Want to learn how to swim in Dubai?

OK, so as of the beginning of April 2018, I didn’t know how to swim. As a child, I was never sent to a swimming class, and I eventually developed a fear of going anywhere beyond the shallow side of the pool, or letting go of the wall. Worse, I have friends who have tales of how I jumped onto them out of fear pushing them under water, or grabbed on so tight when they were trying to help me learn how to swim that I left nail marks on their skin, or… You get the picture.

Anyway, in March this year (just before I managed to pinch my sciatica, aggravate my scoliosis and end up in a back brace – yep that’s another story), I saw a swimming class for adults wanting to learn on GuavaPass. I thought, doesn’t hurt to try this out, right? Right? On April 1, off I toddled to the location and got into the pool. I enjoyed that first class so much I signed up for the next term (it’s not on GuavaPass, you go directly through the academy), and then continued through the summer classes. Yep, it was pretty much the only thing I could do while undergoing physiotherapy.

And finally, on August 29, it happened… I swam the entire length of the pool! Not very gracefully, and certainly not in a conventional manner, but, nonetheless, I did!

Swimming - Devina

Since I started my journey, I have been sharing updates on social media, and what has been great to see has been all the responses – from people who can swim encouraging me, as well as those who, like me, have managed to reach adulthood without learning this skill.

So, how did I go from being terrified in the pool to bobbing about in the deep end?

TLDR: Go to Urban Swim Academy (find the academy on Facebook here or on Instagram here).

But to find out why I have stuck with them and what makes them a good shout to learn how to swim – or indeed, go for the masters classes if you’re already a swimmer – read on.

I cannot continue this post without mentioning the instructor for the ‘adults learn to swim’ class: Diana Mruk. I genuinely do not know how or if I would have ever been able to get here without her. Her insanely patient nature is why she put up with me and my fear – there were days when I just stood at the edge of the pool for minutes, freaking out about gliding because how would I survive, or days when I somehow managed to go underwater and then panicked while trying to stand up from a float, and so many other random moments.

What I also LOVE about her is her ability to take on your individual quirks to make them work for you. It’s never been about the “right” or “traditional” way to do things, it’s about, how can we make this work for you? I have so many examples (and honestly I feel really silly because of this but hey ho) to share. Here’s just one: My core has no strength or balance, so it was a struggle learning how to get out of a front float in the first place, but what’s been even more difficult has been the freestyle stokes, because every time I turned to take a breath, I’d lost control of my body and flip on my back, like a helpless turtle. While this has caused plenty of merry mirth among my friends, it’s clearly a problem if I can’t do anything after that except float uselessly. Diana helped me convert that problem into an advantage… I now take a few strokes, flip on my back, and then flip again and keep moving forward. It’s not the most elegant way of swimming a length but until I can figure out how to balance my body, this works!

Everything was a milestone to Diana, and to me. It honestly felt like no one was cheering for me as hard as she was. Learned how to float? WAHEY! Learned how to get out of a float? High-five! (Seriously, it took me a while to sink from a float.) Worked out how to tread? YASSSS! And so on.

Our classes happen at the same time as the ‘masters’ sessions, and while I have never had to work with him, I see Brett Hallam (the academy director) training veritable merpeople as they swim multiple lengths, with the same passion and dedication that Diana has always shown us. All the advanced students I’ve interacted with before we begin class seem to love coming there and polishing up their skills, so there are classes for accomplished swimmers as well.

So where are these amazing classes? Up until August 2018, Urban Swim Academy was using the pool of a school in Umm Suqeim. But from the start of the September term, we will be at Talise Fitness at Madinat Jumeirah. All you need to do is contact the academy and they will share term times, prices, and so on. It’s totally worth it. SEE YOU THERE!

And I’m proof that it really is never too late to learn how to swim. I absolutely love it, and my goal is to one day join the more advanced class, and I’m pretty sure I’ll get there – especially if the amazing instructors at Urban Swim are there to help me.

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Where to try barre in Dubai

So after my ‘where to Zumba’ and ‘where to learn dancing’ posts, it occurred to me that I’ve also tried quite a few barre classes in Dubai and figured I’d share my experiences to anyone else interested. And if you scroll all the way down, I’ve got my GuavaPass referral code if anyone would like to sign up.

First of all, what is barre? So barre combines a range of disciplines from ballet poses (we are on tiptoes for quite a bit, for example) through to yoga and pilates, along with using weights where necessary. There is the barre that is used for balance for a few reps. It’s quite a workout, one that you do barefoot, or with grip socks. I have scoliosis, but despite that, I am able to work out quite effectively with barre. I’d of course recommend you mention any and all problems to your instructor, but also definitely know your own body. If it hurts, stop.

