Dancing with the local stars

Above: The Fitsteps full ensemble in training.

By Eoin Meegan

Some time ago NewsFour visited Fitsteps, a new dance and fitness programme set up by Shauna Tilley that was starting to create waves. Recently, on a catch-up visit I was delighted to find that Shauna and the other Fitsteps girls have gone from strength to strength. The class has trebled in size, became involved with community events, and now there is even a Fitsteps for kids.

So let’s recap and catch up. Fitsteps is a solo dance fitness programme that was created by two former Strictly Come Dancing professional dancers, Ian Waite and Natalie Lowe. The class features all of the dances from Strictly and Dancing with the Stars such as jive, cha cha, salsa, tango, quickstep, and so on. It is suitable for all fitness levels as every dance can be adapted to suit different capabilities, and because it’s solo no partners or dance experience is needed. It’s kind of got something for everyone. 

Shauna trained as a Fitsteps instructor in 2017, and launched the first Fitsteps in Ringsend in January the following year, with only eight members. Today there are up on thirty in the class, largely thanks to word of mouth. Shortly after setting up the class Shauna quit her full time job to concentrate on Fitsteps. A brave decision in these economically challenging times but one that shows the commitment and passion she has for the project. And her enthusiasm really shows and obviously has infected the other participants. On my recent catch-up visit the ladies were working really hard (I was exhausted just watching them!) and meticulously following Shauna’s intricate footwork.

The group has really bonded as well. “We call ourselves our Fitsteps family,” Shauna says, “because we offer a constant source of support and encouragement and laughter to each other.”

There is a social and community dynamic too, with theatre trips, birthday celebrations, days out to try other dance classes, and even an annual trip to Blackpool for the Fitsteps Christmas party in the Tower Ballroom. So it’s not just all dancing. Last December, 17 of them travelled over to Blackpool where Shauna was awarded runner-up in the Fitsteps Instructor of the Year award for Ireland; a great achievement. They also took part in a variety of charitable work, such as the Karl Doyle fundraiser, and performed a dance routine at Darkness into Light as the participants were about to set off, which set a really positive mood. The group is also available for Hens and other social gatherings.

Recently the group filmed a promo video down at the Poolbeg Lighthouse. “It seemed fitting as the class is all about the community it was only right we filmed at such an iconic part of the community,” Shauna said.

New cutting edge research in neuroscience and psychology seem to back up the connection between dancing and positive mental health. Firstly, dancing focuses the mind and hones the concentration, therefore keeping us in the present moment. Secondly, the process itself releases those happy chemicals, such as dopamine, that make us feel good. In fairness all exercise will do this, but with dancing there’s the social and enjoyable aspects as well.

A new addition to the Fitsteps entourage is Popdance for Kids. Popdance is a fun energetic dance class for children aged between 3 and 11. It is a non competitive dance class designed to give the children a place to have fun, and be themselves. It provides a space where they can express themselves, learn a new skill and build their confidence at the same time. There are two classes every week, a tots class (age 3-5) and a kids class (age 6-11) totalling approximately 25 children. Both happen on Mondays.

The classes are jointly taught by Shauna and Danielle Doolin. It is great fun and the kids love it. It is also a great way to get children involved in healthier activities and group projects, so well worth thinking about if you have little folk at home.

Shauna launched Popdance in Ringsend only last September, 2019, and since then it has got a great reaction from parents and kids alike. The feedback from the parents is that the children are really coming out of their shells and they can see their confidence growing.

For their part the kids love being able to express themselves and have fun. “We place a big emphasis on kids supporting and encouraging each other and it’s a lovely environment for the kids to be in while learning to dance.” Shauna adds.

NewsFour would like to congratulate Shauna on her award and wish the girls continued success. At its core Fitsteps is a fitness class delivered through dance; a rather ingenious idea.

Fitsteps happens every Monday evening at 8pm, and Wednesdays at 7.30pm in St Matthew’s National School, Irishtown. And on Saturday morning at 10am in Ringsend Community Centre. While the Popdance classes take place on Mondays 4-5pm (tots) and 5-6pm (kids) in the Ringsend Community Centre. 

If you would like to join Fitsteps, or sign up your child for the next Popdance term you can contact Shauna at 0894299768. Facebook Shauna’s Dance Fitness. Or Instagram shauna_dancefitness