave only her first name. "I feel relaxed after the lesson. It's something different."

With demand on dancing lessons increasing, some gyms are capitalising on a raft of new dance crazes. "Women are now rushing to Zumba classes," Husam Kharouba, 40, the general manager of Matrix Gym in Amman, said of the aerobic fitness programme that combines Latin and other international music in dancing. "Women love to move and sweat in a jolly atmosphere. For them, Zumba is like going to a party and the classes are already attracting more women to the gym.

Since the gym introduced Zumba this month, classes have been packed, Mr Kharouba said. "When it comes to belly dancing, there is always demand. We wanted to diversify our options for gym-goers... Some women also do not use the exercise machines and they only go to the dance classes.

"Just the other day, 32 women attended a Zumba class while the studio can accommodate a maximum of 28," Mr Kharouba said.

"Others wanted to attend but we had to put a cap on the number of attendees, and now we ask them to book for the classes in advance."

At Fitness One gym, the schedule includes three different dancing lessons.

"There is always demand on dancing classes. Women love to dance," Ala'a Obeid, a saleswoman at Fitness One gym, said. "Women want some fun and dancing helps them burn calories."

Some women at times prefer to ditch the exercise machines just for the sake of having fun while exercising.

On a recent morning, Huda Bahri, a Lebanese Zumba instructor at Matrix gym, asked the women in her class whether they were having fun as some of the beginners staggered and laughed trying to catch up with the dance steps.

"The idea is to move fast and to have fun at the same time. You can also lose up to a 1,000 calories," she told the women, aged between 20 and late 50s.

Mrs Bahri, 40, introduced modern dances to several gyms in Jordan this year. "It's like being in a party. We want the ladies to break off the boring exercise routine and enjoy their time. They can dance salsa, Latin hip hop, African and Indian beats," she said.

However, she said in some conservative circles, the practice is frowned upon.

Mrs Bahri said she came across some women who told her that "it is haram to dance and listen to music".

"I showed them some salsa moves without music and then we tried it with music and they liked it," she said as she adjusted her head cover after the lesson. I managed to change their mind. After all, the classes are exclusively for women."

smaayeh@thenational.ae