Every Thursday evening, Durham Parks and Recreation hosts their free hip-hop aerobics class led by Rukea Womack and Rictice McKiver on the second floor of the Holton Career and Resource Center. All are encouraged to come to have fun and break a sweat while doing it.
Located at 401 N. Driver St., Holton was an abandoned former middle school before its renovation. With the help of both the city and county of Durham, Durham Public Schools, and the Duke University health system, the dilapidated building was transformed from a health hazard into a cornerstone of downtown Durham in 2009.
Now, the $16.7 million center is a multi-use community space that offers vocational education courses, a neighborhood clinic and wellness center, and a satellite Durham Parks and Recreation office alongside summer and community programs out on the playground.
“The sole purpose of hip hop aerobics is to appeal to the urban citizen and encourage them to work out in an environment that is familiar to them and things that they can relate to, but still get the point across of being active and getting your workout on,” Womack said.
During the beginning of the class that I attended, Womack brought attention to the fact that it was dark. She said it was because they wanted to set the ambiance and make everyone feel comfortable in case people were self conscious about others looking at them or fear of messing up the moves. She made it clear that it was a no judgement zone and that they were all there to have fun, but also sweat. The one rule they did make clear was to not stop moving in order to keep their heart rate up, even if they are just going to get a drink of water.
The room was filled with music from the dj in the corner and lit up with various strobes of lights, similar to the atmosphere of a nightclub produced by a machine in the back.
The class started off with warm-ups and light stretches, which Womack instructed with energy and enthusiasm. The sense of engagement in the class was given as Womack turned around to the women behind her and yelled, “aye” in approval to them hitting the moves.
Hip hop aerobics is a real workout, and that became evident when people began walking to the side for a water break just seventeen minutes after the class had begun. The class was full of energy and encouragement from the instructors.
“Come on ladies, don’t get lazy!”
“I see you!”
So much support was filling the room, it is almost impossible to feel the need to give up. The music was also something that kept the women’s energy high. It ranged from trap, to twerk, to r&b songs with a remixed beat to fit the high energy that the class gave off, and more. It was all enough to make you want to move and let loose, and that’s what this class is about.
After the class, Temika A. said that she felt great.
“The class was full of energy, and the instructors kept us engaged,” she said. The music was also something she spoke highly of, and the class is something she said she would definitely recommend
A tip Womack gives to people who may consider her class is, “not to be discouraged that you can’t do it, that you can’t dance, that you can’t keep up because we have all levels of people that come to the class and we encourage people to perform at their level but give it their all.” She explains that you get out of the class what you put into it. She also tells people to not get turned off at the fact that it’s “hip hop aerobics” because many people may shy away out of self doubt in their hip hop dance skills, but the class is not just hip hop, it is a little bit of everything and it is open to everyone, male or female, dancer or not.
Ericka Dudley said that she was tired from the week and was not going to come, but she decided to anyway. She enjoyed her second attendance to the class even though she said, “ I’m tired and my stomach is in my lap.”
Womack was born in Bahama, N.C., but she has basically been in Durham all of her life, and graduated from Northern High and has been dancing since forever. The biggest challenge for her is the commitment of getting to class every Thursday on top of juggling her job, wifehood, and also motherhood to her three children. Hip hop aerobics is not something she gets paid for, she chose to do it because it is something she believes in.
Her goal for 2019 is to increase the participation and hire a professional instructor. She sees her classes benefiting the community by “bringing a fitness component to a level that people can relate to in this community, that can motivate them to work out and still not feel like dreading it, but actually have fun while working out and bringing the two together,” Womack said.
These classes are offered every Thursday from 7 – 8 p.m and will end on May 30, 2019.
Story by Cheyenne Beasley.