Smile Politely

Sarah Nuku is empowering individuals one dance fitness class at a time

A white woman with tan skin, long dark hair, sits on a sidewalk wearing a black sports bra and black yoga pants with white socks and white Nike shoes.
Sarah Nuku

I first started going to Sarah Nuku’s dance classes during the winter when I was in a slump. I don’t love the gym and dancing for an hour seemed like way more fun than lifting weights. Nuku is more than just a dance instructor. As a kid she took ballet and went on to cheer in highschool. Currently, she is raising five girls between the ages of three and 18, and she also coached the cheer and dance team at Rantoul High School. Nuku’s passion for dancing and creating a community of empowered individuals shine through in her classes, and everyone should experience them! When I walked in, I felt instantly at ease. The class was full of good energy and great people. Everyone was there to have fun and sweat, no judgment allowed. Each class features songs you won’t hear at your regular gym such as “Body” by Megan Thee Stallion and “Not my Fault” by Reneé Rapp. The dance routines are easy to catch on to. Nuku posts a playlist on her Instagram page before each class and always keeps a steady rotation of new songs coming into the mix. Did I mention each class only costs five dollars? 

After my workout I spoke to Nuku and asked some questions about how she started teaching dance fitness classes. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

A large group of people stand huddled together smiling at the camera in a large room with black floors and fluorescent lights above them.
Lexi French

Smile Politely: Can you tell me a little bit about how you got into dance fitness?

Sarah Nuku: I began dance fitness in my tiny living room watching YouTube Videos. I was a mother of four and was looking for a way to workout without being bored out of my mind. After a few years of dancing in the living room with my kids, I asked my friends if they’d be interested in this type of workout. I told them the hour goes by incredibly fast and you’ll be smiling the entire time. They tried it and they loved it!

SP: Fitness culture these days is intense. Your classes seem to remind people that working out can be fun, do you agree?

Nuku: Absolutely! Consistency is a must in the fitness lifestyle, but if you don’t enjoy your workout, you won’t show up. The fun, the music, the people, and the movement helps us stay consistent and hit our workout goals. 

SP: What can someone expect coming into one of your classes?

Nuku:  Expect fun and sweat! We move for 60 minutes straight with a fusion of fitness and dance. No mean girl energy allowed, everyone age ten and up is welcome to dance. We’re all here just trying to be better than we were yesterday.

A screenshot of two playlists side by side. Pink letters spell out "Tomorrow's Playlist"
Lexi French

SP: How do you select what songs make it into your weekly playlists?

Nuku: I go with what is popular and trendy, especially on TikTok.  I use a lot of hip-hop, along with some pop and R&B. Basically though, I try to create a playlist like a DJ would. I aim to keep the fun music blasting so no one ever wants to leave the dance floor.

SP: Do you choreograph all the dance routines in your class?

Nuku: Yes, I choreograph all of our current dance routines. 

SP: How do you want people to feel after attending one of your dance classes?

Nuku: After attending a class, I want people to feel accomplished. These classes aren’t easy, but they are designed in a way that everyone can modify it to their own ability. If you can’t do a burpee, then do jumping jacks. I am not here to judge or bully. I want people, especially women, to feel confident in their bodies and the way that they can move. I hope people leave my classes feeling silly, happy, tired, and accomplished. 

SP: Is there anything you want to share that people might not know about you or your classes?

Nuku:  I’m a mother of five girls and my main goal for life is to empower them and to show them how to love and encourage other people. That’s how I run my classes, too. Girl power!

Dance Fitness with Sarah:
Personal Performance Training Gym
1804 N Lincoln Ave
Urbana
M+W 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Crunch Fitness
40 E Anthony Drive
Champaign
Sa 9 to 10 a.m.

Dick’s House of Sport
2000 N Neil St
Champaign
Pop-Up Events 

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