Publication: The Sunday Age M magazine
Author: Reviewed by Jayne D'Arcy 02/08/2009
It's dark and cold in downtown Collingwood, and the castle-like Bendigo Hotel looks suspiciously quiet. I'm looking for Anna's Go-go Academy, which is not something I expected to associate with quiet. The pub is quiet on the inside, too. I walk through the front bar, looking for a bunch of go-go dancers. Next to the darkened dance floor I find young women in twos, drinking pots of beer and looking like they've just come from the office. Is there going to be a magic Flashdance transformation? Or just six of us pathetically attempting to relive the '60s by boogalooing like my own mother once did?
Thankfully, by 7pm the dance floor is seriously packed, and funky, dance-friendly outfits have replaced the work clothes (the toilets double as change rooms). The lighting gives the room a dim red glow. Anna Achia (aka Anna Go-go) arrives in a swirl of excitement and begins collecting money. She looks resplendent in shiny white knee-high boots, mini-skirt and an ''Anna's Go-Go Academy'' T-shirt (her image is on the front, so you know who's the boss).
Thirty people have rocked up and most have a drink in their hand (it is a pub, after all). Only two are men and four are newbies (like me). We form four lines facing the small stage, and Anna suggests the newbies stick to the front so they can see her feet.
We warm up with stretches and Anna arms us with tips about avoiding a knee injury (tonight's ages range from 18-60, but most are in their 20s). Then the DJ sets the iPod in motion and we're ready to go-go.
We start off with moves that are fairly easy to follow. There's something a little ''grapeviney'' about one of our dances (cue aerobics class memories), but the lack of mirrors and fluorescent lights is a blessing. Anna explains some moves as we go and tells us, for example, that the mashed potato is not the one we probably think it is (which is unfortunate because the new one is WAY more difficult, though Anna does show us a cheats version). Since, according to Anna, everyone knows how to do the pony, she says it needs no explanation. Sure enough, when it's pony time, all 30 of us look like we've been doing it for years. I'm starting to see why my mum enjoyed it so much (though I still can't quite picture it).
The highlight of the class is learning the moves to Michael Jackson's Beat It. The class has been practising it for a few weeks now, and we go through the moves slowly, sans music, building it up verse by verse. Then the music kicks in and I realise it's double the speed at which we practised it. Even so, we look great (well, that's what Anna tells us).
An hour speeds by, and I've only stepped on a few feet. Between each dance I've reached for my beer, knowing that I really should be reaching for a glass of water, but that's the fun of exercising in a pub.
The winning combination of exercise (enough to break into a sweat), beer and the lively presence of the noughties very own go-go queen, Anna Go-go, is enough to make me want to etch this evening permanently into my calendar.
Where - The Bendigo Hotel, 125 Johnston St, Collingwood, has sessions on Tuesdays at 7pm and 8.30pm (advanced). There's a Wednesday session at 7pm at the Bella Union Bar at Trades Hall, 2 Lygon St, Carlton
How much - $12 a class
Handy hint - Wear comfy shoes/boots. A little bit of dressing to (moderately) impress is good