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Testing UTrain: Afro-fusion Cardio Dance Party

Do the workouts really work?
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This Friday night workout almost felt like a live class. MAHIKA JAIN/THE VARSITY
This Friday night workout almost felt like a live class. MAHIKA JAIN/THE VARSITY

To celebrate Black History Month (BHM), the U of T virtual fitness studio invited us to take part in a special workout session to celebrate Black excellence, the Afro-fusion Cardio Dance Party, on February 26 at 5:00 pm.

I had done a session of Cardio Dance Party once before, and I was excited to try something new, especially a class in honour of BHM. 

One of the instructors asked who was new to Afro-beats, music, or Afro-fusion, and described it as being very high-energy with lots of waist and arm movements. Many of us were new to this type of dance and workout, so the instructors’ engaging, encouraging, open, and energetic natures were helpful. 

Sylvia Glasser, the pioneer of Afro-fusion in South Africa, describes Afro-fusion as the “combination of African ritual, music, and dancing with Western forms of contemporary dance” as its basis. Afro-beats is also a fusion, combining James Brown’s funk, traditional West-African dance rhythms, jazz, and chamber music. Both forms are cultural fusions integrating styles of music, dance movements, and traditions, and both made for a particularly exciting workout class.

The class took the full hour and was structured in two halves: one involved Afro-beats and the other involved Afro-fusion. We started with a warmup and stretch, which is helpful in a workout to keep you from injuring yourself. I love classes that are completely choreographed to music, and this class was exactly that. It created an energetic environment that felt more like a dance party than a workout. The music included songs like “Mise au point” by Josey and “Gato Pato” by Milo & Fabio. 

I loved this class for how engaging it was: the instructors were jumping around and cheering us on as we danced, creating an energetic and happy environment. During one song, one instructor even high-fived the screen, and it almost felt like a live class. 

This is difficult to achieve considering the times we are living in, and I appreciated their ability to replicate the live class environment. Cognizant of the fact that many of the participants may be new to the class, there was ample instruction, often with repeating patterns so that we could learn and improve throughout each song. 

I am deep into the midterm season as most of us are and have very limited energy to work out. While 5:00 pm on a Friday may not seem like the best time to work out, it was a much-needed energy booster, and I was grateful for the environment created by the instructors. It was the perfect break from studying and made it seem like I had something exciting to do on a classic COVID-19 Friday. I highly recommend this class, and I appreciate that a class was offered in honour of BHM.