Quarantine craze that's got Hollywood singing into its hairbrush

Quarantine craze that’s got Hollywood singing into its hairbrush: Forget tummy crunches with Joe Wicks – The hottest new online fitness class is all about dancing into a sweat with the A-listers

  • Ryan Heffington has been streaming SweatFests on Instagram five times a week
  • Grammy award-winning choreographer has worked with stars including Sia
  • Daisy Waugh tried his popular online dance classes at her West London home

There’s a full-length mirror in my bedroom. I keep catching my reflection in it, and it’s the last thing on earth I want to see.

I’m alone — thank goodness —barefoot and in frumpy sports gear at home in West London, dancing via my mobile phone with a man in a cool, wood-floored sitting room, in a house in a desert two hours east of Los Angeles.

He’s wearing a pair of baggy, leopard-print shorts, no less frumpy than my own sartorial effort, and he’s prancing and dancing this way and that, his luxurious moustache twitching as he shouts over the music, ‘Get ready to slap it! Slap it! Strike a pose! Whatever-you-want! Show pony!… And work it! CAT WALK!’

My virtual partner is forty-something, Grammy award-winning choreographer Ryan Heffington — and there are 8,000 other people hoofing along with us across the world.

Daisy Waugh shared her experience of Ryan Heffington’s (pictured) Instagram dance classes, which are streamed five times a week

More used to working with the Hollywood A-list, Ryan has become a lockdown celebrity himself, thanks to his hour-long SweatFests, as he calls them — dance classes, streamed for free on Instagram Live five times a week.

Never heard of him? Every woman of a certain age will know at least one highlight of his career: remember the ‘Bend and Snap’ sequence in the film Legally Blonde, where heroine Reese Witherspoon teaches an unlucky-in-love friend the one move that will win over any man? Well, Ryan created that.

He also choreographed the 2014 music video for Chandelier, by Sia, which won a clutch of awards and is currently on 2.6 billion views on YouTube.

His new classes are no less celebrated. Singer Pink, posted a video of herself taking part, Reese Witherspoon raved about him on Instagram with Jennifer Lopez, and La La Land star Emma Stone called the classes ‘a public service’ and even joined one session as a special guest, splitting the screen with Ryan.

Normally when showbiz personalities voice gushing approval of things, I block my ears and run. But on this occasion, I am glad, for once, that I didn’t.

Ryan has the warmest smile, the most carefree face I’ve seen since the start of lockdown, or possibly ever, and it is magically infectious.

I’ve never longed to be someone’s friend so badly (desper- ate, much?).

Daisy (pictured) said she was sweating like a little piglet, as she followed the dance class with blissful abandon 

He’s grinning, and I’m grinning back, sweating like a little piglet, and I’ve forgotten how to tell my left side from my right. But, even so, I’m ‘slapping it’, and ‘show-ponying it’, and ‘working it’ and ‘catwalking it’ with blissful abandon.

Who cares? No one can see me! (If only I could lose my mirror.)

To join a class, simply go to his Instagram profile and click on a post.

You can watch past, recorded classes or join live — which means you can send likes and comments the whole group can see, as Ryan puts you through your paces.

At the beginning, before we all start imitating show ponies, Ryan kneels down to peer at his iPhone screen, propped up near his feet, to see who is logging on.

He grins into the camera as more people join in the class from across the globe: ‘Hello, hello, hello Scotland! And Germany! Italy’s in the house! Paris, hello! San Diego! Netherlands, yes! Canada! Yessss… Russia, yessss! Here we go England! Sweden’s in the house!’

In normal times (ie. pre-Covid), Ryan runs a dance studio in LA called The Sweat Box which, like everything else, has closed for quarantine.

Ryan (pictured) began virtual classes cause he missed doing the real thing and has been encouraging participants to donate money for good causes

He started the virtual classes partly because he missed doing the real thing and partly to help support The Sweat Box during its enforced closure.

But then, it seems, something wonderful happened. So many people responded to what he was offering, that the classes took on a life of their own. Now he says he wants to keep doing them ‘for ever’. I hope he does.

SweatFest is free to all comers, but participants are encouraged to donate money via Paypal — and Ryan reminds us of this, intermittently, throughout the hour-long class.

It’s all for a good cause. Half the money raised goes to keeping the studio afloat, while the other half goes to good causes.

The class I joined raised a whopping $60,000 (nearly £50,000). Part of that is going to Black Lives Matter, so we all flail and jiggle along to Tracy Chapman’s song Talkin’ Bout A Revolution.

‘Revolution!’ cries Ryan, as the music fades. ‘Talking about a revolution. Justice!’ It’s kind of stirring. And simultaneously funny, because we are hardly storming the Bastille. We are cowering from a virus in our over-mirrored bedrooms, trying to keep fit and stay cheerful.

In any case, the revolutionary fervour doesn’t last for long.

Daisy (pictured) said Ryan keeps the moves simple, so anyone can participate and encourages people to do ‘whatever they want’

A beat later, he’s playing Let’s Go Crazy! by Prince. ‘Get a prop!’ he shouts. ‘Anything for a microphone!’ Off he dances, out of shot, and returns seconds later holding a hairbrush.

Sounds ridiculous, and so it is. But that’s the point. He keeps the moves simple, so anyone can participate, teaches a couple of easy steps at the start, and spends quite a big section of the second half of the class encouraging people to do ‘whatever’ they want, while he dances around his own desert sitting room.

He structures the class; he carefully plans the music. And yet — which is a part of his genius — it never feels less than off the cuff.

The class is as energetic as you want to make it. I’m very fit — I do a lot of running — but the point of SweatFest is for people in, and of, any shape to enjoy themselves dancing, and for everyone to feel much more cheerful at the end of it. Ryan says he just wants people to ‘join the fun and kinda forget, for at least an hour a day, everything that’s going on…’

And it works. On the whole. I made the mistake of starting the class with my 13-year-old daughter, whom I’d cajoled to join in. I thought it would be funny if we did it together.

Daisy said she’s going to do Ryan’s (pictured) dance sessions again, ensuring that she hangs towels over the mirror 

I hammed everything up. I did the ‘show pony’ as instructed, and the ‘happy hippie’, and shouting ‘whoop!’ very loudly.

Embarrassment all round.

After about ten minutes she left, mortified by my pratishness, claiming she’d suddenly remembered her Zoom biology lesson was about to begin.

I was quite relieved to be honest. It meant I could throw myself into the craziness with pure abandon, and without even pretending to think it was funny.

Next time I do it — and there will be a next time — I’m going to close the bedroom door and hang towels over the mirror.

For a schedule of SweatFest classes go to thesweatspotla.com

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