Dubai dancers beat the heat

A group of dance lovers spend the summer months behind closed doors, spinning and gyrating with acrobatic skill to improve their breakdance and hip-hop moves.

DUBAI - JULY 19,2010 - Students learn breakdance during class at Nora Dance Group  in Knowledge Village ,Dubai. ( Paulo Vecina/The National )

DUBAI // Tucked away in a quiet corner of Knowledge Village lies a little underworld of energetic creativity. Behind the closed doors, the Nora Dance Group is grooming some of the emirate's most talented dancers.

From hip-hop to breakdance, salsa to Bollywood, children and adults are part of a new community of dance lovers. And the heat of summer doesn't stop them. Jessica Dall'anese, 27, who dances about two or three times a week, says she looks forward to her dance classes during the summer when there is little else to do. She has been dancing since the age of 10 and now focuses on hip-hop and breakdance.

"I'm here for most of the summer, so I'm so pleased there are things to do," she says. The training is tough and some breakdance moves can cause serious injuries if not done correctly. Forward and backward rolls, cartwheels and head stands are just some of the basics. Ibrahim al Ibrahim, 23, says he has surprised his friends. "They can't believe I want to start this at my age," he said. "Most of them don't want to do much. They only like football but generally they don't do any kind of sport."

For Mr al Ibrahim, an engineering student at UAE University, says the classes are another way to work out and tone up, along with swimming and running. The gruelling routines he learns in breakdance classes require great physical strength but in just a few weeks he has mastered moves such as the six step, where he must rotate on the floor on his hands, and the freeze, holding a headstand with his legs crossed in the air.

Nora Bouchaibi, the founder of the group, came to the UAE from France nine years ago. "Dancing was more of a hobby back in France but when I came here and I looked for a dance school, there was nothing in Dubai." In 2007, she set up her own dance school, which now has about 250 members. She has dancers of all nationalities but says integrating the local community and having them perform in the school's shows, is vital to its growth.

For the last two years, in the midst of recession, she says the school attracted many students who would otherwise have been on holiday. This year, she says it is less so, but she still offers classes every day. The most popular remain belly dancing and Bollywood, styles which she says reflect the city's demography. Carl Sawaya, 21, who dances about three times a week, is learning hip- hop. He said his friends thought it was funny for him to take up dancing and they thought it was unlikely he could replicate the moves of some of his musical idols such as Chris Brown.

He has already performed in one of the group's shows at the Madinat Theatre in the Dubai Dance Festival, in spite of his stage fright and friends' criticism. "It took a lot of courage to first step into the class but there's so much energy here. It keeps you very fit. It's nice to be able to go out and do more than just bopping your head."