Today, the realm of dance exercise is broader than ever. But how do you keep class fresh without spending hours on choreography (or becoming a professional choreographer)? Using two simple methods for creating choreography—both of which feed directly into how you teach—you maximize your music, serve up new routines and cut preparation time to a reasonable amount, all while giving your students one hot Dance Boogie Blend.

Dance 1, 2, 3!

Dance 1, 2, 3! is the simplest approach. Paired with a song that makes you want to move, it gives you all you need in a matter of minutes. While the music plays, create three simple moves or minicombinations that go with the song’s style. Choose moves that feel fun to do, show personality or call out prominent lyrics and that you can repeat two, four or even eight times in a row.

Give each move a catchy name. Think through teaching each move in a class setting, and ask yourself whether the move needs to be broken down (footwork only, then add arms? half-speed then tempo?) or whether you can teach it by demonstration and repetition. Teach each move as the song plays, linking moves as your class catches on. Three-quarters of the way through the song, participants should know all the moves and be able to dance them to end the class.

Invest, Then Impress!

In this model, a song’s structure guides choreography. First, listen to the song and map the pattern of verse, chorus and extra music. Then create a specific move or minicombination for each part. The moves can be more involved than in the “Dance 1, 2, 3!” method, but they should still hold the same values.

To teach using this model, choose one or two songs that have a tempo similar to your main song but are lower in energy. Instrumental tracks work well. Teach moves one at a time, breaking them down as needed. When all three moves have been mastered, briefly explain which moves go with which parts of the song. Play the main song and cue your class, following the song’s structure.


Incorporate a wide variety of musical styles and beats per minute. Pop, hip-hop and Latin are the most popular and easiest to work with. However, don’t discount country, jive, disco or even Bollywood. For dozens of song suggestions for this class, go to iTunes and search “Julz Arney Boogie Blend.”

Class Structure

Assemble your class so that two-thirds of the routines are based on the “Dance 1, 2, 3!” method and one-third uses “Invest, Then Impress!” Put the majority of your “Dance 1, 2, 3!” routines toward the beginning so that students can gain confidence and build momentum in their cardio workout before moving into routines that take more time, skill and concentration. Depending on the length of your songs, including the warm-up, you will need approximately five “Dance 1, 2, 3!” routines and two “Invest, Then Impress!” routines to fill a 1-hour class.


Start with a simple “Dance 1, 2, 3!” routine using full-body movements and slow to moderately paced music (100–120 beats per minute). R = right, L = left.

Song: “ABC” (Salaam Remi Krunk-A-Delic Party Mix) by The Jackson 5 (3:49)

Style: Old School Hip-Hop

1: Quick Time (two 8 counts). In wide stance, move forward on syncopated rhythm, stepping R-L-R then L-R-L. Mimic holding steering wheel with R arm, and follow foot pattern. Repeat sequence 2x. Dig R foot behind L, with R arm digging down across body. Repeat L. Repeat sequence 2x.

2: Old Skool Heels (two 8 counts). Hop R heel forward, hop L heel forward, step back/together/front (R-L-R). Repeat L lead. Repeat 4x.

3: Club Action (four 8 counts). Facing R corner in wide, low stance, swing arms across body and open/pop chest 2x. Repeat 2x, then to L corner. Repeat sequence 2x.

Dance 1, 2, 3!

Song: “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira (featuring Wyclef Jean) (3:38)

Style: South American

1: Hip Drop (four 8 counts). Stand with weight on R foot. With R foot one step back from L, drop R hip down (hard with a shake!) to rhythm of “1, 2, 1-2-3,” 2x. Jump to L foot and repeat. Repeat sequence 2x.

2: Fire Dance (four 8 counts). Facing L corner, ball change step R-L on syncopated rhythm, bend upper body at waist forward/back, arms low at sides. Repeat 2x. Change to R corner, 2x. Repeat sequence 2x.

3: Snake Step (four 8 counts). Moving R on R lead, step-side together 2x, step-side together double time 4x. Roll wrists at hips, sweep arms at shoulder level out to R and around in front, down. Repeat L.

Invest, Then Impress!

Song: “Did Ya” by BoA (2:59)

Style: Jive

Verse (eight 8 counts). Double flick kick R, double flick kick L, low slice arms. Walk back 4 counts R, walk up 4 counts R, R arm extends front; stop, wag finger, “no, no, no.” Step out R to wide stance, swish hips R-L-R, slow-slow, quick 3x, slow 4x, ending with weight in R hip. Repeat sequence L lead.

Chorus (eight 8 counts). Triple flick kick R, arms hold low slice, R cross step 3x. Repeat L. Repeat sequence 2x. Walk back slow with shoulder rolls R-L, triple turn back. Repeat L. Cha-cha-cha forward 8x with arms overhead and down body. Knee cross R-L, mimic “showing leg” 4x.

Extra (one 8-count at end of verse). Freestyle arms and body.

Cool-Down and Stretch

Give students one more chance to enjoy moving to music while increasing joint range of motion and decreasing heart rates.

Song:“Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” (Rae and Christian Remix) by Dinah Washington (4:59)

Style: Jazz

1: Hip Shift. Step R and shift weight into R hip. Repeat L. Experiment with levels and arm lines.

2: Deep Plié Zigzags. From wide stance, perform very slow plié to 90 degrees; swerve hips R-L coming up. Experiment with arm movements.

3: Body Rolls. Wide stance, leaning R, roll body from head to hips 4x. Repeat L. Play with tempos: very slow, slow, quicker, etc.

Teaching Tips
  • Be prepared to dance a well-received, crowd-pleasing routine twice in a row.
  • Depending on the skill level of your participants, you may find that you do not get through all three moves of a “Dance 1, 2, 3!” routine the first time. That’s okay! Preview the remaining move and get students excited about learning it next time.
  • Look for a way to create interaction through choreography. This can be as simple as having participants turn to face each other or asking them to move throughout the room.
  • For a class finale, split participants into groups and have them “perform” one of the “Invest, Then Impress!” routines for each other.
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