A dance workout that’s for girls only

How Dance Dance Party Party gives women the chance to go dancing with friends and work up a sweat’without having to hit the clubs

A dance workout that's for girls only

Source: Best Health Magazine, January/February 2009

I often have trouble deciding what to wear to go dancing, and the choices rarely come from my drawer of workout clothes. But it’s Saturday afternoon, and I’m not heading to a club. Instead, I’m getting ready to attend my first session of Dance Dance Party Party (DDPP).

What is Dance Dance Party Party?

The spirit behind DDPP, which originated in New York in 2006 and has grown to 13 chapters in the U.S., two in New Zealand and two in Canada, is girls’ night out—minus the sky-high heels, overpriced drinks and leering men. It’s about dancing to get your sweat on, which is why it’s held during the day in a bright studio, and why sneakers are encouraged. And there’s no teacher: This is strictly DIY fitness. As Crissy Calhoun, one of the founders of the Toronto chapter, says, “In terms of a workout, what you put in is what you get out.” Since dancing can burn some 300 calories an hour, I’m planning to put in a lot and reap the benefits.

Calhoun, a book editor, started the Toronto chapter in March 2008 with Oonagh Duncan, a fitness instructor/personal trainer, after reading about the trend in a magazine. (The other Canadian DDPP—so far!—is in Guelph, Ont.)

“I felt like my friends would love the idea,” says Calhoun. “And if they did, there must be tons of other women who would, too.” She refers to the sessions, which are held in a local dance studio, as fun, “freeing” dance parties. “It doesn’t matter what you look like or whether you are a talented dancer.”

How the dance party works

Before the music begins—an hour and a half of groove-worthy tunes—I must admit that I’m intimidated. There are only about 15 of us (everyone pays an entrance fee of $8 to help pay for the space), so I stick close to my best friend, whom I’ve brought along to up the fun level. Luckily, the first track is a favourite old-school Madonna song, and I cautiously start to move. As the playlist progresses, from the latest Kanye West single to some classic ’70s funk and even some early rock ’n’ roll, I sneak a peek at my fellow dancers. Some are doing slow, repetitive modern dance exercises, while another group is creating its own off-the-wall choreography. No one looks like they’re auditioning to be on So You Think You Can Dance, so I feel comfortable enough to throw in some Broadway jazz moves, fingers spread and hands shimmying.

Within the first 15 minutes, I’m sweating, full of energy and grinning from ear to ear. And I know I’ll be back. Calhoun sums up the appeal of DDPP best: “I love dancing, and for me, it’s more rewarding than an hour on the treadmill.”

Inspired? Join our forums to meet other Canadian women who love to dance, too.

Pictured: With reality shows proving dancing is a great workout, the author (right) and best friend Rachel Morris-Ohm were excited to try freestyle dance classes.

This article was originally titled "Hit the dance floor for a ‘girls only’ workout," in the January/February 2009 issue of Best Health Magazine. Subscribe today and never miss an issue!