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Dance cardio has become as ubiquitous as spinning, yet, somehow, there is no clear national frontrunner. Every other facet of group fitness—from the franchise-led world of barre to class-only gyms like OrangeTheory to the sweat equivalent of Starbucks, SoulCycle —has at least one brand leading the wave cross-country. Yet, fitness dancing is a regional game, with top studios still only having a presence in two or three cities in total. There is a clear opportunity for someone to explode in a big, big way—and I’m here to say 305 will be the one to do it.
Founder Sadie Kurzban developed 305 Fitness following an "a-ha" moment at a club, which eventually led her to change her major, enter an entrepreneurial competition at Brown University, and net a cool $75,000 to fund the business with. Three years later, she has two studios (in Washington D.C. and New York), an expansion planned for her current New York location, and another Manhattan studio on the way. Classes are packed first thing in the morning and last thing at night, selling out all 32 spots regularly. 305 is the only non-membership dance cardio studio in New York City that doesn’t rely on Classpass to fill in its gaps.
It’s not like the dance scene is far from saturated. With plenty of options in most major cities, the competition is fierce, especially since the lack of equipment needed means classes can gain steam without needing a physical location to call home. (Vixen , one of the more popular options, is one such practice.) Only it’s not just the flashy, neon-tinged brick-and-mortar studio that has made 305 such a runaway success—it’s that their workout is inherently superior to any other dance cardio class in existence.
The fusion of dance with exercise traditionally makes one feel like they’re either doing an ensemble number in a community theatre production of Hello Dolly!, or trying and failing to become Beyonce’s latest backup dancer. Even Tracy Anderson, the godmother of fitness-infused dancing, uses movements that feel like a #tbt to high school pom auditions.
Sadie’s self-created method serves up the perfect mix of klutz-proof choreography and bootcamp basics. Unlike Vixen’s sex-infused movement, which focuses more on twerk than muscle-toning work, 305’s technique is equally split between fitness and fun, solving every problem of classes that came before it.
It’s about making the moves your own versus "riding as one."
Scared of having two left feet? The moves stay the same, so it’s quick to master in a couple visits, but the order changes constantly, so you’re never bored. Hate dropping in and discovering everyone learned choreography last week? Class is taught follow-the-leader style, letting you focus on the moment instead of what’s next. Think dance isn’t as demanding as your cardio of choice? You’ll be out of breath most of class—and won’t be relegated to the back row if you can’t make it clap, either. 305’s cult-like following is less SoulCycle and more summer camp, with stranger-friends cheering in unison when that one beloved Chris Brown song comes on, not listing behavioral rules on the wall. It’s about making the moves your own versus "riding as one."
I won’t sugar coat it: 305 is hard. Class begins with a non-stop half-hour of high-intensity cardio dance, blending traditional toughies like jumping jacks and shuffle steps with hip-popping sashays and body rolls. Don’t even bother looking for a clock; you will kick and pop and bounce and shuffle until your lungs burn and your legs shake before, out of nowhere, it’s suddenly over. Weights are next—classes rotate between arms and legs daily—followed by a quick sprint that often combines the most complain-worthy movements (squat jumps, high knees) into a short-yet-intense burst. Class ends with more cardio-dancing, followed by you dragging your beet-red face and broken body home. It’s insane and brilliant and challenging and inspiring, all at once.
It’s the first place that taught me fitness doesn’t have to be miserable, and that’s precisely why it’s taking off—because it really, truly doesn’t feel like exercise.
...Well okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration––I haven’t been able to walk since class two days ago––but believe me, this is as close to joy as you’re going to get while burning over 800 calories. The lighting system in New York’s studio is on par with most nightclubs. There’s a live DJ in every single class. There is nothing out there that is this fun, this well-developed, and this effective. Emphasis on effective, because 305 is far and away the most challenging cardio dance program I’ve ever encountered. Last week, one-sixth of my class dropped out halfway through. One time, I danced so hard that I brought on a flu. I’m convinced it has suppressed my period, like I’m a goddamn teenage gymnast training for nationals.
It’s the-babysitter’s-not-home kind of exercise.
I love it, I fear it, and I look forward to 305 all week long. It’s the-babysitter’s-not-home kind of exercise. The music is better, the vibe is edgier, and it’s inherently so much cooler, because someone who could essentially be your best friend is teaching it. Not a meathead trainer or a former ballerina or a weird fitness junkie—just a cool chick or dude with dope moves, a wardrobe of crop tops, and more energy at 7am than you can fathom. People are dying to teach here, too. Over 400 dancers auditioned to become instructors earlier this year. Between both locations, only eight made the cut.
Tough odds, sure, but having the right talent is key. The workout is incredibly challenging on its own, but unlike pushing yourself with sheer will and grit while weightlifting or running, getting sucked in by 305’s energetic, talented instructors makes it incredibly enjoyable.
In group exercise classes, it’s easy to turn down the resistance, squat a little less, or hit a treadmill’s "STOP" button just a few seconds early. But at 305, you're not tempted to take a break because when you look around at the lights, DJ and smiling faces, it's not exercise. It’s a dance party! And who wants to be a wallflower?
The x-factor that 305 harnesses could have real power to take over the world, so it makes sense that they’re starting to. With pop-up success in Las Vegas, Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago and a prime slot at Montauk Surf Lodge this summer—essentially the Y Combinator for next-big-thing fitness—305 Fitness will spread the word even further when they take their signature classes on a nationwide tour this fall.
Deep in that basement, the entire model of dance cardio fitness is being upended, and soon it’ll be happening in your city, too. Someone had to make fitness fun again.