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The LGBTQ-inclusive dance class for people of all sexualities, sizes and abilities

Meet ClassPass partner Joelle D’Fontaine, who founded At Your Beat to prove that dance doesn’t discriminate.

2020-01-07

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What motivated you to start At Your Beat?

I was working for other dance companies that were constantly telling people to dance like someone else and not really be themselves in order to be confident. I didn’t like this approach and felt that a lot of the businesses didn’t want to promote or include other types of people. Most dance classes and dance fitness classes were targetted towards cisgender women and I felt it needed to be broader and involve people of all genders, sexual orientations and ethnic backgrounds. So, I decided to begin teaching on my own and started telling people to do things their way, rather than following the beat of others.

Can you sum up At Your Beat up in a nutshell?

It’s a dance and fitness community that is all about doing things at your own beat. You might start dancing to get fit, but you happily end up with a dance community that supports you, helps you build confidence and ultimately lets you know that though you may be a beginner, you don’t have to be basic. The tools we give people through the medium of dance can be applied to everything in life.

 
 
 
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Yea I did a whole photo shoot in this epic light. Fight me 💁🏽‍♂️ @nike @nikelondon

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What’s your dance background — how did you get into it?

I actually didn’t train in dancing at all. I started dancing in Heaven nightclub, where I was scouted by dance agent Mark Summers. Originally, I was just dancing in the club every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday with a group who became really close friends. Then I got into dance ads and videos through my agent, and started going to other dance classes at studios before teaching at Frame Shoreditch. It went from there.

What’s your favourite style of dance?

Commercial jazz. I like it because it’s visually very fun and dramatic, and something that everybody has in them naturally.

What do you tell people who think they have no rhythm and would worry about embarrassing themselves in a dance class?

I would say, 'So what!' Just jump in at the deep end .Embarrassing ourselves in class is part of learning! When you were at school and you didn’t know the answer to something or you didn’t know how to do something, you had to embarrass yourself to find out. At the moment, we worry too much about being a beginner, but I tell people that they should embrace it because if you mean business, you’re not going to stay that way for long. It’s only scary if you consider yourself to be someone who can’t grow or learn. Everyone’s level and speed of learning is different, and that’s OK.

What are your top three tracks or artists to dance to?

I love anything by Missy Elliott. She embodies dance and enjoyment in her music and videos. I am also really a fan of Leikeli47, all her music is a bop and even if you don’t know how to dance, you want to learn when you hear her music. At the moment, I’m also loving Kash Doll’s 'Doin Too Much'.

 
 
 
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Dancing with my one true love @kashpowell @atyourbeatstudio class with Scotland’s finest @erynsuniverse

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How does your sexuality feed into your work?

Dance is a liberating form of expression, which I and a lot of LGBTQ people use to express themselves freely. I also feel there’s a lot of toxic masculinity embedded in the community, which I use my work to dismantle: one moment, you may see me dancing to Cardi B, living my best 'I’m-a-stripper' life, and the next I’ll be doing a hip-hop routine to Drake. My message is that’s it’s just dance: it doesn’t make you any one way and if you think it does, then you need to have a conversation with yourself. My sexuality allows me to go to these places, and that’s a great thing.

What’s the most rewarding part of what you do?

Getting to see all these people — of different backgrounds, ages, sexual orientations, ethnicities, genders, body sizes, disabilities and classes — dancing together and giving zero fucks about how they look. My work is all about creating spaces that allow people to celebrate themselves, and to celebrate others who they might normally just pass on the street.

ClassPass offers a more versatile approach to health and fitness than traditional gym memberships – is it important to keep things varied when it comes to exercise?

It’s really important to do other things. If you’re used to being in the gym and doing weight-training, you should also do something that keeps you more mobile. If you’re always spinning or doing yoga, you should do something with weights to build your strength. Also, it’s good to do things alone sometimes — if your friends aren’t going with you, you’ll make new ones. Try something new each month, even if you only do it once.

What else do you do besides dance?

Most people don’t know, but I Iove rollerblading. I don’t do it with my friends because none of them want to, but I’ll go zooming around the park, then go and dance or go to the gym.

Why should ClassPass members give At Your Beat a go?

Why shouldn’t they? If you look through your list of classes and they are generally all the same, it’s time for change. Come to At Your Beat and discover all the sauce you didn’t know you even had!

ClassPass is set to expand further across the UK in 2020, giving people the chance to create their perfect fitness routine with activities including everything from HIIT, cycling, swimming and dance, to yoga, meditation, cryotherapy and floatation tanks. Mono-gym-y is overrated — when it comes to fitness and wellness, an open relationship is something to be celebrated.