At hip-hop class ‘Urban Jam’, students exercise and have fun

Colleen Bazak, Staff Writer

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If you go down to Shalhevet’s lowest floor after school on a Monday, you’ll hear pop, hip-hop, and R&B music coming from the physical education room. Follow the music and you’ll find a group of energized girls in the middle of a new dance routine.

“Urban Jam” is a once-a-week cardio hip-hop class, offering students a good workout, toned arms and abs, some new dance skills and combinations, and most importantly, fun, for $15 per session.  It’s led by Ms. Caryn Malkus who is also subbing for English Department Chair Ms. Berkey during her maternity leave. The class is the second weekly exercise class for girls, as it joins the student-led Contortion Club that meets on Fridays.

Mostly freshmen attend the class, which will have anywhere from three to 10 students participating.

“It is the perfect place to let off steam and express yourself creatively,” said Caryn.

Freshmen Ariana Feder and Emilie Benyowitz brought the class to Shalhevet in October after taking dance with Caryn for about a year at an adult fitness center.

“We took the class at Swerve, and we wanted it here,” Emilie said. “We asked her and then got permission to have the class from Mr. Tranchi.”

Caryn has been teaching dance for 15 years, and is currently the dance teacher at Pressman Academy and the choreographer for the Jewish Women’s Repertory Company, an all-women theatre company in Los Angeles.

There is a very relaxed atmosphere in the class, as students spend the beginning minutes chatting with each other while they change into sweatpants and t-shirts and spread across the room.

They let loose by warming up to upbeat music. Caryn starts the class with 10 minutes of exercises beginning with head and neck stretches and ending with leg stretches.

“Every week, I see major improvements in my flexibility because of the amount of time we stretch in class,” said Ariana.

After a warm-up, they perform different dance moves to songs on Caryn’s iPod playlist before practicing their latest routine. Caryn choreographs all the songs herself, and it takes about three to four weeks to finish a dance completely. Previous songs arranged have been “Tik-Tok” by Ke$ha and “OMG” by Usher.

Next, the girls work out again, focusing on exercises good for abs and arms.

Urban Jam always ends with a “savasana,” or “corpse pose,” a yoga move where a person lies spread-eagled on the ground, commonly used to finish workouts. With the lights off, the class lies down, closes its eyes, and listens to mellow music.

“It involves total relaxation of your mind and body, allowing yourself to just ‘be’ after an intense workout,” said Caryn.

The dance class, which will run until the end of May, has earned rave reviews from its participants.

“This class helps me get a good workout in a fun way,” said freshman Sydney Miller.