I’m standing in the infamous Pineapple Studios in London, where many a famous toe has tapped and a celebrity leg has lunged. As this is a school of dance, I’m here obviously for a dance class, but it’s one with a difference. This one is not only going to teach me a dance routine, but also how to love myself that little bit more.
I’m attending a Strutology class, taught by the headmistress of Strut, Zoe McNulty, who wants to make women of all shapes and sizes feel good about themselves. She describes her classes as “body positive dance classes” and she wants us to “move our bodies regularly because we love them, not hate them!”
When I first find out about it, via Andrea who booked us all on one as a team night out, I knew it was for me. I’ve always loved dancing, but it wasn’t until I was an adult and I discovered street dance that I become truly hooked. I love pretending I’m Britney or an extra in an ‘NSync video (yes, I’m stuck in the Noughties). I can safely say I am not a sporty person – I didn’t even step foot into a gym until I was 30 – however, dancing never feels like exercise for me.
It not only makes me feel physically better, but it also helps with my wellbeing. Concentrating on what move comes next, takes me out of my constant anxiety about the future, and I live purely for the moment. Combine this love of dance with a Strutology class and I think I’ve found my heaven.
L-R: Andrea, Headmistress Zoe, me and my fellow TGIOF colleague, Emma
First, you can’t discuss these classes without mentioning Headmistress Zoe, a body positive advocate, who is full of sass and sex appeal. I want to be her when I grow up. She makes the head flicks and the sexy walks look so easy AND so damn hot. You can tell this is a woman who is totally comfortable in her body and that in itself is an inspiration. I love that for once that here is a fitness class not being taught by a stick-think 19-year-old. Here’s someone who gets what’s it like to have jiggly bits and that in itself is empowering.
The class follows the same format as most dance classes – you’re taught moves bit by bit and gradually it becomes a dance – but the major difference is… heels. Yes, at the end of the class, you remove your trainers and put heels on to perform the dance. I’m not sure why it works but it does! Those heels – in my case, my favourite gold-heeled boots – make me feel fabulous.
Suddenly I forget I’m a peri-menopausal, slightly chubby 46-year-old. In my head, I’m J-Lo shaking her thing on the block, or I’m Beyoncé, flicking her hair like she just don’t care. I’m so in the moment that I couldn’t care less what I actually look like!
Oh, and there’s also a walk-off, which was something else! Groups catwalk across the studio, posing while being super sassy. Being able to release my inner diva is super therapeutic. This is so far removed from my day-to-day life of working from home alone and autistic tantrums and dogs who chew up shoes… It’s just what I needed and the support from the other women in the class is the best – they whoop and cheer and celebrate everyone’s walk. I just love it!
But what about those women for who dance isn’t something they’ve done before? Well my TGIOF colleague Emma still loved the whole experience.
“Zoe instantly makes you feel AMAZING,” she said to me in the pub after the class. “I think we all secretly imagine that we could TOTALLY be dancers in music videos – y’know, the really sexy ones. At least we got as close to that as we’re ever going to get!
“Although some had more sass and finesse than others – I may have found myself without very much of either of these things but I can’t wait to get back there and practice my ass off! Oh yes.”
During the class, Zoe jokes that she cannot be responsible for what happens post-class. She says there’s been divorces, babies and new relationships for women attending the School Of Strut – and I can see why.
The boost of confidence I feel after the class lasts longer than just that night. It makes me grateful for a body that can move – sometimes to the left when everyone is going to the right, but hey, it can still move. And it makes me really happy being a woman.
Girl power is definitely not dead!
If you fancy trying your hand at a bit of Strutology, classes are held at Pineapple Studio every month. Zoe is also hosting a one-off After Dark Strut Summit this month at Canary Wharf – tickets can be booked here. Hope to see you there – I’ll be the one hair flicking like no-one’s watching!