By Merlene Davis
A co-worker, who used to be my friend, urged me to take an exercise class she had found that was “fun and different.”
I’ve never described exercise as fun. Those two words should not be used in the same sentence as far as I’m concerned, I said.
Booiaka is different, she said.
What I saw was a room filled with women of various ages and body types who did seem to be having fun. It was more dance than exercise, complete with music that made standing still quite difficult, even for me.
Booiaka, pronounced boo-ya-ka, is a dance fitness program that takes bits of several dance styles and fuses them into something you might find yourself doing when no one is watching. Latin, Brazilian, Jamaican, hip-hop and old-school R&B beats encourage the body to follow carefully choreographed movements that have the same results as a fitness class.
These participants were following the lead of Tara Johnson, owner of Exalted Fitness at Imani Baptist Church, who is a certified master Booiaka instructor.
“Booiaka is basically a dance-fitness class,” Johnson said. “It allows people to release themselves. It allows me to be me. I am a free-spirit individual.”
She had us twisting, twerking and moving our bodies in ways mine hadn’t moved since I used to go to clubs. OK. Maybe I was simply attempting to twerk. Still, it was indeed fun.
Booiaka was created in 2008 by Italian choreographer and dancer Tatiana Tamai after she moved to Los Angeles. It is an intense workout, but the moves are repeated frequently making them easy to remember and follow. Booiaka takes the intimidation factor out of dance. Each class builds on the previous one, with at least one new move added each time. After about a month, new choreography is started.