Doing a body good by dance
Dancercising is big business in Barbados. And Marsha Whittaker, 29, and Randy Payne, 39, have been capitalizing on its opportunities for about a year now. Whittaker and Payne came together in February, 2014, to start Bajantics Dancercise, offering a potpourri of fitness moves through a fusion of Afro-Caribbean, ballroom and Latin dance moves.
The operation started at the Sugar Cane Mall in Roebuck Street, The City, but soon outgrew that location, and now operates a stone’s throw away at the Police Sports Club.
There are about 50 clients in the first evening class, starting just after 5 p.m., and 20 plus in the second beginning just after 6 p.m. And Whittaker tells Barbados TODAY that those numbers are set to grow as people more and more are realizing the benefits working out as you dance.
Further, the dancing enthusiast sees no other way of earning a living while keeping happy and ensuring others are happy too.
“ . . . You are having fun while losing weight. So that is like killing two birds with one stone. To me that is perfect. You come in a forum where you know you can enjoy yourself and at the end of enjoyment you lose weight. I don’t think there is anything better because with exercising you have to find a way to enjoy it or else you won’t feel to exercise,” she explained.
Payne also sees the business as viable, saying he had noticed an increase in the number of people interested in keeping fit through vigorous dance movements.
“People are more serious than before . . . . Years ago when I first started out in my own business, with a different name, we used to make a fair set of money. And a lot of people were thinking that there was no money in that! I know as a business it is viable,” said Payne.
And, given the growing demand, the duo already have plans of expanding.
“We don’t want Bajantics to be just a household name; we want it to be regional. The direction we are going in I believe that is where we are headed,” said Whittaker, who also divulged the two were hoping to open sometime at a location of their very own.
“Because this is the first year we will have to rent –– probably going into the next couple of years, but along the way we are constantly saving . . . .
And very soon the business will be taking up the full week “because we have persons asking about Tuesdays and Thursdays . . . . I can’t leave out the persons who can’t make Monday, Wednesday and Fridayclasses,” Whittaker explained.
And with the many options available at dancercise classes she and business partner are not worried about competition –– and that is from her point of view everybody has a role to play on this earth.
“I think my role is for Bajantics Dancercise. Somebody else’s role might be Zumba; somebody else’s might be whatever . . . . We all have our part to play.”
With a strong passion for dancing, Whittaker started her own dance group Delightful Dancers in 2008. At that time she would offer her services in the tourism industry –– and elsewhere.
“Some of my dancers performed behind various artistes during the Crop Over season and outside of the season. So dancing was always a part of me. I just love it. I find that you have so much fun and you can express yourself!
“If something is troubling me, I dance. I find that once you hear that rhythm and that beat, you get going and you are not worried any more,” Whittaker said.
It was after attending one of Payne’s Black Diamonds Academy Of Dance classes last year, that Whittaker decided on forming a partnership with Payne, who immediately agreed. Despite the ongoing economic downturn, they would quickly get over their initial challenge of encouraging people to attend classes.
“It is like planting a seed . . . and it grows into a beautiful plant or tree; and I find that is where we are headed . . . .
“And in our first year we have had people who have lost up to 50 pounds and they are still going,” she said.
And although she wants her clients to be happy and have fun while working out, Whittaker admits she is “not easy at all” when it comes to ensuring they adhere to their planned diets and keeping up with classes.
“I love fun, but when it comes to doing what you are supposed to, I push and I motivate. I don’t give up, because if you want to lose the weight, you have to lose the weight,” she said, adding that she would stay in touch with her clients via instant messaging outside of class time.
And having started her Bajantics Dancercise duties as a part-time job, Whittaker told Barbados TODAY that there was nothing else she would rather be doing now.
“My heart is really into this,” she said, adding her satisfaction came when her clients reported progress or achieved targets set. And the St Michael resident is so passionate about what she does, she said the word to describe her love for her job had yet been created.
Like Whittaker, Payne admits he likes to see people happy, and he too believes that dancing is an excellent way of achieving that happiness. And as they expand their operations they want to see more males getting involved.
“I think that males should dance because they get a lot of coordination from it. They also learn their bodies a lot better and know which muscles to flex when you do certain things.
“I find that some guys come and say, ‘This looks good; but only if I saw two more males doing it I would join’. But I say, ‘Just come and do it’,” Payne stated.
“I don’t know what’s happening. The males are kind of scared. Maybe it’s because they associate dancing with a more feminine gender. But the men can come out too,” added Whittaker.
And as the country continues to battle with growing numbers of chronic non-communicable diseases, Payne says exercising while dancing is a good way of helping to tackle that problem in both children and adults.
The duo said they were seeking to engage various groups, as well as primary and secondary schools, in an effort to help more people to stay fit while being happy.
“That is something we are working towards this year to take Bajantics into the primary and secondary schools. People see it and say they don’t know how to dance; so they don’t come. But you don’t have to know how to dance,” Whittaker explained.