A fireball of energy and drive, Irish dance diva Jane Shortall, just back from 10 weeks in Los Angeles, is burning with fresh and exhilarating ideas on how to kickstart a healthier and more active new year – and in cool clothes, too.
She has been training and studying closely the fitness and dance fashion scene on the West Coast, where people are fixated on health and juice bars and organic restaurants are flourishing. “If they are not in the gym, they are out jogging, hiking, biking and swimming,” she says. “They look after their bodies and they look great.”
Shortall took classes in all sorts of contemporary activities that she would ultimately like to introduce to Ireland. Some of the new trends include providing darkened rather than brightly lit rooms for classes. “With candles and the right music, you are walking into an atmosphere, not a cold place, and you immediately feel better,” she says.
The current craze is for ballet barre or cardio barre, a fitness and dance class with ballet style movements that focus on head- to-toe body tone – bottom, thigh and arms. Also popular is soul cycle, a new type of spinning class founded by two businesswomen who wanted classes that were short, effective “and a blast”, while LA celebrities favour core power yoga, for strengthening body and mind – hour-long classes in a clean, candlelit room that looks more like a spa.
Burning calories to slim and sculpt with sweat sessions that rock is a far cry from the soulless gym with its dreary weight-lifting machines, treadmills, TVs and an atmosphere more about punishment and duress than enjoyment. Shortall has plans to change all that, to combine fitness, dance and yoga under the one roof in a welcoming atmosphere with coffee, juices and cool clothing. “Music is hugely important in class and it changes how you feel. My aim would be that people leave on a high and want to come back for more, a place for women to hang out. Consistency is very important and attention to detail. It’s all about quality, and no cutting of corners.”
For the past 15 years Shortall has racked up her credentials in Ireland as a freelance choreographer keeping abreast of industry trends. She teaches (a recent class she organised was how to dance in high heels with US choreographer Sheryl Murakami), has a team of dancers at the ready, and when movies are shot in Ireland, has organised work opportunities for dancers.
She has operated in the corporate arena, team building through dance, or provided Flash Mob entertainment. Her clients have included Facebook, Twitter, Google and LinkedIn. In LA she trained with some of the best dance choreographers in the world, who work with singers such as Rihanna, Usher and Justin Timberlake.“So I was at the core of the dance world every day,” she says with a smile.
The Irish are much more fitness aware since the downturn, she reckons. “I see a real shift here in people’s attitude towards their health in general. Instead of buying stuff to feel good, it’s about mindfulness courses and how to get your mental health back. Music and dancing are very uplifting.”
So, what to wear and look cool in these sweaty workout environments? These photos of the latest gear, worn by Shortall, were taken in famous LA locations such as Venice Beach and the Hollywood Hills and in the Exhale Yoga Studios in Santa Monica. “Everybody wears fitness, sports, leisure wear all the time, at any age there,” she says. The outfits were chosen to suit the various activities that mix fitness exercises with ballet poses, running, biking and stretching, to commercial MTV dance styles. “People work a look when they come to the class – you have to look the part.”
[ janeshortall.com ]