So here are the studios (and in some cases, instructors) that I like (in alphabetical order!!!):

Cafe de La Danse
Located on Al Wasl Road in Dubai, there is a ‘booty barre’ class and a ‘power barre’ class, which is the intermediate version of the former. I’ve only been to the booty barre classes so far and most of them have been taught by the studio’s founder, Milla Tenorio. There’s a healthy mixture of the barre, weights and matwork, and what I like is during some of the mat exercises, she comes over to help us stretch our bodies, which is great to improve our elasticity and flexibility.

DEFINE body & mind
This studio is in Dubai Marina, within Silverene Tower B. I’m not entirely sure how to get there without going through the Dubai Marina Mall, but I’ve not gone there often enough to figure that bit out yet. This class [titled DEFINE body (barre)] is almost military in its preciseness and approach, and there’s a very clever use of what can be misconstrued as a small space. You pick a spot in front of the barre where the mat, weights and exercise bands await. The music is loud and pumping, and the instructor is tough but encouraging.

DS2dio
So I’ve mentioned this studio before when talking about dance. But I’ve also tried its booty barre class, which is pretty good. The studio, located in Cluster T of Jumeirah Lakes Towers, is smaller, but there’s movable barres so the space is flexible to the various exercises. I’ve done this one just once, but I had a good experience and would return.

Pilates Academy
Located on the 42nd floor or Jumeirah Bay X2 Tower in Cluster X, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, this studio is probably my favourite right now for barre. I’ve been taught by Victoria so far and she is amazing! The studio is spacious, and there’s such an inviting feeling as soon as you walk in. The exercises are tough, but the instructor is an absolute joy to work with. I’m not sure if it’s how green, woody, and open the entire studio is, I just feel uplifted when I walk in. A combination of the music, the instructor’s cheerfulness, and the exercise is why I think I’ll definitely be a regular there.

Yoga House
Really love this studio and its overall aesthetic; it’s located in The Greens area, in building 4 of the Emaar Business Park. It has quite a few – you guessed it – yoga classes, but there’s also a barre offering. I’ve had two different instructors every time I’ve gone there, and both have had different styles yet equally effective in working out the body. I’ve always felt like I push myself to the max and beyond when I do this class, and leave feeling refreshed.

So there you have it, it’s my round-up of barre classes and studios in Dubai I have personally tried and like.

As always, if you’d like to try GuavaPass, click here for my referral code! Enjoy barre-ing, among many other things!

Put those dancing shoes on – in Dubai

OK so I’ve always loved dancing. It’s why I enjoy Zumba as a form of exercise so much – it combines dancing and music to create a great workout. But I’ve already told you about where to try Zumba in Dubai (and I’ll keep updating that post as I try – and like – more places, so keep checking), so this isn’t about that. It’s about dance.

If you pop into my YouTube search history, apart from Stephen Colbert, John Oliver etc, you’ll find choreography videos. I discovered them quite by accident one night, and since then I’ve been hooked.

Some of these are ridiculously mesmerising – this one with Matt Steffanina and Dana Alexa is just mad cool.

And I mean, I’m currently in love with this choreo by Phil Wright – linking my tweet so you can click through both videos of the same song:

And for good measure, watch this choreo all the way to the end where he proposes to his girlfriend mid-filming – the choreography is great + it’s so sweet!

So while Zumba was satisfying my twinkle toes, I needed more. So far I’ve tried and liked the following two places. As with the Zumba post, I’ll update if I find more – and more importantly, like them. If I don’t like it, I won’t recommend it OR even bother giving it a bad review.

For actual choreography classes…

…head over for the Dance Pak DXB class, hands down. Held at Train SF in Al Quoz, this class is easily something I now look forward to every Sunday through to Tuesday. Nicole Olaivar, who teaches the class, is ridiculously inspirational. Her dance moves and facial expressions while dancing are mesmerising. She’s great at teaching steps and choreo, and also pointing out very honestly where we mess up – so that we can improve. Sunday and Tuesday are the choreo combined with twerking and strength building. She also now does one hour of dancing without choreo every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Give it a go (if you plan on joining GuavaPass btw, my referral code is at the end of this post)!

For some reggateon…

…head to DSt2dio. There are classes on Monday and Wednesday, with a great teacher and dancer, Juan Saturria. There aren’t specific songs/dances which you learn class on class; rather, this is more about the movements and steps in general that comprise the art form that is reggaeton. He has a way of teaching us the steps and movements in a way we can understand and always performs the entire dance once for us at the end so we can record and practice on our own time too. This studio offers quite a few dance classes, and while I haven’t tried all of them, if they are of the same calibre, I think it’d be totally worth it.

