Saphira, the matriarch and founder of Saffron Dance, didn’t even exist 20 years ago, much like “I survived Y2K” bumper stickers. Saphira was known as Rachael Galoob-Ortega, a lawyer who practiced in DC and Florida for a decade. But her high-power career and hefty paycheck couldn’t extinguish her passion for dance. And so she became Saphira, an international belly-dance artist and instructor with numerous accolades, including being featured in American Belly Dancer, a documentary about belly dance in the United States.
Saphira opened Saffron Dance six years ago, and along with 18 fellow instructors, channels her years of expertise into dance courses that get progressively more challenging from week to week. Welcoming all levels, her classes teach both Egyptian-inspired belly dance and community-focused tribal belly dance. Regardless of the class type, Saphira and her teachers encourage pupils to express their unique voices through dance, all while keeping proper alignment, mastering precision, and having fun.
Rob LaPointe first met the martial arts in 1973 when he began taking tae kwon do lessons in a neighbor's backyard. Like a kudzu vine, his love for fighting forms could not be contained by a manicured lawn, and he began serious study of kenpo karate and kung fu. In 1989, he opened White Birch Kung Fu, Tai Chi, and Kettlebell Gym to pass his learning on to the next generation of fighters.
Rob's dedication led him to take the gold medal in Pushing Hands and Advanced Sparring at Wong's Traditional Kung Fu Tournament in 2000—a celebration of his 40th birthday—and his competitive career continues. His kung fu classes teach these practical combat skills in a cycle, sometimes focusing on perfecting certain kicks or the blocking, trapping, and footwork skills needed to engage an opponent up close. Students move slowly and purposefully through tai chi training regimens, focusing on meditative thought and fluid self-defense techniques. Kettlebell and sandbag courses condition bodies for explosive combat motions and hefting deadweight, such as a feral Santa hibernating in your chimney for the summer.
A 30-foot rock-climbing wall soars up through The Energy Fitness Club's two floors, towering over the 17,000 square feet of fitness facilities. Certified guides lead students up the custom-built routes during official climbing-certification classes. The presence of credentialed experts extends to private training studios, where nationally certified instructors lead a variety of innovative group fitness classes, along with boot camp, personal-training sessions, and nutrition consultations.
Below the climbing apparatus, rows of advanced cardio and strength-training equipment challenge guests. Once they retire from the club’s exercise arena, clients can revel in the elegant hardwood lockers that wrap the walls of the full-service changing rooms. Childcare facilities are also available. Throughout the month, the club hosts social events—from group hikes to happy hours with complimentary wine tastings—providing clients a chance to mingle and politely request permission to poke the bulging muscles of the buffest members.
A team of friendly gurus runs each club. Fitness buffs of all buffness levels feel welcome in the fun and accommodating atmosphere at Washington Sports Clubs. During your two weeks, you get access to all the professional equipment, group exercise classes, locker rooms, and facility amenities offered (some group exercise classes require a reservation). Different clubs have on-site features such as pools, Pilates and yoga, babysitting services for a tag-along papoose, electricity, and more. Search for the club that suits your checklist here.
LA Boxing’s fight-centric gyms ditch the polished look of wood-floored workout studios for gritty, competitive spaces filled with 150-pound punching bags and intense workouts. Like a baker molding gingerbread men, LA Boxing sculpts six-packs with boxing, kickboxing, and mixed-martial-arts classes. Although instructors and students agree that the gym’s atmosphere may enkindle intimidation in first-time attendees, most experience boosted self-confidence after conquering their first class. Private training sessions further stoke courage with workouts that leave patrons with the exhilaration of having survived 12 rounds in the ring or five minutes in a high-school lunchroom.
Following the principles of Rael Isacowitcz’s Block System, the instructors at My Thrive Pilates design group Pilates workouts that build long, lean, and toned bodies regardless of experience. Instructors start new students slowly and show them how to master core skills before moving on the center’s more advanced classes. Introductory mat classes develop central tenets of spinal alignment and ribcage-breathing techniques, and Reformer classes help isolate and sculpt stronger muscles using precise motions on the Reformer apparatus. Students can also take advantage of the center’s eight-week bridal program and build a rock hard core that can be used to break ice cubes for a perfectly chilled wedding toast.