Interesting People #53: Bang! Power Dance with Amanda Strand

What is Bang! Power Dance? I spoke with the creator of Bang, Amanda Strand about how she fell in love with group fitness, her background in dance, and how much fun Bang can be. It turns out that Bang is more boxing than dance!

You can check out Bang! Power Dance at Onelife Fitness! That is also where it got its start before it hit the world stage!


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Patrick Hanes: [00:00:18] Welcome to the Interesting People Podcast today I’m joined by Amanda Strand the creator of Bang! Power Dance and the founder of the Freedom Group Exercise. How’s it going?

Amanda Strand: [00:00:28] It’s great to be here.

Patrick Hanes: [00:00:29] This weekend April 7th. Team WFRE is going to be working with you to put on a fundraiser. A part Zumba part Bang! Power Dance event and One Life Fitness. What is Bang! Power Dance?

Amanda Strand: [00:00:40] (laughs) Bang! Power Dance is a group exercise class. It’s pre choreographed which means that people learn the choreography and they can come back week after week and improve as they learn the choreography so it’s not a brand new class every single time. So we change about four songs out of 14. Every single class is a mixed fitness class so it’s not just dance. So we say Bang! Power Dance because there’s dance in it. But there’s also hit interval training. There’s body weight training there’s aerobics lots and lots of boxing. I would say it’s urban inspired. We have a lot of hip hop some world music some Bhangra just a mix of what’s currently on the radio as well.

Patrick Hanes: [00:01:20] You created Bang! Power Dance. A lot of people know about Zumba did you do Zumba before Bang. What was the thought process that led to Bang.

Amanda Strand: [00:01:27] I did actually teach Zumba and I also taught to another class called Body Step which is a step aerobics format and I really enjoyed both of those. But as I started teaching Zumba I realized that I really wasn’t teaching Zumba the way it ought to be taught because I was starting to go in a new direction. I really like boxing and I really do like aerobics and intensity is important because I have four children. I only had one hour to workout and I really wanted to get it all in in one hour. I really wanted the classes that I taught to be more intense than maybe some other people teach when they’re teaching Zumba or other classes.

Patrick Hanes: [00:02:03] So Bang I guess it’s earning its exclamation point then.

: [00:02:06] I think so. I think it is intense and we do use weighted gloves so we have a half pound weight on each hand which really jacks up the intensity. It’s a high option though it’s not right for everybody. People with shoulder injuries probably wouldn’t want to use the weighted gloves. They also look really nice. So we’re all about this swag with bang as well.

Patrick Hanes: [00:02:25] Oh fantastic. How long is a Bang class? Would you say an hour?

Amanda Strand: [00:02:28] It’s about 52 minutes. 52 to 55 minutes. It’s 14 songs and it can be designed to be more boxing more aerobics or more dance. Depending on what the instructor likes their style and also of course first and foremost what the members like best.

Patrick Hanes: [00:02:42] Do you have a background of boxing?

Amanda Strand: [00:02:44] No I don’t actually I discovered a love for boxing. After having my four children. I found it was a really good way to release some of the tension of being a stay at home mom which I was for a very long time.

Patrick Hanes: [00:02:57] Is it shadowboxing or is there actually bag involved in the club?

Amanda Strand: [00:03:00] It’s shadowboxing. I do work with our instructors though with a heavy bag just so they can really feel where their placement is because I feel like if they do it authentically then the members get a better experience. It’s also safer.

Patrick Hanes: [00:03:10] Did you have a background in fitness instruction.

Amanda Strand: [00:03:13] I actually started out in theater and dance. I started out as a dancer. I was actually a ballerina. So our other format besides Bang! Power Dance is actually called Freedom BARRE which is B A R R E which is a ballet inspired workout. It’s also really intense but it’s a low impact. There’s weight training involved as well. Lots of good core work.

Patrick Hanes: [00:03:34] So you said you were in the theater?

Amanda Strand: [00:03:35] Well, I started doing it when I was a very young child and eventually I went and up at the Tisch School the Arts at New York University. I dance theater there and also film.

