Rated: Shanghai dance classes

We road test a few of the best dance classes in the city


What is it? ‘Everyone should, at some point, do a twerk.’ This was the real talk from Serena Williams this summer, and she’s right. (But when hasn’t she been?)

We had our hesitations – can our boyish hips and less-than fortunate derriere handle the twerk? If we can’t twerk like Serena, do we even want to try at all? Is this cultural appropriation? What if our mothers find out? – but once in class, these fall away. It turns out that twerking is all about the abs. Careful control of your midsection will eventually result in booty shaking to rival the best, we’re told.

Our instructor Queen Diamond leads us through a vigorous 45-minute session, starting with warm-up twerk moves, then a routine to Drake’s ‘One Dance’ and finally, stretches and crunches to cool down. The environment is welcoming, and we don’t feel nearly as silly as we imagined. Queen Diamond is an enthusiastic, encouraging presence throughout –maybe we really are looking as sexy as she says…


Sweat Factor "3 stars"
Fun factor "5 stars"
Cost 100RMB
When Classes are not at fixed times; contact 156 0196 6462, via text or WeChat, for details.

One Park Avenue
is at 801 Wuding Lu, near Changde Lu, Jingan district.



What is it? A class that takes you back to bygone eras, swing classes with Shanghai Swings will teach you to triple step with the best of them. This is a gentle introduction to swing dancing, and also a good way to meet people as you constantly rotate your partners.

We start by learning basic steps and ‘bouncing’ – which is a key part of the happy swinger’s dance repertoire, and by the end have mastered acouple of turns and the beginning of some nifty footwork. The only downside here is that you are reliant on the enthusiasm and competency of your partners; the plus is that you rotate fairly quickly. And as the class progresses, dancers get grouped by ability, making it easier to progress at your own pace. With a wide range of social events around town, this is a great one if you’re looking to make some new friends.

Sweat Factor "2 stars"
Fun factor "3 stars"
Cost 450RMB for four weeks.
When Check shanghaiswings.org for details of the latest courses.

SH Swings is at Room 23A, West Tower, 200 Zhenning Lu, near Dongzhuanbang Lu, Jingan district.



What is it? One of many salsa classes at Fusion Art Centre, this one focuses on the Bachata style of the Dominican Republic. Early nerves are quickly expelled as our lively leader Robin gets us straight into some solo practice before partnering us up (partners are rotated every two to three minutes, which makes it less embarrassing when you forget the moves). Even a beginner can more or less keep up with what Robin is teaching the class, although he says it’s all about giving people more of a repertoire for the dancefloor rather than memorising a specific routine. And, with these moves, we can see why the class is popular. If you fancy giving it a go, they offer free trial classes.

Sweat factor "1 star"
Fun factor "4 stars"
Cost 44 -100RMB (with discounts for buying in bulk).
When Every Tuesday at 8.30pm and Wednesday at 9pm, plus they throw salsa parties every weekend.

Fusion Art Centre is at Bldg F, 652 Changshou Lu, near Jiaozhou Lu, Jingan district.


What is it? Shanghai City Ballet School offers classes in everything from ballet and jazz to tap and pilates, but the class we attended was a contemporary one focusing on flexibility, toning and some mean choreography. The class itself is pretty high level and not exactly aimed at beginners (there was some crazy Matthew Bourne style floor work going on at one point), but the teachers are extremely helpful and clearly experts in their field.

The school has recently moved to a beautiful new studio and the whole atmosphere is pretty meditative and relaxing, despite some intense stretches and toning exercises at the start of the class. The dance style places itself somewhere between ballet and modern dance – there was a lot of deep breathing and arm throwing going on, but also a lot of sweat, and it did feel pretty cool to give in to gravity and throw yourself across the room. The next day our legs were sore and our muscles hurt in places we didn’t know existed, but definitely worth it if you’re looking for some intense toning alongside the chance to escape and relieve some stress. And if you’re still dubious, you can try it out for free if you’re a first-timer.

Sweat factor "4 stars"
Fun factor "3 stars"
Cost 120RMB.
When Every Wednesday at 6.30pm.

Shanghai City Ballet School is at Bldg 16, 76 Wuyuan Lu, near Changshu Lu, Xuhui district.

Hip hop

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What is it? A fun class, boasting moves with attitude. Teacher MJ takes us over our steps in a slow way that’s easy to follow before ramping it up for some proper hip hop. Some of the footwork is a bit tricky, but it’s still a good one for beginners, and when you crank up your moves, you can progress to a higher level class. The studio has a lovely community feel with a wide range of classes, but we’d definitely recommend hip hop for an enjoyable workout.

Sweat Factor "3 stars"
Fun factor "4 stars"
Cost 200RMB.
When Times vary; see souldancing.cn for details.

Souldancing is at 1199 Fuxing Zhong Lu, near Shanxi Nan Lu, Xuhui district.