Fluorescent lights beam through a dark room, full of dancers in neon attire that glows in the black light. Music pulsates as their hands flail in the air.
What sounds like a typical Saturday on U Street was instead the scene Monday night during black-light Zumba at Ignight Fitness in Sterling, Virginia. Zumba fitness isn’t new, but Ignight puts a spin on the 15-year-old sensation by offering its classes in a “clublike” atmosphere lit solely by black lights.
I headed to the studio, located near Dulles Airport, for a 6:10 session, which was packed with more than 40 people. After welcoming everyone (especially newcomers to Zumba), instructor Mark Lewis yelled, “Are you ready to work?” as he cranked up the music. The mass of dancers—ranging from novices to experts—started jumping up and down as Latin beats filled the air.
If you’re uncoordinated or too shy to dance in front of others, this is the class for you. The use of black lights is key for the studio’s atmosphere, as it helps participants feel comfortable, says Alexa Tsui, who, along with Lewis, started Ignight almost two years ago. She and Lewis also decided against putting mirrors in the studios, “so people would pay more attention to how dancing makes them feel rather than how they look.”
Five minutes into the workout, my heart was pumping and my clothes were drenched in sweat. The interval-based class, broken up by songs and choreography, is nonstop, but participants could take breaks as often as they needed. Each hourlong sessions includes 16 choreographed routines set to songs such as “Love & Party” by Joey Montana and “El Teke Teke” by Crazy Design and Carlitos Wey. The first three songs compose the warmup, focused on large muscle groups, cardio, and smaller muscle groups. The next ten songs accompany routines ranging from very high intensity to low intensity and incorporate exercises focused on specific body parts. The 13th song is the “last-chance workout,” the hardest routine of the class. It’s followed by a breather song to lower heart rates, and then the lights pop back on for a post-workout stretch. Throughout each song, Lewis kept up the energy, encouraging everyone to keep moving and reminding us to breathe.
Despite my previous dance training, the cha-chas, hip circles, and shimmies were still a little difficult to catch first time around. Novice dancers might need a few sessions to really get the moves down—but the lights being off means if you can’t get it, you can make it up! The instructors cue the choreography breakdown and encourage the dancers to get crazy—what happens in black-light Zumba stays in black-light Zumba.
And that’s the beauty of Ignight Fitness. I never once worried about what people thought of my moves, leaving me free to focus on having fun—and burning calories.
Ignight Fitness. 1323 Shepard Dr., Suite C, Sterling; 703-473-7075. Prices range from $50 to $180 for passes and $5 for a drop-in. The first class is free.