I’m sliding towards the bar across a darkened dancefloor, disco lights scattering colourful Skittles of light around my feet. But instead of a cocktail, I grab a bottle of water and a fluffy white towel. Despite the initial vibe being “after hours at G-A-Y”, it’s actually 11am on a Sunday morning, and I’m in the basement club of a hotel on the edge of Soho — stone-cold sober.
Last Sunday, the London Edition launched Body Party, a new disco-dance class residency in collaboration with the cult studio At Your Beat. Disco fitness is back in vogue, swept along in the nostalgic Eighties resurgence, thanks in part to the latest series of Netflix’s Stranger Things, set in 1986, which sent Kate Bush’s 1985 hit Running Up That Hill to the top of the charts and helped Sony Walkmans make a comeback. Beyoncé’s latest album, Renaissance, is fuelling the trend with its strains of disco and synth-pop.
Held in the hotel’s nightclub, which is equipped with full DJ decks and lighting by Patrick Woodroffe — who has lit everyone from Abba to Elton John — the Sunday morning classes are complimentary for hotel residents and £12 for drop-ins. It’s also on the health club app ClassPass, which is how several of my dance troupe found it.
The London Edition is a five-star hotel near Mayfair
It usually takes a trio of margaritas to get me on a dancefloor, but as the Jacksons belt out Shake Your Body, my hips defiantly start to sway. “Body Party is perfect for people that don’t want to go to an actual dance class but just want to dance,” Garry Lee Sorhaindo, At Your Beat’s choreographer and instructor, tells me. He has chunky, tattooed arms and a cheeky boy-band grin, and spent 12 years working in musical theatre, appearing in shows including Dirty Dancing and Starlight Express.
“People don’t want to go to the gym any more,” he adds. “Yes, they want to exercise, but they want to boogie and escape the real world for 45 minutes.” According to Gymcatch, a UK-based fitness class booking system, dance and rhythm classes have been the most-booked type of exercise for three years in a row.
Like Einstein, I suffer from left-right confusion and spend the first few songs step-kicking the opposite way to the rest of the group. But Sorhaindo’s infectious moves and kind, effervescent demeanour — not to mention the tunes from J-Lo, Ricky Martin and Tina Turner — mean I’m bumping and grinding like Shakira before I know it.
Over the 45-minute class, Sorhaindo leads us through a routine of arm curls, shimmies, hip rolls and vogueing. I have a flashback to my teenage bedroom, where my best friends and I spent entire weekends perfecting our dance routine to Madonna’s Into the Groove.
The class was launched in collaboration with cult studio At Your Beat
AKIRA SUEMOR FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES
There are ten of us in today’s class, and while I’m the oldest by at least a decade, I feel able to shake my booty with the best of them — although I’m still thankful that the lighting is flatteringly low. The routine is relatively comfortable, not all power grabs and head rolls. “It never feels like you’re going to the gym or doing a HIIT workout,” says Sorhaindo.
Even so, I still work up a sweat, and luckily I’m able to freshen up in my room. Just off Oxford Street and within shimmying distance of Soho’s bars and clubs, the London Edition’s modern rooms, with their Scandi-style teak panelling and bear-like faux fur throws, are often only occupied in the early hours. But the hotel is worth it even if you just want to stay in.
Body Party is a workout with a disco soundtrack
AKIRA SUEMOR FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES
The lobby bar, with its bottle-green velvet sofas and vast stucco ceiling dominated by a huge polished chrome art installation reminiscent of the Chicago Bean, has a vibey atmosphere. No doubt this is oiled by its extensive offering of cocktails, such as the “ageing hipster” (£18). The Punch Room, meanwhile, is a cosy club-style bar serving cut-glass bowls of punch, such as the Edition, with Plymouth gin, Bénédictine and zesty orange-flower water (£14pp).
It’s easy to work up an appetite here, and the magnificent Berners Tavern, with its soaring stucco ceilings and gilt-framed art, has a satisfying seasonal British menu, overseen by the lauded chef Jason Atherton. Dishes include roasted lemon sole with royal blue prawns (£45) and poached lobster mac and cheese (£36). At breakfast I load up on a full English (£19) with Dingley Dell sausage, smoked bacon and fat portobello mushrooms, so there’s a high chance I’ll need a follow up session with Sorhaindo.
The London Edition’s lobby bar, with its bottle-green velvet sofas and vast stucco ceiling
At Your Beat offers a variety of other classes and workshops in its studios across London, from RnBeat, which is hip-hop and street dance, VideoBeat for routines from music videos — perfect for my 15-year-old self — and StrutBeat, where you can learn how to dance in heels.
“We always say our classes are beginner classes, but not basic,” says Sorhaindo. “People want to learn more than the step dig. But our teachers are all shapes, sizes and ages; we want people to feel comfortable. I was leading an R&B class and we had a 60-year-old woman who came with her two nieces. I had no idea until she said, ‘Not bad for 66, eh?’ ” If she’s anything like me, she left fizzing with endorphins for the rest of the day.
For those of us who can only dance with the aid of alcohol, Body Party is the perfect opportunity to learn some slick moves — and actually remember them the morning after. As Kylie says, Your Disco Needs You.