ENCINITAS — At the Be Move Dance Connect studio with the lights down low, 10 adult women sit cross-legged on the floor, rolling their heads in unison to a remix of the seductive Tove Lo hit, “Talking Body.”
Later, the group will throw on high heels and dance a short combination to a pop diva jam. This class, called “Sass and Strut,” is offered weekly at Be Move Dance Connect, a studio offering dance classes for adults in the area.
Kelly Unruh is a regular who found the class after taking a few years off from dance.
“I can be free, and I can move and nobody’s judging,” Unruh said. “It’s trying different things and moving my body in different ways that I never did before.”
Around North County, several dance classes cater to the interests of adults like Unruh. From classical ballet to cardio hip hop, the community — while still growing — is vibrant.
Be Move Dance Connect owner Elease Sgarbosa grew up dancing in the area, and has noticed a shift in attitudes toward dance.
“People used to say, ‘oh you’re a dancer, I could never dance,’” Sgarbosa explained. “Now I’m seeing people wanting to learn about it first, and then walk into a studio and actually do it.”
Down the street from Be, the Performing Arts Workshop (PAW) in Encinitas offers traditional ballet classes for adults. On a Saturday morning, people of all ages sweat it out — and share a few laughs — in the biggest class of the week.
PAW Artistic Director Emily Miller says the growing interest in ballet reflects a media and culture shift that is making the artform less exclusive, more accessible and more appealing.
“People realize dancers have to be athletes,” Miller said. “Ballet becomes a fun and interesting way for people to stay in shape.”
Yet adults aren’t just flocking to dance classes for the workout. For many, these one- to two-hour sessions are fun way to get social.
“Most of our classes are filled, because one person will come and bring their friends,” Sgarbosa said. “We call them sweat dates.”
Then after several of those sweat dates, Miller says dancers start to become more than just people working out together — they form a community.
“The studio is the church, it’s the therapist’s office and it’s the coffee shop,” Miller said.
For a lot of people, the hardest part of getting involved with the dance community is just showing up. At Be, Sgarbosa says she keeps the culture welcoming and light-hearted to eliminate any nerves or negative thoughts.
“We laugh at ourselves,” Sgarbosa said. “We want to invite other people to get to that place and not be so serious and judgmental and hard on themselves.”
As the women of Sass and Strut work it to Beyoncé on a Monday night, that fun and inviting energy radiates off the mirrors and around the studio. For women like Unruh, the class is also an empowering experience — one that she recommends to anyone looking to shake up their routine, regardless of past dance experience.
“It’s a great way to be free, relax and have fun and forget about your daily stuff for an hour,” Unruh said. “Don’t be afraid. Just try it — you never know what could happen.”