Both these classes are on GuavaPass, so if you want to sign up, here’s my referral code:  http://guavapass.com/refer?t=DevinaLovesGuava609

Want to try Zumba in Dubai? Here’s where I go!

Note: I will update this list as I keep trying Zumba classes around town!

A few years ago, I discovered Zumba, and oddly enough, through work. My company regularly hosts “Wellness Weeks” every few months, and during one of these weeks, a Zumba dance studio (now unfortunately defunct) was offering classes. Since then I’ve been hooked.

After that dance studio shut down, I have been more experimental, trying different classes across Dubai. Right now, I’m exploring exercise classes in Dubai via GuavaPass (click here to get AED 100 off your first month through my referral link btw), and I figured I might as well share my favourite Zumba classes across the city – and to tell you it’s not necessarily about the studio, but it’s definitely ALL about the teacher. So even if the studio isn’t your favourite, if the teacher is, then you *will* return.

I’ve grouped these into the studios I have frequented, and mentioned who the instructors are. Happy dancing!!!

Iconic Fitness (previously known as CoreFit)

One of the earliest places I tried was CoreFit (now called Iconic Fitness), and while the instructors have changed from years ago, I’ve never been happier. One of the instructors is Jed (or @masterjedai as he is on social media) and the other regular is Leonardo (@zumbaleonardo on Instagram). Every now and then, the venue hosts Zumba parties, with not just Jed and Leo, but also Enzo Maglaque (see GFX, below) and Joseph DeLeon – I’d highly recommend these parties. High energy, full of fun, and great music and dancing.

CoreFit has Zumba classes every day, so take your pick! It’s located in Dubai Marina, right next to the tram station in front of Horizon Tower, and there’s usually quite a bit of parking – especially for the weekend classes! The studio is very large, so it’s great to spread out and dance without worrying about walking on someone else’s foot!

Couple of videos… One from Jed’s YouTube!

Another one from Leonardo’s YouTube:

Tempo Dance Center

So, Jed really is one of my favourite instructors and when I discovered he also taught at Tempo Dance Center in JLT’s Red Diamond building, I had to try it out. As I said, it’s in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, but not within the clusters. It’s towards the back on the road between JLT and Emirates Hills. Google Maps will definitely show you the exact way! Tempo Dance Center is on the first floor of the building and has three rooms for dance classes. I’d say about 10-15 people can fit comfortably, so do book in advance. There is parking below, but on some evenings it can get crowded, so bear that in mind before heading out there.

Dream Master Studio, Al Quoz

The first time I did Zumba was with Monica Pulgarin, and it’s really down to her that I’ve stuck it out so long. She now has her classes at the Dream Master Studio in Al Quoz, and these are a mix of Zumba Fitness and Zumba Toning. Often, she and another amazing instructor, Maira Lorena, team up for the “14 Day Zumba Challenge” which they share on their Facebook pages, so keep an eye out for these events, and don’t hesitate to sign up if you can commit to all 14 days. So, the challenge is two hours every night for 14 days, except for Friday. And it’s one of my most favourite things to do when it comes around!

GFX

There are two GFX branches in Dubai, one in Business Bay and the other in Mirdiff. I haven’t been to the latter, but have to the former. Every class I’ve done at this studio has had Enzo, and I will guarantee that he’s always going to put you through an intense workout. The studio is located on the first floor of the Bay Avenue Mall, and is compact, but can fit in a good number of dancers. He offers a regular Fitness class, and a Toning version, so you have a few options. I haven’t tried Mirdiff’s studio, but if anyone tries it out, do let me know!

So, which Zumba classes have you tried out? Let me know if there’s something I have missed and should try out.

Stationery I love: Surat Journals, your little blank book

Stationery I love: Surat Journals, your little blank book

On December 13, 2014, I stumbled across a little pop-up market at DUCTAC, Mall of the Emirates. I’d just gone there to return books to my library (it’s called The Old Library, if anyone’s interested, and it’s fabulous). While I browsed the stands, this one caught my eye. Books – an easy way to get my attention.

It turned out to be blank books (‘little blank books’, even) created with leather from the Philippines, and recycled paper. Shut with a strip of leather, I thought the books were stylish, eye-catching, and an attractive companion for people who take notes, and enjoy stationery. Very affordable too, as you can see from the pictures. The one I picked up was AED 80, and it was to be a Christmas present – and the recipient seemed to love it, so that’s a job well done! I now regret not getting one for myself, so that’s on my to-do list.

