Sean Thomas shares how he came to create his 90-minute dance fitness class and what makes it different from all the others out there. Sean teaches FIT 4 YOU on Mondays from 7:30-9:00pm.
Article by M. Soledad Sklate.
Q: What is the focus of the dance fitness class (FIT 4 YOU) that you teach at Cumbe?
A: The focus of FIT4 YOU is to provide a beneficial and effective 90 minute aerobic workout filled with fun dance moves. FIT 4 YOU is a combination of 4 different dance classes, which offer new and exciting cardio workouts every week. Afrobeat (African), Brooklyn Bodega (Latin), Brooklyn House Party (Hip Hop/House), and Nevis to New York (Caribbean/ Dancehall) are some of the styles showcased in the class, all very different styles to ensure a challenging but versatile workout for all ages and abilities. Each class has a dance abs component which will also help strength your core as you dance your calories away.
Q: How did you develop the idea for the class and your business FIT 4 YOU NYC?
A: As a former track and field athlete at Brown University and a professional dancer for over ten years, I have always had an interest in fitness. In my exploits, I have had two knee surgeries which have caused me to endeavor into my current profession as a Physical Therapist. After graduating from SUNY Downstate’s Physical Therapy Program with a doctorate in Physical Therapy in 2011, I was determined to combine my new knowledge of rehabilitation with my ongoing experience in exercise. My thesis while in school was “Facilitating a Positive Change in Physical Activity Level with African American Adolescent Girls using the Transtheoretical Model of Change.” My motivation to begin my small business – FIT 4 YOU NYC – was based on this premise, in addition to wanting to find fun and practical ways to encourage people who were too apprehensive or nervous to take the first steps towards adding exercise to their lives. My life motto is, “Always on the Move,” and I have applied that same mantra as the foundation of my business FIT 4 YOU NYC.
I began to teach FIT 4 YOU dance fitness classes in Manhattan at the Center for Functional Performance in November of 2012. I am blessed to have found Cumbe as my second launch location for FIT 4 YOU. 2012 was also a great year because in October, I founded my business FIT 4 YOU NYC, which not only offers aerobic dance classes but also specialized personal training, group training, and running classes for all ages and abilities.
Q: Any interesting stories behind how you came to find your passion in teaching?
A: After I graduated from Brown University in 2003 with a BS in Psychology, I was somewhat uncertain about what I wanted to do next. Graduate school was in the back of my mind somewhere but I was excited to do something outside of the classroom before being regimented in an office. I began pursuing my dance career heavily with various professional dance companies such as Jamal Jackson Dance Company, a Brooklyn-based African Dance Company, and Soul Steps, an international Step Company. As a way to earn some more money in fun ways, I also began teaching Power dance classes at various New York Sports Club gyms on the Upper East Side from 2005 to 2007. I found that it was a nice break from performing and learning choreography for my other companies.
Q: Why and how does your class help people in general and also dancers?
A: As a professional dancer in both national and international dance companies for over ten years, I have collected a vast amount of experience in dance from teaching. to performing, and touring. As a Physical Therapist, I bring the fundamentals of anatomy, injury prevention, and proper exercise and training to my experience as an athlete/dancer to ensure that my classes are challenging but sensitive to the various needs of my participants. I always ask if anyone has injuries or past surgeries that I should be aware of, with the intention to modify certain movements to prevent future injuries or the aggravation of current pathological issues. Although this class is geared towards the more aerobic side of dance, it is still beneficial to former/current dancers or non-dancers who want to increase their aerobic capacity, increase their endurance, and overall physical fitness.
Q: What makes your class special?
A: With so many new fitness programs such as Crossfit, Zumba, Insanity, and P90X, I wanted to start something that combined all aspects of training exercises that I’ve learned in my exploits with the new exercise workouts of today. As someone who has completed both P90X and Insanity workout plans, I have found ways to combine the exercise moves that you would perform in a gym with fun and challenging dance moves that will make you laugh and sweat while you burn calories for 90 minutes. Most classes are 60 minutes, which is just enough to get you moving, but with 90 minutes we really have an opportunity to maximize your exercise potential without rushing through dance moves. If you are old or young, a novice dancer or a professional dancer, you will find that FIT 4 YOU NYC DANCE is not only a way to exercise and stay fit, not just a task or a chore, but is a fun lifestyle. You will learn African dance moves on the first Monday of the month, Latin dance moves on the second, old school Hip Hop/House on the third, and Dancehall/Caribbean on the fourth. Every 5th Monday of the month, we have a video dance class where I integrate fun dances from old-school music videos from artists such as Beyonce and NSYNC.
Zumba, for instance, is one style of dance. As a professional dancer who appreciates various dance styles, I bring that same dance diversity to my classes which include African, Caribbean-Dancehall, Jazz, Tap, Step, Latin, House, and Hip Hop. FIT 4 YOU NYC DANCE is the full Diaspora and I believe that’s what makes it so special.
About the writer: M. Soledad Sklate is a PhD student in the French Department at New York University, doing academic research on the intersection of literature and embodied cultural practices and manifestations rooted in African diasporic influences. She is an avid practitioner of Latin and African dances, and is working at Cumbe as a Media and Communications intern.