She's powerful, fearless and she knows how to move. There's only one Beyoncé, but the Lemonade megastar has armies of fans wanting to mimic her groove. You'll find them rolling and booty-popping their way through Formation and other top singles at Beyoncé dance classes, from New York to Vancouver. And their tribe is a close cousin to participants of Rihanna, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga dance classes.
While some studios offer hour-long weekly classes, others hold half-day marathon workshops. Classes typically welcome dancers of every level, from the hopelessly unco-ordinated to the aspiring backup dancer. But if you've got a stiff neck or creaky joints, this may not be for you; leave the hair whipping and body rolling to the 30s-and-under set. Otherwise, if there's one rule to follow, it's this: Leave your inhibitions and insecurities at the door. Ever see Queen Bey hold back? Nope. Didn't think so.
Sure, men are welcome, but they're vastly outnumbered by young women.
Saschie MacLean, co-owner of Vancouver's RSVP 33, says the core group of individuals who take her Beyoncé classes are women in their mid-20s to 30s, looking for a safe, casual setting to try out some amateur dance moves and blow off steam after a long workday.
"A lot of women have always wanted to dance, whether it's something that they didn't do as a child or they get on a dance floor at a wedding or whatever, and they want to have fun and look good," MacLean says.
Letting go of self-criticism is a key aspect of embracing Bey. "One of the best things that's coming out of this is people are feeling very empowered," MacLean says, noting that after taking a class, one student said she now walks around the office "with a different kind of swagger because she just feels connected to herself, and her feminity and her strength as a person."
Class instructors will tell you to wear whatever you feel comfortable moving around in. But no one's going to channel her inner Bey looking like a frump. "A few of our regulars like to dress up to copy Beyoncé's video looks," says Nicky Nasrallah, who teaches Beyography dance classes in Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Vancouver.
That means denim booty shorts and white tank tops, straight out of Crazy in Love, and slinky, black body suits from Single Ladies. But for the most part, flattering workout gear is the unofficial dress code: leggings, fitted tank tops and thinly woven T-shirts.
For footwear, anything goes, from barefoot to socks to indoor running shoes. Nasrallah says some of his students also bring a pair of heels, which they wear during the final run-through at the end of the class. But the hard-core ones? They spend the entire two-hour sessions learning the moves in stilettos.
Instructors like to ham it up to make their classes more entertaining, MacLean says. So they'll use intentionally goofy expressions, such as "yas," a variation on "yes," and "werk," a term used to tell people they're doing a great job. (Used in a sentence: "It would literally just be like, 'Werk!' " MacLean explains.)
"Slay" and "slaying it" are also part of the Beyoncé lexicon, especially since the term is echoed throughout the diva's Formation single. Basically, it means being first-rate.
"I feel like such a dork explaining this because I don't even feel cool enough to say it," MacLean says.
Kailey, 40, of Toronto recalls attending a dance workshop at a downtown hotel to accompany a slightly older friend. The pair immediately felt out of place among the much younger crowd.
"I felt like I was everybody's mom," she says. To get through the three-hour session, "we were being the old-lady assholes and sneaking out every half an hour to go to the bar and do a shot of Jameson and go back in. And every one else was taking it very seriously."
Kailey, who requested to withhold her last name to protect her work identity, says she underestimated how much hair whipping, crouching and squatting was involved in the choreography.
"Because it's all Beyoncé stuff, there's so much hair whipping, and the more my friend … and I had to drink, the more complicated it got," she says. "Every time you whipped your neck in a figure eight behind your head, it takes you a second to adjust."
The aftermath was torturous. "I couldn't turn my head for four days. I had difficulty sitting on the toilet. It was really funny, but I paid for those three hours for the better part of a week."