Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Terrence Carey's Adrenalize: Dance like no-one's watching


Right: Terrence Carey allows you to hallucinate that you're Catherine Zeta-Jones in "Chicago" for an hour in his 'Adrenalize' class

One frustrating aspect of my life as a road warrior is the lack of continuity for things that require it – like classes.

Sure, there's the odd drop-in yoga class, and a single guitar lesson might teach you enough of 'Stairway to Heaven' to get you banned from every guitar shop in town; you can loiter around a Trader Joe's cooking demo and fantasize you're at the Iron Chef's bootcamp. But for what I love to dabble in – dance - you generally need continuity.

Most exercise classes are humdrum, and most modern dance classes are too complicated, especially if you're not a regular. I want a quick fix that makes this knock-kneed novice feel I'm training for both a big bike race, an MTV clip or Catherine Zeta Jones' tole in "Chicago", all at the same time. And all in 1 hour.

I stumbled (trying to make pas de deux) across this class while on a guest pass at the otherwise unaffordable Chelsea Piers Fitness Center. (Will someone good-looking please persuade this massive complex to offer visiting road warriors 1-3 month memberships?)

The class, called 'Adrenalize', claimed to combine modern stage dance in a standalone, fitness class format.

This sounded like my holy grail!

Now the hybrid dance/exercise class is nothing new. Just like fusion music, fusion cuisine and fusion fashion, fusion dance offerings, started for me with Jazzercise and Jazznastics back in the 70's to N.I.A. (Neuromuscular Integrative Action), Zumba, Afro-Funk, Afro-Latin Funk, Afro-Latin-Swahili Funk etc around now, all claiming to offer superior benefits to the unsexy old XBX developed by the Royal Canadian Air Force. Think YoSumo – a combination of Hatha Yoga and Sumo Wrestling.

These fusions get too precious and fussy for my liking, and often require equipment. What if you get stuck on a desert island without your exercise ball or foam blocks?

'Adrenalize' sounded conceptually cleaner. Modern dance moves, with enough repetition and pattern to make it a solid workout, and maybe one you could remember when you got home.

The teacher, Terrence Carey, is a magnificent specimen of the human race. Like one of those towering black chorus dancers you fixate on in favor of the simpering white princess in the spotlight, he's a dancer by trade and innovator.

"I spent years studying with many of the dance world's greatest luminaries - Alvin Ailey, Arthur Mitchell, Ann Reinking, Chet Walker, Nicole Fosse - and learning about exercise, including kinesiology, Pilates and gyrotonic," he said.

"After touring nationally with Dreamgirls, I wanted to design a movement experience that would make me sweat and be creatively satisfying."

Well! If a professional dancer is still looking for that magic combination, you know there's something amiss in the world of fitness classes.

We started out doing simple arm movements that immediately transported you out of a neighborhood gym and onto a Broadway stage, slow, expressive, purposeful. That's something absent in exercise classes – artistic expression. We were soon leaping across the floor at all points of the compass. I found out later that I'd been air-shouldering with several seasoned Broadway veterans, a great testament to Terrence's new genre.

"Quite often with the traditional "cardio-dance class" if you're not familiar with the steps and/or the instructor's style, it can be challenging to fully participate," he said. That's putting it nicely – I have painful memories of standing haplessly in a room with young gazelles leaping impala-like around me.

It's also silent. No "… and 4 and 5 and 6 and …" to make you hallucinate you're at ballet boot camp rather than in a Dreamgirl dream …

"Adrenalize is experienced and instructed without the utterance of any words. All the directions and corrections are suggested physically as the experience unfolds. Music is selected which will sustain and maintain energy while revitalizing and rejuvenating "the flow".

And that's another thing: gyms and aerobics classes always seem to play such awful music. With all the excellent Intelligent Dance Music, deep house and electronica clogging iTunes, you'd think that they'd raid their CD clubland collections Just Play Some. It's part of the reason I hate gyms. I can only speculate that they buy their sounds from Asian muzak factories to avoid royalty issues.

I like what Terrence has done – packaged two simple elements together – dance like a pro, exercise like at boot camp, into 1 swift, non-intimidating hour. Now all he needs is to find a permanent place that will let him offer it to the public - between the fanciful fusions and the big traditionals like yoga, ballet, and pumping iron.

The choices are truly paralyzing.

Contact Terrence Carey at tcarey82@hotmail.com to see when and where he's offering his next class at Chelsea Piers - or wherever.

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Why do I like dance?

I prefer dance over most physical pursuits. It requires no special equipment but your body; it works every tendon and muscle thoroughly and symmetrically, creating neither tennis arm nor golf swing shoulder nor a cyclists' sunken chest but massive legs. There are no height or weight issues as in basketball or gridiron; you are competing only with gravity, thin air and your own physical and mental opponents. Unlike running, the gait is varied needs no iPod to keep you from getting bored brainless – dance keeps your brain on its toes.

Dance allows you to divorce the gym, an evil product of modern overworked life, invented when people stopped shoveling dirt and started shuffling paper.

What about weight training for bone density, I hear you ask?

Just park a mile away and carry your groceries back to the car, better still, carry them all the way home. Wear a backpack around the house full of books. Get a mini trampoline - the most underrated piece of exercise equipment invented, and found discarded and cobwebbed in the corners of many garages.

There are social benefits of dance: with practice you can out-cool total strangers on a dance floor with your moves. Sorry guys, with the rise of gay liberation it's no longer attractive to strongarm your beer saying "I don't dance". It never was.

But dance is difficult. Once, I could watch the teacher demonstrate a new sequence of ballet steps, and I could dance it right away. I was shocked when it took me 20 goes to get a hip hop sequence half right and I forgot it the moment I walked out the door…

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