At the end of a fruitful career that led her from the Cincinnati Ballet to the Sacramento Ballet, Jennifer Williams funneled her dance savvy into creating the barre-inspired exercise system taught at Pop Physique, a 2013 CityVoter finalist for Best Gym. Her fleet of handpicked and personally trained instructors pairs graceful ballet moves with other low-impact exercises in order to chisel cores without injuring muscles. Deep stretches further preserve tendons and leave each student more relaxed than a tortoise moseying past a state patrolman with a radar gun. Sessions run multiple times a day, seven days a week at an expanding network of SoCal locations. The roomy studios are lined with sprung dance floors and design accents that lend each location a distinct personality and a chance to forget its past as a storage room for defective food processors.
The staccato beat of conga drums rises over the deep voice of a bass guitar and the higher trills of the timbales and piano. Head dancer Evan Margolin and his bevy of experienced instructors lead students in classes that take beginners through basic footwork and salsa rhythms, with intermediate and advanced sessions offering salsa aficionados more challenging instruction. The social class structure—partners rotate throughout every session—creates a low-pressure learning environment and keeps dancers from scrambling to locate a partner or human-shaped tupperware container. The one-hour beginner classes are mostly filled with salsa novices and new dancers, and Dance SF's experienced and engaging local salsateers are patient and friendly when showing new students how to bust well-timed moves. During intermediate classes, which require six months or more of social dancing experience, students focus on timing and cross-body leads with turns. After some evening classes, new dancers are invited to join an all-night salsa party where they can put their new moves in practice. Students should wear comfortable clothing, which includes dancing shoes, but does not include rear-flapped onesie pajamas.
A 2010 Best of the BayList coffee-shop nominee, Sugar Cafe's daytime, caffeinated digs mellow into a moody lounge by night. Mornings buzz on fresh brews by Bicycle coffee, an organic and sustainable brand of South American beans. Lunch favorites skew from flavorful egg-salad sandwiches ($7.95) to the Mangia! salad, a toss up of salami, chickpeas, roasted red peppers, red onion, and kalamata olives ($8.25). Blow up inflatable brunch dates for plates such as pancakes fully loaded ($7.95) or stuffed french toast, aptly shoved with lemon cream cheese, fresh blueberries, whipped cream, and seasonal fruit ($7.50). After 5 p.m., Sugar switches gears, crawling into its less-than-dark hole with help from a fireplace seating area and very important conversations. Watch wall-projected movies as you nosh on house sliders ($10) or the vegetarian-friendly truffle mac 'n' cheese ($8). Stay late to sip an array of freshly shaken martinis beneath the ethereal, purple glow, which attracts a cultural crosscut of art students, doctors, entrepreneurs, and people eaters.
Equipment: 100+ classes (including martial arts), free weights, weight machines, cardio equipment
Students should bring: Comfortable clothes, a lock, and water bottle. Towels and amenities are provided.
Registration required: Yes
Good for beginners: Yes
Average class length: 60 minutes
Number of Staff: 25+ people
Class location: Indoors only
Guests allowed: Yes
Parking: Parking garage
Pro Tip: Call ahead to book a class. We also have a cafe on-site.
Exercise is challenging, and people frequently give up on their fitness routines. How do you keep clients motivated?
There are so many different class options and workouts to choose from. There is something for everyone. In addition to classes, members can use the Strength Studio and cardio machines for solo workouts.
Besides working out, what else can clients do to spend their time at your facility?
[We have a] cafe and juice bar [and offer] massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, free WiFi, steam, sauna.
Has your business won any awards?
SF Best of the Bay 2013.
Is there anything else you want to add that we didn't cover?
[We are] locally owned and operated; no corporate hulahoops to jump through.
Jamaroo Kids founder Jamaica Stevens has two passions?the art of dance and teaching?that she uses to inspire young children. Rather than just occupying kids, her company has aimed to entertain them and enrich their early lives since its opening in 2004. From daily sessions at Jamaroo's San Francisco studio to weekly classes at over 100 area preschools and daycares, trained instructors lead toddlers in fun, engaging activities like yoga, creative movement, and dance. Kids' creative impulses are indulged with singing and storytelling sessions and their young minds nourished with bilingual classes, arts and crafts, and non-Euclidean geometry. Jamaroo Kids prides itself on its contributions to the community and the world at large. Not only do they help educate the city's children, but instructors also donate their time to local nonprofits and community organizations.