Patrick Hanes: [00:03:44] OH! Also film.

Amanda Strand: [00:03:46] Yes, I actually was in a movie with Hugh Grant.

Patrick Hanes: [00:03:49] Oh neat. All right. You are now my second guess that probably has an IMDB page. I’m stoked.

Amanda Strand: [00:03:54] No! It’s a very obscure movie.

Patrick Hanes: [00:03:57] Oh that’s too much fun. What kind of theater did you do?

Amanda Strand: [00:04:00] I did musicals and I did straight plays as well. And my husband is actually a playwright. His new musical is opening in two weeks. It’s called Snow Child at Arena Stage.

Patrick Hanes: [00:04:09] And he picked the perfect spring release a play called Snow child it’s still snowing this spring!

Amanda Strand: [00:04:13] Yes.

Patrick Hanes: [00:04:14] Well that’s awesome.

Amanda Strand: [00:04:15] I didn’t really discover teaching fitness until after my fourth child was born. And I was really out of shape I was about 65 pounds heavier than I am now. And I said to myself I’ve got to do something. So I went to one life and I got a membership. They had child care which was I absolutely needed the child care. I put all of my kids in the childcare! Kiss them goodbye and the very first thing I did was to go into the group exercise studio to take a class and the first class I took was with one of our fitness directors Melissa Bennett. She’s not at the North location but she works for OneLife took a class with her and that was all it took.

Patrick Hanes: [00:04:56] When did you start Freedom Group Exercise and what are some of the advantages of group fitness that you think?

Amanda Strand: [00:05:01] I founded Freedom Group Exercise in 2015 because there are several group exercise companies in the market right now. I thought there needed to be a more inclusive group exercise company. And what that means is we’re very interested in embracing people that come into the group exercise studio from every walk of life, every age, every body type, and also diversity is important to us diversity of music celebrating and embracing everybody whoever walks in the door being able to meet them wherever they are and then lift them up and give them a reason to be inspired and encouraged to keep going no matter what. Even if I tell them when it gets really hard particularly during the aerobics portion of the class in Bang I say you can always do a step touch. And if a touches too much for you you can just try and encourage someone else. If you’re struggling that can help you stay inspired as well.

Patrick Hanes: [00:05:51] So with groups of is there a danger some people like shift into the back.

Amanda Strand: [00:05:54] It’s interesting you say that because we like to say that Freedom Group Exercise is about the back row. So Bang we say as a back row format where our instructors are trained in our trainings to teach to the back row rather than the front row. So the front row people tend to be the people most familiar with the workout oftentimes they’re the most fit. They tend not to be as self-conscious because they know what they’re doing. But the back row people are the ones that are the most concerned self-conscious they may be deconditioned they may be injured or have other concerns. It may be their first time we really work with our instructors to try and reach those people first and foremost.

Patrick Hanes: [00:06:30] You are doing pre choreographed routines. Do they just learn that in the class? Is there a video they watch to kind of figure out the steps? How do they prepare for that?

Amanda Strand: [00:06:38] One of the things that happens sometimes in group fitness is it’s too complicated for the average new person when they first walk in the door. One of the things that is my job is to really make the choreography user friendly so that people can do it right off the bat. Simple and then to progress it so that it becomes more intense in terms of going from a step touch to a jumping jack for instance going from a march to a run. Those are just some examples so the level one people can stay with the march but those people that are level twos and threes can start to ladder it up and intensify the workout. But they decide what’s best for them. And we always say at the beginning of every class. Fake it till you make it.

Patrick Hanes: [00:07:19] I think that’s the best fitness advice that anyone can give. With 14 songs. Is there like a rhythm you like to set to it? Is it like a slower song at first the bells or crescendo and then you have cooldown songs? What’s the structure of a Bang?

Amanda Strand: [00:07:30] Well the structure is that we always start with the warm up and we always end with a cooldown and what happens in the middle is that we have at least five intense songs three of them have intervals in them and two of them have intense boxing series in them and then in between we have some periods where the intervals are less intense and people can do things like squats but we try to keep it fun first and foremost it needs to be fun. Everything that happens in the group exercise studio needs to be fun to keep people motivated and enjoying what they’re doing.

