One of the greatest myths around is that all gay men are great dancers -“ as if somehow it’s in our genes. Some people are quite shocked to see a gay guy who doesn’t dance like one of the hunks who shake their groove thing on a podium at Queer As Folk’s Babylon. Some of us could obviously use a few pointers. At Whoosh Studio in Chippendale, dance whiz Ian Knowles teaches Community Dance Classes for beginners who aspire to greater things.
Knowles has been dancing professionally since he was 16, and now runs weekly classes for novice dancers every Saturday. With some big dance parties coming up over the long weekend, I couldn’t resist visiting a class to see if I could pick up some new moves.
Each class is one complete lesson, so if you haven’t been to the class the previous week, you can still take part. At this class we worked on a number of short dance sequences. Each sequence was practised separately -“ slowly at first, then the pace quickened as we put our new moves to music. Knowles describes his dance style as jazz/pop -“ so think big, circular arm movements, lots of hip swinging, spinning and shaking. It’s a fun way to work up a sweat.
We keep it nice and easy just so that it’s attainable for every single person. It’s essentially focused on fun and fitness as opposed to serious dance, Knowles says.
After we learnt a number of different moves, the test of our memory came when we put what we’d learnt into one mega dance sequence. It was a challenge, but by the final sequence I’d finally got my arms and legs to move in unison with the rest of the group.
The class lasted for an hour, but the time flew by in a flurry of grapevines and Kylie-esque arm movements. While some actions may require too much space to be done safely on a packed, sweaty dance floor, I’ve definitely come away with a couple of attention-grabbing moves that would be fun to try out on the weekend.
It’s certainly stuff that people can take away with them and translate into their own thing, Knowles says.
Knowles describes his classes as fun and simple, with an emphasis on individual attention; he has on average eight people in each class.
Class sizes are much smaller so you get much more individual attention, he says. You tend not to get lost in the back, as some people do.
He says his classes help beginner dancers improve their coordination as they learn how to move their body parts a little bit differently than they used to before.
Knowles has had extensive experience teaching dance in the community. He has choreographed for the Sydney 2002 Gay Games opening ceremony, as well as for many of the Mardi Gras and Sleaze Ball party shows. He says these classes are an opportunity for beginner dancers to have a bit of fun, get the heart rate up and have a bit of a sweat.
Knowles runs two classes each Saturday, one for absolute beginners and the other for more advanced seasoned beginners. Both classes attract a diverse group of Â people.
I’ve got young queens and a couple of old girls in there as well, so it’s certainly a bit of an eclectic mix, he says.
Classes cost $10 for each session (or less if you buy a number of tickets in bulk) and are open to everyone. Since the class sizes are capped, it’s best to book in advance. So if you weren’t born under a disco ball, maybe it’s time you learnt some moves from an expert.
Community Dance Classes with Ian Knowles are held at 1:30pm and 3pm every Saturday at Whoosh Studio, 18 City Road, Chippendale. To reserve a place in a class, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 9281 6666.