Any exercise class that also offers a mobile party service called “Dial-a-sweat” is most likely an exercise class I can get behind. Add to that retro-inspired choreography and classic tracks, fluoro leotards, legwarmers and her self described “strong party” vibe, and you’ve got Retrosweat, an authentic 80s aerobics class run by founder and 80s fanatic Shannon Dooley.
Inspired by the VHS workouts made famous by Jane Fonda, Denise Austin, Patti Sorenson and Cher, Shannon brings her unique, retro-styled choreography to Hiscoes Gym on Crown Street every Thursday night at 7pm. No experience required, just arms, legs, tush and towel.
I arrive at Hiscoes at 6:45pm to hordes of women lining up outside the main exercise studio. As I suspected, these ladies are waiting for Retrosweat. Amidst the brightly coloured active wear I spy Shannon, unmistakeable in her metallic sneakers, hot pink lycra shorts under denim underwear, a grey jumper with RETROSWEAT written on it in fluoro colours, and a full face of makeup. We follow her into the studio and I have a strong sense that I’m about to experience something pretty unique.
“I feel naked without my legwarmers,” Shannon’s voice reverberates through her pink headset as she strips off her jumper, revealing a pink cut off singlet with a koala printed on it.
The music starts and I’m immediately transported. We begin with a rhythmic shoulder role to warm up, and before I know it we’re grape vining, high-kicking and squatting to Tina Arena, Jimmy Barnes, Human Nature, Vanessa Amorosi, and the dance remix of Yothu Yindi’s Treaty, my personal favourite.
“A political song for a political evening!” Shannon shouts over the beat, and I realise I had momentarily forgotten we’re in the middle of yet another leadership spill. (Never have I been in greater need of an 80s-themed distraction.)
I’m wearing a smile for the whole one-hour class, a result of both the stellar soundtrack and the sight of my uncoordinated self dancing back at me in the mirror. The vibe is infectious and I can’t help but notice that everyone in the room is having as good a time as I am. I catch Shannon at the end of the class as she’s dabbing her face, still immaculately made up. I admit to her that I’ve never had more fun in an exercise class.
“Retrosweat makes people happy, it’s as simple as that,’ she replies. “It’s contagious; you can see it around the room. It brings people joy and also everyone can do it. I’ve had hundreds of people come through the door worried that they wont be able to do it, but they always can. It’s inclusive and accessible to everyone. That’s why people love it.”
Retrosweat runs every Thursday night from 7pm at Hiscoes Gym – 525 Crown Street, Surry Hills. For more information about the class, head to http://retrosweat.com.au/, or follow @retrosweat on Instagram.