When Andrea Jacob decided to get her hands dirty in the field of dance and fitness, she chose to do it with a bang. Integrated Fitness is a new concept that incorporates freedom of movement with creative elements to help children and adults embrace healthy living. Inspired by the way children move — without a sense of social consequence — Andrea refuses to be limited to being just another dance instructor.
The Chennai-bred artist was one of eight children in a musically-inclined family. “Music and dance were a part of all our get-togethers, and my parents, who danced the tango at every wedding, were my inspriation,” she said. “I chose dance as my career because I saw my grandmother dancing at 84 and it was motivating that my career did not have to die with age,” she added.
She dreamt of going abroad and studying dance after her undergraduate studies at Stella Maris College, Chennai but she got a chance to teach children at a summer camp called ‘Akara’, and her love for teaching children was born.
She believes her performance as an artist improves every time she interacts with children below five years of age. She says, “Children experiment with their bodies and let imagination drive their movements. A chair is just a chair to an adult, but to a child it is a space that can be explored and used in various ways. That is why I work with children.”
What does she teach?
Andrea’s style of teaching dance is unique because she does not restrict her classes to just one form of dance. She juxtaposes various styles of dance, music and drama in a broad style called ‘creative movement’. She started this project to be able to inculcate age specific workouts so that the individual is able to deal with core issues that arise as the body changes with age.
She has a ‘Mum and Me’ programme for toddlers and their mothers, and a ‘Drama Babies’ programme for children between three and five years of age. Her objective for this set of classes was to win the children’s trust and let them show their knowledge. She says, “Children at that age are natural storytellers, and my role is to listen to their stories, convert the space into an imaginary set up and help them transform every visual of the story into physical action.” Since they come up with numerous whacky ideas, Andrea says she learns more from them than they do from her.
In the ‘Modern Moves’ programme for kids aged between five and 12, the children pick a colour that Andrea assigns a move to and then many colours are put together to form a dance routine. “The reason why this concept works with kids is because colour is something they can associate with and see all around them, and they are attached to the moves because they select the colours.”
Andrea, who has seven dogs, says she is sometimes inspired by the way her dogs move. “Dogs are true yogis, they do things that resemble yoga positions and they leave me completely baffled. I try to work my body into doing the same and create movements.” She believes that everything around a person can be used as a source of inspiration for better health and fitness, but that it takes a keen sense of observation and an unswerving imagination to recognise it and use it to the fullest.
Apart from the classes for kids, Andrea has introduced a programme called ‘Flabs to Abs’ for women and is working on various other things that are planned for this year. A woman who took a whole year to de-stress after burning herself out in the field of dance and cinema, is now brimming with ideas — workshops, fitness regimes, dance training and theatre for kids — that are much deeper than just money making gimmicks that have spawned all over Chennai in the last couple of years. For more details visit Adrea’s website www.andreajacob.com.