Patrick Hanes: [00:07:59] Is Bang! Power Dance something that’s in mornings and afternoons when the Kids Club is open?

Amanda Strand: [00:08:03] Primarily group exercise classes are scheduled so that they are happening when the childcare is open. Group exercise tends to be around 80 to 85 percent female. That’s not to say that fathers and guardians grandfathers don’t bring their kids to the childcare because they do too. It just isn’t as frequent. But we welcome everybody in the group exercise studio.

Patrick Hanes: [00:08:24] Did you say 80 percent women?

Amanda Strand: [00:08:25] Tends to be 80 percent women but we find a lot of men like Bang because I said it’s mixed fitness it’s not just dance it’s a little bit of grooving but it’s not complicated dance steps as much as it is fun simple dance steps.

Patrick Hanes: [00:08:38] I can see some dudes getting into the boxing aspect of it too.

Amanda Strand: [00:08:41] Yes for sure. We box to the beat. I feel that it intensifies the workout to be doing the boxing to a beat. Were just recently adding an L.L. Cool J song just makes you want a box.

Patrick Hanes: [00:08:53] So for this weekend Zumba and Bang. Is it Zimba first then Bang?

Amanda Strand: [00:08:58] I believe it’s going to be a mix when it’s Zumba they’ll let everybody know that it’s Zumba and when it’s Bang it will be identified as Bang!

Patrick Hanes: [00:09:06] Oh cool so I’ll go back and forth. ZUMBA!

Amanda Strand: [00:09:09] Right. So there’s Zumba lovers will have their time and then everybody can enjoy both formats because they’re both really fun.

Patrick Hanes: [00:09:16] Do you see a lot of crossover with that?

Amanda Strand: [00:09:17] What we really encourage in terms of the culture we create in our company is that it’s really not about possessiveness or being only supportive of our formats. We believe that everything that happens at the gym is helping somebody. So we’re all about encouragement all the formats are wonderful. There’s strength training formats at North OneLife. There’s Body Pump, there’s body combat, there’s something for everybody there’s spin, there’s Aqua which happens in the pool exercise in the pool, yoga and then of course as you mentioned you and I were talking before about the personal training is incredible we also have group personal training that’s really exciting option for people you can come with a buddy and do the workout paired up together in Zone 4 area. So it’s really something for everybody.

Patrick Hanes: [00:10:02] Is there any advice you would give someone who wants to get into a group fitness class that isn’t necessarily done it before.

Amanda Strand: [00:10:08] I would encourage them to go at least three times to the same class whatever class it is maybe a different instructor but go three times to the same class before you decide whether or not you like it. Keep going! Don’t give up on yourself or the class too soon.

Patrick Hanes: [00:10:25] Well thank you so much for your time. Now I know a Bang! Power Dance is. I end every interview with the exact same question. What has you excited for this year? What are you looking forward to?

Amanda Strand: [00:10:34] Well we’ve expanded a lot this year. I’m very excited that we’re now in four countries. We’re on the West Coast in the south. In Chicago. New York City. We’re expanding so rapidly. It makes my head spin and I feel very blessed that I have an incredible team because I didn’t do it. My team did it with their hardwork and belief and also our venue partners. Onelife is very important to me because they were the very first gym ever to program a bang class. They’ll always be very dear to my heart.

Patrick Hanes: [00:11:05] I’m going to break my last question rule and you say four countries.

Amanda Strand: [00:11:07] Yes.

Patrick Hanes: [00:11:08] What are the other countries?

Amanda Strand: [00:11:09] Germany, Japan, Dominican Republic, and Canada.

Patrick Hanes: [00:11:12] Oh cool. So in Germany are there any like lederhosen beer hall version of bang yet?.

Amanda Strand: [00:11:17] I’m not exactly sure.

Patrick Hanes: [00:11:21] Thank you so much.

Amanda Strand: [00:11:22] Thank you.