The founder is a man named Ken Surat (hence the name Surat Journals) and here’s the Surat Journals Facebook page if you’re interested in getting a book for yourself.

Lush’s 12 Days of Christmas

Lush’s 12 Days of Christmas

I’ve loved Lush for a while now. I can’t remember when I first discovered the gorgeous smells the company produces, but I was instantly hooked. Recently, I wandered over to the Lush Christmas event in Dubai, and boy, was that literally a feast for the senses! New products, new colours and beautiful gift boxes everywhere.

Some Instagram photos from the day here:

At the end of the media preview, we all walked away with this beauty: the 12 Days of Christmas box.

12 Days of Christmas box

Here’s what I found when I unboxed:

I haven’t started using these yet, but I tried a few of them at the media preview, and I cannot wait to pamper myself. The Christmas range should be available in UAE Lush stores this week – are you tempted?

Do you have a favourite Lush product? Which one is it? Let me know!

These shoes were made for dancing…

Those who know me well know I’ve been indulging in the one form of exercise that doesn’t make me want to gag with boredom: zumba and/or dance-based exercises.

I have grown to love doing this, so much that it’s become a regular activity for me, not a fad. And so I realised once my two regular pairs of sneakers had to be thrown (due to overuse over 9-10 years!) … I needed new shoes.

After those two flat-ish sneakers were thrown away, I had two pairs left. One is an open-back-but-with-elastic-thingybob and a weave pattern, which is great for casual walking, and super comfy. However, I could try dancing in it but because they aren’t completely closed, they will probably detach themselves from my feet and become projectiles aimed at someone else!

Then there’s my pair of running shoes. I tried these in class for a bit but they made me feel like I was slipping on the slick dance floor, and my exercise mostly was about trying to balance myself and not fall flat on my face as opposed to actually getting my booty shaken. As running shoes, wow they’re so awesomely padded and so comfy…running has never been so good. As dance shoes… ummm, maybe not.

Then I researched, and found that most brands have a range of ‘dance shoes’. I even found ones I liked… but all the brand’s stores in Dubai didn’t have my size (I have giantess feet). So I stumbled uncomfortably until last week … they had my size…

I PRESENT TO YOU … THE SKECHERS DANCE WEAR!

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I’m really, really happy with these now for my dance classes in the studio. They’re flat – as they should be – and shaped right. I dance with more confidence now, and don’t have to worry about slipping anywhere. They’re called Jazz Hands in some places, but here they were called “dance wear” and that was it.

Anyway, if you’re looking to indulge in studio stuff like zumba, hip hop, etc, then seriously, get yourself a pair of dance/studio shoes. And you can stay brand loyal … most brands, as I said, have a range of these!

Of Graphic Designers and Fonts

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I love fonts. Not surprising though – I feel most journalists, especially magazine journalists, should have an inherent love for them

I was reading We Love Magazines yesterday and I came across the story of David Carson (whom you can read more about if you click the shared image at the top of this post) who applied the font Zapf Dingbats – which consists of symbols only – to what he thought was not a very interesting story and ran it like that in the magazine Ray Gun in 1994.

That is just bloody brilliant!

As it says in the book I was reading yesterday:

And Carson’s legacy also lives on as a valuable lesson to editors: never, ever supply substandard copy to the art director. Or else.

It makes me wonder though – do we now take our designers for granted? Are they treated as puppets of the editorial staff or can they just Dingbat what they think is terrible copy?

 

Vanity Fair, how I wronged thee!

As a student on the MA Magazine Journalism course, we’re encouraged (obviously) to not only look at newspapers, but also at magazines. My course leader, Ms. Yvonne Illsley, cannot recommend Vanity Fair enough.

I have a confession to make. I always thought it was a magazine full of gloss and fluff and nothing else. That was a pre-conceived judgement without me actually taking a look at what’s inside. Vanity Fair, I am sorry. You are not fluff. You have intelligent features, cool interviews and all this combined with some of the best photographs I’ve seen in magazines lately. The first issue I read was the November issue with Penelope Cruz on the cover. I connected with the feature on 26/11 simply because it was personal to me. I did have a problem with something, a phrase, in that article, but apart from that… time well spent.

I subscribed to Vanity Fair last night, but since I won’t get the December issue in that (as it’s already out)… I went and bought it at W.H. Smith’s today. Here’s the mug-shot. And no, I didn’t buy it only because of who is on the cover. Although that might be part of it… 😀

Vanity Fair - December 2009 issue
Va-va-voom!

Quote of the post: “The secret of successful journalism is to make your readers so angry they will write half your paper for you.”  – C.E.M. Joad