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Sample Class: 3, 2, 1 Dance

Create successful dance stars with three easy moves and fun choreography layers.

So you think you can’t dance? You don’t need to be a professional dancer to teach a fun, heart-pumping, soul-soaring dance-based class. If you can walk, you can dance—it takes three easy moves. The only differences are style and a touch of attitude. Also, if you don’t believe that you can dance, how can you instill confidence in your students? If you help them believe that they can dance, they’ll take your support and turn it into their new reality. When you encourage students to find their unique groove and style, you’re well on your way to teaching a phenomenal cardio class that leaves students wanting more and feeling as though they just received a standing ovation.

3, 2, 1 Dance Details

FORMAT: cardio dance
EQUIPMENT NEEDED: just a good attitude
TOTAL TIME: 60–70 minutes
MUSIC: 132–135 beats per minute (bpm) works well, as this tempo allows for full range of motion.

The Three Magic Moves:
1. March.
2. Step-touch or step-tap: step and transfer weight on the odd count: 1, 3, 5 or 7.
3. Touch-step or tap-step: step and transfer weight on the even count: 2, 4, 6 or 8.

Warm-Up (6–10 minutes)

During the first few minutes of a dance-based class, many students are still making up their minds if they’re going to stay. Use recognizable songs that appeal to your demographic. Songs by Chaka Kahn, Whitney Houston and Earth, Wind & Fire are always great tunes to set the mood. Take the time to listen to the song you choose, and find the chorus and verse. Create two simple moves that go well with each; for example, grapevines and V-steps. That is all you need. Instead of focusing on building choreography, use the warm-up to build students’ confidence. Remind participants, “When in doubt, march it out.” Give them absolute permission to find their own way through the class and let them know that as long as they are moving (and not running into their neighbor), you are happy.

After about 5–6 minutes of easy moves, transition to dynamic stretches. Warm up the hips, hamstrings and calf areas. Add a little attitude to traditional stretches. For example, instead of doing regular heel raises, do heel raises with your hands on your hips. Add a double overhead punch as you lift the heel, and clap the hands twice as you lower the heel to the floor.

Cardio Dance (40–50 minutes)

Do each of the following layers for as long as you need. The only rule is that your participants have fun. Direct your teaching choices according to the energy in the room and the needs of the students. When in doubt, ask participants if they’d like to move on or would prefer to repeat a particular layer one more time. Don’t worry about doing all the blocks; take your time building each segment. This will lead to success and bring students back for more. Here are some additional notes:

  • Notice that the last layer in every block is a turn (if there is a turn in that combination). Once you have demonstrated the turn several times, lead the combination without doing the turn yourself.
  • Use the word optional whenever adding directional changes.
  • These four blocks can be taught in a traditional fashion—performing a block on both sides before moving on. Once you’ve taught all blocks, add an additional challenge by alternating the blocks. To do this, change the last two step-taps in block 4 to a grapevine.

Dance Block 1

Layer 1: March in place 7x, lift L knee on 8 (lead leg changes on 8) and step-touch 4x.
Layer 2: Add 2 grapevines and 8 marches to layer 1.
Layer 3: Instead of 7 marches and a knee lift, do 1 V-step forward and 1 V-step back and lift the knee on 8.
Layer 4: Travel grapevine forward on the diagonal and take the marches straight back.
Layer 5: Backward marches become travel to the back corner on a diagonal, step out, behind, out and front (like a grapevine but with no tap), “creep” and then take the last 4 marches in a semicircle to the back of the room and finish facing front.

Dance Block 2

Layer 1: March 1, 2, 3, hold on 4 (R/L/R) and march 4 more times L/R/L/R (lead leg changes on 4).
Layer 2: Step across R on 1, behind L on 2, step out R on 3 and hold 4.
Layer 3: Rock-step into cha-cha-cha and march 4x plus 8 hips side-to-side.
Layer 4: Rock-step into cha-cha-cha and a box step (step across on the count of 5, back on 6, side on 7 and together on 8).
Layer 5: Hips become single, single double 2x.
Layer 6: Add V-step 2x and 8 marches.
Layer 7: The 8 marches become 2 mambos.
Layer 8: Last mambo becomes a pivot turn.

Dance Block 3

Layer 1: Tap-step 4x (tap out to side on 1, feet together on 2), add 8 marches, grapevine 3x and 4 marches (lead leg changes on third grapevine).
Layer 2: Travel tap-step forward and march back 8 into grapevine.
Layer 3: Add arms on the taps (reach the same arm up as the leg that is tapping out) and shimmy shoulders on the first 4 marches back, then no shoulders on the last 4 marches into the grapevines.
Layer 4: The last 4 marches become ball change wide R/L and 5 hold 6, ball change feet together and 7 hold 8.
Layer 5: Marches after the grapevines become a mambo.
Layer 6: Do a full turn while performing the second grapevine.

Dance Block 4

Layer 1: Step forward on 1 into a 4-knee repeater and step-tap 4x.
Layer 2: Repeater becomes step on 1, knee on 2, step back on 3 but stay on toes, pivot to face side on 4, pivot back to face front on 5, lift knee on 6, tap back on 7 and lift knee on 8.
Layer 3: After knee lift on 6 hold 7–8 (do not do last knee), reach arms up on 7 and down on 8 into step-tap 4x.
Layer 4: Form an “L” shape on step-taps (face front, side, side, front).
Layer 5: Add 16 marches after step-taps.
Layer 6: Marches become 3 mambos facing corner and 4 marches facing front.
Layer 7: Second mambo becomes a pivot.
Layer 8: Pivot becomes 2 hip circles as you turn “sassy hips.”
Layer 9: Last 4 marches become step-tap to front 2x.

Cool-Down and Stretch (115 bpm, 8–10 minutes)

Pick two easy moves and apply them to the chorus and verse of a calming song. Examples include two grapevines and two mambos or walk forward 3, tap on 4, walk back 7, tap on 8 and step-tap 4 times. After bringing heart rates down, slowly work your way down to the floor for static stretches. Use these last few minutes to lengthen out muscles and congratulate the class on a job well done. Finish with a moment of thanks to these people who took time out of their busy days to spend an hour with you.

Petra Kolber is an IDEA fitness spokesperson. Find out more about Petra and her DVDs (including 3, 2, 1 Dance) at www.petrakolber.com.


Concerned about your place in the new fitness industry? We have 40 years of experience supporting pros just like you! Let’s create a new wellness paradigm together—IDEAfit+ is the extra edge you need. Once you team up with IDEA, be sure to take full advantage of all the benefits of membership.

Petra Kolber

Petra Kolber is an author, speaker, podcast host and DJ. In 2018, she released her first book, The Perfection Detox, which was recently translated into French and Spanish. Petra has over 30 years of experience in the fitness industry and has been honored with several prestigious awards, including the 2018 canfitpro Specialty Presenter of the Year and the 2001 IDEA Instructor of the Year. As a two-time cancer survivor, she is passionate about waking people up to the precious gift of time, and works with individuals and companies to help them get unstuck so they can become unstoppable.

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