My UAE: Getting fit without the attitude with Adagio studio owner Nashwa Hamad

The Emirati's energy, along with her eagerness to uplift others, is reflected in her personal style – she wears a bright-blue floral dress with a blingy, eye-shaped pendant upon meeting at Adagio.
Nashwa Hamad at Dubai studio Adagio . Satish Kumar / The National
Nashwa Hamad at Dubai studio Adagio . Satish Kumar / The National

Those who have attempted fitness and dance classes in the UAE, especially in Dubai, may have been quickly put off by the lack of beginner-friendly environments. Often, class members are quite skilled, if not borderline professional, which can make the experience all the more intimidating for first-timers. Nashwa Hamad, a 31-year-old Emirati, realised there was a gap in the market for more relaxed, light-hearted studios, so decided to open up her own: Adagio.

Hamad’s energy, along with her eagerness to uplift others, is reflected in her personal style – she wears a bright-blue floral dress with a blingy, eye-shaped pendant when we meet at Adagio.

“It is a professional dance studio, and we’ve got professional teachers, but our main target audience is the non-professional dancer, who would like to stay fit and have fun at the same time, or dance their way to fitness, per se,” she tells me. “One day they can do something classical such as ballet, and the next day they can choose Zumba, if they feel like sweating the fat out,” she laughs.

The studio offers a range of different dance and fitness forms, including Bollywood, belly dancing and West African dance, along with aerial hoops, aerial silks and yoga.

Adagio’s all-welcoming vibe ensures that it’s not a place for up-tight, ultra-professional fitness enthusiasts with any “I worked for Cirque du Soleil” entities, she explains.

Before starting Adagio, Hamad worked as a television producer while doing her master’s in diplomacy and international relations.

“As you can imagine, I had been constantly sitting, either working in the studio, or editing or sitting in class, and I got so lazy,” she says. Then, a friend took her to an aerial-hoops class, and Hamad loved it. “I noticed that a lot of people around me were mostly non-locals, and non-Arabs, and I decided that I wanted to start something where I could target everyone, including Arabs, and locals, to stay fit, while having fun,” she says.

Hamad believes that businesses often have a tendency to overlook potential Emirati clientele. “They’re never targeted as an audience or customer. People have this idea that Arab women should be targeted when it’s about fashion, make-up or shopping – that’s it,” she says.

Establishing Adagio took more than a year and a half, but located in the i-Rise Tower in Barsha Heights, it’s now up and running, and has partnered with fitness-pass platform GuavaPass. Hamad hopes this will bring more people to Adagio and help to grow the studio’s community. Her long-term plan is to open a second branch in Abu Dhabi.

While sceptics may disregard dance fitness as an easy, inefficient form of working out, Hamad offers them a challenge: “Just try to come and lift your body up during an aerial class. It requires a lot of upper arm strength, core strength, fast thinking and coordination. You need to know how your body works.”

Having had her passion for dance and fitness fuelled by the friend, Hamad believes that peer pressure is the ultimate form of motivation and can help kick-start the Adagio community. “We’ll aim for a client’s more athletic friends to drag them back here,” she says. “This is basically peer pressure, but used for something positive.”

What are your all-time favourite books?

Ian Bremmer’s Every Nation for Itself (non-fiction) and William Landlay’s Defending Jacob (fiction).

What’s your favourite place to have lunch in the UAE?

Caramel in DIFC.

What five things are always in your gym bag?

Shampoo, deodorant, fingered socks (yoga socks), soap bar (prefer them to gel) and hand moisturiser.

What’s your favourite city to travel to?


What’s one concert you would never miss?

Michael Jackson. I’m still sad I never saw him live.

What’s currently the most-played song on your iPod?

It’s Arabic; Ala al bal by Mohammed Abdo.

Which actress would play you in a movie about your life?

Mila Kunis.

Describe your favourite outfit to work out in.

I like the pink collection from VS and recently found some cool workout clothes in Bershka.

What is your dream car?

I love four-wheel drives.

What’s currently on the top of your shopping wish-list?

A new smartphone.

What’s your favourite form of fitness?

Aerial Fitness (hoops and silk hammock) then a bit of yoga for flexibility.

If you could be a back-up dancer for any singer, who would it be?

Anyone who has an aerial show.

Published: September 14, 2016 04:00 AM


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