Rhythmic Middle-Eastern music, entrancing belly dancing - and this is just one of the dance classes in Jazz du Funk, a modern dance studio in Shanghai. Since it was established two years ago, the studio has experienced a steady increase in the number of students. Expats have always made up the bulk of enrollment.
A Polish woman said dance is her all-time favourite activity and she worried before coming to Shanghai with her boyfriend that she wouldn't be able to find a dance studio where she could learn street jazz.
Grace, who has lived in Shanghai for five years, has just finished her first jazz class at Jazz du Funk. "I used to dance in high school and university. Now I would like to take it up again and learn something new," she said.
Most of the foreign students at Jazz du Funk had already received several years of dance training in their own countries. The dance studio, with its impressive variety of dance classes and excellent teachers, has great appeal for them.
Recently, though, there has been a noticeable shift in the demographics at the studio. More and more Chinese, especially Chinese women, have taken up dance as a favourite spare-time activity.
Of the 20 belly-dance students, half are expats and half are Chinese white-collar women. This is also true in the salsa studio.
"We have ever more Chinese students," said Ursula Hemard, the marketing manager. "About half of our students are expats and foreign students. The rest are Chinese, most of whom are in their 20s and 30s."
Eva Zhang, who works for a multinational, is a newcomer. She is very satisfied with her first lesson and is sure that she will come to the class regularly. "I enjoy the ambience very much. Everyone comes here to dance for fun, not to compete. And the teacher is very devoted and passionate."
Eva goes to the gym regularly but is getting bored. "Doing exercises on those machines is dull. There is no interaction. I think dance is more suitable for me. It's a very good exercise for girls."
Wang Xiaojuan agrees. She has stopped going to the gym because "doing repeated movements in front a mirror is not fun." One month ago, she saw a salsa performance in a club and was immediately attracted by the "hot beat of the music, exotic atmosphere and movement of the body."
She began learning salsa in the club. After 30 hours of practice, she decided to enroll in a professional dance training school. She chose Jazz du Funk because it is the only place which offers belly dance - a style she is curious about.
Wang also thinks that dancing relieves her work-related stress. As soon as the music starts, she forgets everything. She totally loses herself in it with nothing else in her mind. She is convinced that dance has become an important part of her life.
Class fees are steep, but these dancers are willing to pay the price. "It costs a lot to go to the gym or movies, too. Dancing benefits us both physically and mentally. It's a good investment."
A feature of Jazz du Funk that appeals to members is its flexible scheduling. From Monday to Thursday, jazz, ballet, street jazz, hip-hop, tap and tango are available from 6:30 to 9 pm. On weekends, classes begin at noon and continue into the evening. Instead of traditional dance courses, which involve 10 or 20 consecutive classes, students in Jazz du Funk can drop into any class any time they want.
For Millie Cheng, this is the most convenient feature. She doesn't need to rearrange her schedule: she simply comes to the class when she has time.
The studio's location make it easy for workers to drop in on the spur of the moment and on their lunch hours.
"This is still something new for Chinese, who are not used to exercising instead of having lunch. But we hope to introduce this concept to China because we believe it suits people's various lifestyles," said Hemard.
Jazz du Funk
Jazz, Hip-Pop, Tango, Belly dancing
6F, Build 2, 412 Weihai Lu, Zhoujie International Art School
321 Honggu Lu
City Art Centre
2F, 245 Tianping Lu
Room 417, 45 Guangyuan Xilu
Wenguang Dance Training Centre
Hip Pop, Ballet
593 Fuxing Zhonglu, Jin Guo Yuan