Let it be known that I am not a dancer. I have little to no rhythm and am pretty uncoordinated. I struggle to avoid bumping into coffee tables and bruising my legs on a daily basis. So, when my friend invited me to attend a dance workout class with her, I was nervous to say the least. After my first “Dance2Fit” class, though, I was dripping with sweat, had burned more than 500 calories, and was instantly hooked.
The title of the class says it all—it’s about dancing your way to fitness. Dance is the ultimate full-body workout, and people of all ages and abilities are lining up to be a part of the new craze. The Vibe Studio of Lynchburg, located on Timberlake Road, and Dancing With Theo, on Main Street in downtown Lynchburg, recently opened at the beginning of this year and both are thriving.
The Vibe’s classes feature hip hop music and are 60 minutes long, but the time flies by thanks to owner and dance instructor Stephanie Manning’s incredible energy. She works hard each and every class to pump up the group, make everyone feel comfortable, and provide a fun and unique atmosphere for all. “Watching people come in here and gain confidence in themselves each and every time is my favorite thing to see,” Manning says. “There are many people who started out dancing in the back of my class, but now they rush to get here for a spot right up front. It’s amazing watching people lose weight and feel better in their own bodies.”
Manning opened her studio after being inspired by her own weight loss journey of losing 60 pounds.
“I’ve always been super self-conscious about my body and the way I looked until now,” she says. “I first fell in love with Zumba, then started teaching hip hop cardio, and eventually got certified for Dance2Fit. I’ve always dreamed of having my own space, so one day I just decided to pursue opening a studio, and here I am living my dream.”
Her ultimate desires are to share dance fitness with as many people as possible, empower others and help them reach their goals, while also building a community.
“A lot of people who come to my classes want to lose weight but don’t like going to a gym,” Manning says. “Dance is a really fun alternative to that. You don’t have to think about a workout since I tell you what to do each step of the way, there is no monthly membership you have to commit to, and you don’t need to have any sort of prior experience or training to be able to do it.”
There are some days where I may be extremely tired or stressed out from work, and heading to a dance class feels like the last thing I want to do. But once I step foot through those doors, Manning’s energy exudes, and I can’t help but get excited and ready to tackle the workout.
“There has not been a single day that I have not wanted to come here,” she says. “Even if I’m having a bad day, coming in here and being around all these people is just always a really good time.”
Manning hopes to soon move her studio into a bigger place so she won’t have to limit class sizes or have a wait list.
As for Theo Coates, of Dancing With Theo, owning a dance company or studio has always been his dream. He feels that his purpose in life is to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy the art of dance and help people become their best selves.
“Through dance, people are able to push themselves to their limits and beyond,” he says. “In most cases, they end up creating a catalyst for opportunities to improve in other areas of life.”
Coates started out as a group fitness instructor at the YMCA, where he ended up gaining a following complete with merchandise, DVDs and digital streaming. The business name, Dancing With Theo, actually began as a Facebook group in 2013 and grew into a brand by 2018.
“A t-shirt turned into a flash mob, which turned into a DVD, which turned into a hoodie, that became a studio,” Coates says. “With support from my business partner Nour Elkhamra, as well as Lashonda Delivuk, Josh Delivuk, Jawansa Hall, Robert Williams, my entire groove squad, and my family and friends, we have created something that is growing into greatness.”
Coates emphasizes that with his classes, you’re getting more than just a workout—it’s an experience.
“In each class, whether dancercise or choreography, you are getting some form of training,” he says. “I’m teaching you rhythm, creating and following patterns, placement, moving from the core, some terminology, and dance moves you can use outside of the class. Yes, you will burn calories. Yes, you will build muscle. However, you also learn how to be a better dancer.”
As Dancing With Theo continues to grow, groups will be performing for upcoming shows and events including Get Downtown, Central Virginia Fashion Week, The Black Theater Festival in Washington, D.C., and many others.
“Ultimately, I love dancing,” Coates says. “So, the fact that I get to do it almost every day and I get paid for it is amazing by itself. However, I love the look on people’s faces when they take class. I love the fact that I am able to touch so many lives while doing something I love to do.
I love the people that are there with me.”