Get Fit Fast from West Essex Life

If your New Year's resolution is to get fit fast, but you're sick of the same old exercise routine, don't give up. Michelle Johnson explores the fat-busting dance crazes sweeping the region.

If your New Year’s resolution is to get fit fast, but you’re sick of

the same old exercise routine, don’t give up. Michelle Johnson explores the fat-busting dance crazes sweeping the region

LOSING weight is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions, and hundreds of thousands of people are pledging to start a new fitness regime this month. Yet, though many of us will brave the winter frost to renew our annual gym membership for the hundredth time and launch ourselves onto the treadmill with fierce determination, only 28 per cent of us will actually achieve our goals.

Despite all our best intentions, the simple fact is that not all of us are gym bunnies. Luckily, if the thought of traditional exercise leaves you cold, West Essex has some fantastic dance classes to help get you busting the fat by partying hard.


Burn: 500 calories per hour

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ZUMBA is a dance-exercise programme that takes elements of aerobics and moves from salsa, bachata and meringue, and uses them to provide an intense workout that burns

fat and sculpts

the body.

Judy Benoit Milner teaches Zumba classes in Ongar and Higham’s Park, and says the key to Zumba’s popularity is how fun it is.

‘I was reluctant to teach Zumba at first, but soon realised how exciting it is,’ explains Judy. ‘It’s aerobics based but the steps are fun and easy to pick up, and exercise core elements of the body, helping you lose loads of weight.’

Judy, who trained at the Anna Scher Theatre School, originally took up dancing to lose weight in 2005.

‘I was 44 years old when I started dancing salsa,’ she says. ‘It changed

my life. I was a size 20, in love with Nigella and Delia, but decided I needed

to lose weight.

By 2007 I had started taking my dancing seriously, and began performing with Irene Miguel and choreographers like Nelson Flores and Melissa Rosado.’

Judy now teaches salsa in Chingford with former Guiness World Record holder Phillip Langlais, and in 2010 put together the Dos Seis dance group (pictured below), which debuted at the annual GBSEx Salsa Congress in Manchester last year.

‘I am fulfilling a lifelong dream with Dos Seis. I am a mother and grandmother and never do things by half,’ laughs Judy. ‘Dancing really is a fantastic way to get fit. I put a lot of salsa style into my Zumba classes, so there is plenty of flare in the routines.’

Where & when

Friday, 7pm, Ongar Leisure Centre, The Gables (off Fyfield Road)

Ongar  CM5 0GA

01277 363969

Saturday, 10am

E4 Fitness and Leisure

Hickman’s Avenue

Higham’s Park

E4 9JG

020 8523 5133

Class fee: �5


Burn: 420 calories per hour

SALSA is a high-energy, contemporary Latin American dance that combines aspects of many Latin and contemporary dances, with strong mambo, swing and Cuban influences. The King’s Oak Hotel, in High Beech, opened its doors to salsa in 2010,

when Miguel Gutierrez and Daniel Messina began teaching in the venue’s stunning King’s Room.

‘Salsa is very easy to pick up because it’s so social,’ says Miguel, 27. Originally from Spain, Miguel started dancing three years ago in order to learn a new skill. ‘We teach LA style, which is an advantage for beginners because you are dancing on the first beat, which

is much easier to count.’

‘We teach LA for all levels, from beginners to advanced, with different dancers stepping in on occasion so people can get extra tips and ways of doing things,’ says Daniel, also 27.

‘It has to be taught in a fun way, and not be too serious,’ adds Daniel, who began dancing six years ago. ‘As well as improving fitness, salsa is a great way to relax, as you can’t think of anything else while you’re dancing and you meet so

many new people.’

‘A lot of people come to socialize

and have fun in the middle of the week, which is ideal in a venue like this,’

adds Miguel. ‘It really improves

your confidence.’

‘Salsa dancing has captured the souls

of many people who have tried it,’ says Sarah, marketing the King’s Oak Hotel.

‘It is exciting, great exercise, a lot of fun, and a great way to meet new people.

The music is captivating and the

sounds uplifting.’

Where and when?

Tuesday, all levels, 8.30pm

Kings Oak Hotel

Pauls Nursery Road

High Beech

Epping Forest IG10 4AE

020 8508 5000

Class Fee �6.00


Burn:  380 calories per hour

BELLYDANCING is a dance predominantly for women, which was created in the ancient Middle East. Using the whole body but especially the hips, it is particularly good for people wanting to tone up their bodies and increase flexibility of the torso, which can help strengthen the legs and back and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

Samantha Neal was always fascinated with bellydancing, but didn’t begin to learn until she was 30.

‘I went to a local class and got hooked,’ she explains. ‘I started on one class a week but was soon dancing whenever I could. I hated the gym and loved that I could exercise without needing a partner to dance with.’

Soon, Samantha decided to train as a bellydancing teacher after teaching a couple of friends for a charity event. She qualified with the prestigious Josephine Wise Academy of Arabic Dance (JWAAD), and began teaching in 2006.

‘Some of my students are happy to stay in the beginners’ class for over a year, whereas other students have joined my dance troupe, Badra Bellydance.’ Samantha combines Egyptian bellydance with Bollywood and Zambra Mora styles.

‘The great thing about bellydancing is that it’s for women. There’s a real camaraderie and it’s lots of fun,’ says Samantha. ‘Women of all ages, shapes and sizes can come along to learn, and really push it as far as they want to take it.’

Where & when

Friday, beginners, 7pm

Waltham Abbey Pool


Waltham Abbey 


07770 596634

Class fee: �7.00

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