I’ve just left House of J. I turned up feeling super stressed and pretty tired; 45 minutes later, I’m not only beaming and full of energy, but I’m feeling fabulous.
On the surface, House of J is a fairly standard dance class. The instructor breaks down the routine, you follow their lead, practice each bit, then pull it all together at the end.
It’s what underpins this class that makes it special.
House of J is all about making you feel like an absolute superstar, in the same way that you feel amazing when you’re in a club and your song comes on and you give it everything. Every instructor I’ve had for this class has made it clear that it’s a safe space where you leave your inhibitions at the door, and let your inner Beyoncé take centre stage. You’re encouraged from the very start to do whatever feels right – if you want to throw a random dip or shimmy in, that’s perfect. If you want to just copy exactly what the instructor does, that’s perfect too. You do you.
I know that sounds terrifying if you’re like me and not exactly an exhibitionist, but somehow, it just works. You start out gingerly popping a hip, and by the end you’re sashaying with the best of them.
The class itself is structured around learning two or three separate routines rather than one big one, which I really enjoy – it keeps it interesting and it seems to really keep the energy levels high. You’re taken through 8 beats at a time, practising each part enough times that you can stop thinking about it and just enjoy the movement. Those sections build up to a point where the music is turned right up and you can leap around like you’re in your very own music video.
The moves aren’t always easy, but they’re broken down into small enough sections, and taught at a slow enough pace, that you can get there – and if not, there’s usually a slightly easier section after a complicated bit to give you a chance to catch up. I like the fact the instructors don’t let you off with the most basic choreography. The aim is to make you feel good, and when I finally hit all the moves at the right time, in the right order, I feel like I can rival Justin Timberlake on the dance floor. You also get a decent cardio workout - there’s a lot of jumping around, the occasional push up thrown in, and the instructors push you to put every ounce of energy into each move.
To get the most out of the class, you do need to be prepared to push some of your own boundaries. The idea of striking a pose or trying to make a move look “sexy” makes me cringe to my very core – but when you’re part of the class, everyone just goes for it. Especially the instructors, who completely embody what they’re teaching and are clearly having such a good time that it makes you want to get involved too. And to be honest, with music from people like Michael Jackson and Rihanna, it isn’t hard to let yourself go.
The class is the brainchild of Gymbox’s “Look Better Naked” Master Trainer James Dawkins, and he’s been training new instructors to make sure that the House of J vibe runs through every class. So far, it seems to be really working. Gymbox runs amazing classes for a whole range of goals – for fitness, for strength, for flexibility – but when it comes to lifting my spirits and giving me a huge buzz, this is always the class for me.
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