Move over zumba: there’s a new dance craze in Dubai. And so, in the name of research, I find myself dancing to a heavily speeded-up version of Yolanda Be Cool’s ‘We No Speak Americano’, focusing hard on the moves being performed by an extraordinarily energetic man named Erick at 11am one Wednesday morning. This is Sh’Bam. ‘Smile!’ he sings over the music as he leads me through warm-up steps, ‘and don’t forget to breathe!’
As it happens, I’m already smiling manically, and not just because I’m being told to. Erick has as much personality as energy, encouraging me to add a ‘swish’ and a ‘flick’ to almost every move, and pose furiously at the end of each track.
Les Mills, the New Zealand fitness company that introduced the world to classes such as Bodypump, Bodybalance and RPM, has brought the intriguingly-named (and trademark registered) Sh’Bam to Dubai. After much research, the only explanation we could find for the name is courtesy of Urban Dictionary, describing it as another way of saying ‘burn, ouch!’ or ‘oh, snap!’ – all infinitely more ‘street’ than the class itself. With a playlist of commercial hits, the class is growing in popularity, although at the moment there are only a couple of locations offering the sessions, including The Quay Healthclub at Madinat Jumeirah, The Pavilion at Jumeirah Beach Hotel and Dubai Ladies Club in Jumeirah. Erick explains that Sh’Bam is a more accessible dance class than most: it’s suitable for all ages and abilities, and the tempo can be adjusted if necessary.
Today I’m attempting my first session at The Quay, and a glance in the mirror reveals I look as natural doing this as Joan Rivers might strutting down a catwalk for America’s Next Top Model. Yet it’s impossible to care what the visual result is when you’re working so hard to keep up with the movements. Though Erick claims this is easier to master than Bodyjam, which incorporates more hip-hop movements, it can be challenging to keep up with the pace, even if the pop routines are less demanding.
Though some of the steps seem a little like they’ve been pinched from a Britney Spears music video, circa ‘Baby One More Time’, this isn’t something I can sniff at. The last time (and it was all too recently) someone commented on my dancing, it was to liken my moves to those of the Muppets – and I’ll take Britney over Miss Piggy any day. Through fits of giggles, I somehow manage to master (in the loosest sense of the word) a combination of side steps, knee lifts, ‘cha cha cha’ movements and poses. There are a few moments where I get confused and look more like I’m having a violent spasm than attempting to dance, but Erick lets me watch a few demonstration steps before jumping back in.
Though regular group sessions run for 45 minutes without a break, I’ve already developed a healthy glow and am happily out of breath by the end of my shorter 25-minute trial session. Though it’s an excellent cardio workout, one of the biggest advantages of a Sh’Bam class is the inescapable element of fun. You could start the day by losing your wallet, follow it up with a terrible lunch meeting and be told your cat’s died over afternoon tea, and still laugh your way through a class at the end of the day. And the more ridiculous you look, the harder it becomes not to giggle – perhaps it’s not so bad to dance like a Muppet after all. Your move, Britney.
Sh’Bam classes at Dubai Ladies’ Club are Dhs50 for non-members. Sun 9.45am, Mon 7.30pm, Tue 10.55am and Sat 7pm. Jumeirah, www.dubailadiesclub.com (04 349 9922). Classes at The Quay Healthclub and The Pavilion are currently only available to members, though Sh’Bam classes for non-members are set to start at The Pavilion next month. Annual single membership at The Pavilion is Dhs28,000. Jumeirah Beach Hotel (04 406 8800). Annual membership for The Quay is Dhs55,000 for couples. Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 6821).