BEIRUT: A beginners’ jazz class Monday evening evolved slowly, progressing from what looked like a series of stretching exercises to sequences of dance steps set to increasingly up-tempo music. Fewer than 10 students followed the deliberate but not aggressive direction of their teacher, pressing their legs and backs to do things they’d clearly neither had cause nor desire to do since infancy. Two ladies dropped out early, slipping out the back before the hour-and-a-half session was up. The rest – all women but for two men – stayed the course, frowning in concentration until the end, when with steps almost mastered they danced up and down the length of the studio smiling.
Such classes are as much about teaching body awareness and balance as they are about dance steps, explained Elie Younes, the founder of Spin360 dance studio, which celebrated its official grand opening earlier this month.
“We want people to be fit for dancing and fit for life,” Younes told The Daily Star during a recent tour of the facility in Sioufi. “Our goal is to give something useful to the students so that they walk out feeling differently than when they came in.”
Spin360 boasts two wood-floored, mirrored dance studios where some 11 instructors lead group classes and private lessons in Latin, ballroom, jazz and tango, in addition to what the school calls “associated arts and disciplines” such as capoiera, pilates, yoga, zumba and “dance-sport endurance.” Special classes for children include capoiera, jazz, hip-hop, Latin and ballroom.
Younes began his own dance career in Lebanon before traveling to the United States to spend a year training with a National Dance Council of America recognized company.
Younes’ business partner, Marie Claude Bittar, is also his former student and biggest supporter. She said Spin360 is different from other dance schools in Lebanon because the teachers work together as a team and share a philosophy of comprehensive body awareness and training.
“I am so convinced of Elie’s way of teaching,” said Bittar, who attended her first class some six years ago and hasn’t looked back since.
“I became addicted” she joked, adding that age is no barrier. Bittar herself started dancing in her 50s.
Younes recommends beginners for different classes depending on their personal objectives, whether it’s to compete, to get fit or just to relax and relieve stress. With prices averaging about $10 a session for group classes, Spin360 is a reasonable alternative to the gym.
Spin360 appears to be riding a surge of interest in dance, particularly Latin dance, as Lebanese look beyond the treadmill and their own borders in the search for exciting fitness options. In June, the three-day Salsa Mafia Festival drew hundreds of dancers, a marked increase from when it started two years ago. An increasing number of studios are also offering Bollywood-inspired Indian dance classes.
“Dance requires balance and technique, but it’s also fun, there’s music,” Bittar said. “It’s a nice way to build control over the body.”