A couple of weeks ago, I had my annual physical with my doctor who asked me, along with other devastatingly personal questions, “How many times a week do you do cardio?”
“Once a week,” I replied sheepishly.
“Why only once a week?”
“Because I only go to the club on Saturdays.”
And then he gave me that look. That look that unmistakably said, ‘girl, get your life.’
Staying fit can be hard; no one knows this better than myself. Trying to find time during your busy day, coupled with a pricey gym membership, a sense of fatigue that you may or may not be feeling and a lack of motivation are all daily obstacles that keep us from getting the workout our bodies deserve. And classes? To me, classes are the worst because I always feel like a loser that can never do any of the moves the instructor gives correctly. So when our girl Tika Simone hit us up with the opportunity to participate in a fitness class with Yendi Phillipps, initially, I was hesitant. But after reading up a bit on Yendi and watching her fitness video demos, I had a change of heart.
Yendi is a choreographer, spokesperson, host and mother as well as Miss Jamaica World 2007 and Miss Jamaica Universe 2010. She’s been dancing since the age of 3 and went on to receive her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance. Yendi studied various forms of dancing including Modern, Jazz, African, Jamaican Folklore and Popular Dance, which has kept her in the best shape of her life. She went on to create In The Dance Fitness Jamaica to help and inspire others to get into shape as well as to showcase Jamaica’s vibrant and beautiful dance culture to the world.
She hosted a set of fitness classes in Toronto to celebrate the release of her DVD where the exercises draw from traditional Dancehall, Reggae and Soca moves – all genres that are very danceable and popular in the Toronto clubs thanks to a thriving West Indian community. I began to warm up to the idea of attending Yendi’s class so I gladly accepted Tika’s invite and brought along my friend and occasional Bad Perm contributer Kassandra.
When we arrived at City Dance Corps where the class was being held we ran into a familiar face, Bee from ’83 To Infinity. Bee is in her second trimester of pregnancy and committed to staying fit and healthy for her baby. She not only participated for the entire class but also did it with grace and ease. The studio quickly filled up with women from all walks of life and varying physical abilities and we even had a young man join us!
For a little over half an hour, we went from learning basic dancehall moves to some more complex routines (like practically standing on our head-tops while we used our legs for movement.) The dance steps were combined with some more traditional fitness moves (like lunges and sit-ups) but the lively reggae/soca music and the sexiness of the routines made it feel less like work and more like fun. All the ladies (and gentleman) laughed throughout the class and pretty soon we were all commenting on the various muscle groups that were beginning to feel a little sore.
Afterwards, Bad Perm had a chance to speak with Yendi and ask her a few questions;
Bad Perm: What inspired you to create the In The Dance Fitness Jamaica?
Yendi: I am a dancer, I’ve been dancing since I was 3 years old, I have a Bachelor of Arts in Dance and Dancehall has always been my way of staying in shape and keeping active. When I was competing for the Miss Universe and Miss World competitions, dance was my way to get that swimsuit body, because it is a big part of the competition – how your body looks in swimwear. And so what I decided to do was to merge what I’d used to stay fit with my dancehall culture and put the two together and create this product, In The Dance Fitness.
BP: For beginners like us…
Yendi: You guys are not beginners, you guys were great!
BP: [laughing] What are some tips you can give us to not only make a perfect form but also make it easier to do?
Yendi: I definitely think you always have to engage your core. Always pull the belly button to the spine. Also, don’t be afraid to look silly! That’s the beauty of dance and dancehall, because everyone has a different way of dancing and style. Put the essence of who you are in the movement. It’s supposed to be fun, it’s what happens in the dance in a party, so imagine it being a party. That’s why I did the circle at the end and had you doing your own thing. Its supposed be a carefree and fun but you’re still toning, you’re sculpting, you’re burning calories and you’re having a good time.
BP: What are 3 songs that are popular back home in Jamaica that you can recommend people put on their iPods?
Yendi: For sure, Samantha J’s Tight Up Skirt is a big at home. I’d also recommend that people get Aidonia’s Fi Di Jokey, that’s a good one. I’d also recommend Busy Signal’s Watch Out Fi Dis and I’d also recommend [erupts in laugher] when do I stop? One Drop by QQ, that’s a big one. Girl, I could go on and on! Right now dancehall is nice. Dancehall is in a good place.
Yendi is an energetic and motivating instructor who immediately put the class at ease by reassuring us that we were all doing better than we thought. She shared some witty jokes and was a pleasure to speak with. Yes, it goes without saying that the woman is absolutely stunning, but her beauty radiates from within. It comes from a place that is committed to living a healthy, positive lifestyle and her efforts to help other people get into shape is truly what makes this beauty a queen.
We left the class with a copy of Yendi’s In The Dance Fitness Jamaica DVD as well as the Total Reggae CD (Various Artists – VP Music Group) to take home so we could keep up with everything we’d learned that day. The DVD is easy to follow and entertaining enough to motivate you to practice with it regularly. It is available for purchase in Wal-Mart stores across Canada.
Once again, a special thanks goes out to the lovely Tika Simone for inviting us to participate in Yendi’s class.
Another special shoutout goes to Kassandra for coming with me as well as taking photographs during my interview.