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Sally Ogilby's Block21 class mixes hip-hop moves with strength training. —Photo courtesy of Sally Ogilby

We Tried It: Block21 Dance Fitness

This high-intensity dance class moves from the studio to the distillery this weekend.

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We’re five minutes into Block21, Sally Ogilby’s 10-month-old dance fitness class, and I’m already drenched in sweat. Fortunately, the small, mirrored room at EVQ Elite Dance Studio on South Broadway is mostly dark, lit only by disco-esque lights that change from pink to blue to purple along with the beat of the Top 40 hip-hop tunes. I learn later that this lack of lighting is actually intended to mask the perspiration stains visible through my allegedly moisture-wicking leggings (and to make the atmosphere less intimidating to non-dancers). “Dance fitness has this awful reputation of being for middle-age moms,” says the 27-year-old Ogilby, a certified group fitness instructor who’s also been dancing since she was eight years old. “This class is different from gym Zumba—it’s high impact, high intensity. I would challenge anyone to try to get through it.”

Sally Ogilby. Photo courtesy of Block21.

I do make it through the next 50 minutes, which are filled with repeating combinations of three or four hard-hitting moves that tend to emphasize the lower body (particularly the quads) and a few intervals of more traditional fitness exercises (think: mountain climbers, hip dips, and arm flutters). All three of Ogilby’s Block21 sessions—Mondays and Thursdays at EVQ and Wednesdays at Tru Fit Athletic Club downtown—follow this format. From week to week, she repeats some of the same choreography but mixes in new moves as well, taking inspiration from the three to five dance classes she takes per week and the YouTube videos she watches in her spare time.

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In the future, Ogilby hopes to offer more classes in nontraditional venues, such as bars and nightclubs. “They’ve got the vibes and the lights, but they aren’t packed on a Saturday morning,” she says. This Saturday, for instance, she’ll move her students to Mile High Spirits, where they’ll enjoy a free drink and distillery tour after their Block21 class ($17).

Tonight, though, I’m glad I don’t have any commitments after this sweat sesh. Dancers rest briefly after each song under the guise of giving each other high fives; Ogilby allows us just one break during the entire class so we sneak breaths when we can. My lungs are pleading with me to pause a little longer, but I don’t want to. My anxiety had been high, having not set foot in a dance studio in 14 years. But this doesn’t feel like a performance or even, really, a workout. It’s just pure booty-shaking fun.

Pair your workout with your whiskey at this Saturday’s special Block21 class, held at 11 a.m. at Mile High Spirits, 2201 Lawrence St, for $17.

Mary Clare Fischer, Assistant Editor

Mary Clare Fischer co-edits 5280’s Compass, Adventure, and Culture sections; writes for multiple sections of the magazine; and blogs weekly about health and wellness for 5280.com.

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