By Nicole Berrie
Photography and Video by Sasha Israel
“FOR ME, FITNESS LOOKS LIKE A DANCER,” explains Katia Pryce over a lemon-cayenne juice at Mulberry & Vine in Tribeca. We’ve just finished Pryce’s 90-minute workout class where we plie-ed, lunged and twerked into sweaty submission. The description of her class: “The ultimate power-hour combining fat frying dance cardio mixed with high intensity intervals and body tightening sculpt exercises. As the hour flies by to the best music out there, you’ll work up a sweat while achieving the best overall body conditioning possible.” In other words? How to look like Beyonce. “That’s how I want to look,” says Pryce, a former professional dancer who cut her teeth as a trainer at Tracy Anderson before embarking on her own practice. “I want long lean lines, really twisted and tight muscles but I don’t want to be weak.” Enter KPDanceBody, the latest innovative cult fitness class in Manhattan that has been quietly drawing fashion industry insiders, fitness fanatics and girls to rotating dance studios, who, let’s be honest, just want to look hot. Read on to discover how Pryce helps transform even the quietest wallflower into a would-be backup dancer. Taking applications, Mrs. Carter?
How is KP DanceBody different from other dance cardio classes out there?
It’s a complete hybrid between dance and fitness. We look at fitness through the lens of a dancer. One of the biggest components lacking in dance cardio is a strength element. You need push-ups, planks, tricep presses, lunges and squats. No one gets away with it. Otherwise you’re not going to be able to use your body. It will actually break. But if you combine dance cardio with classical conditioning, you can’t go wrong. It gives you this super lean, tight bod, with the cherry on top that you can dance like a motherfucker.
What about people who say they can’t dance?
Everyone wants to dance like Beyonce. I never met someone who doesn’t want to move well. No one wants go to a wedding and feel like, “I suck at dancing.”
What are new clients looking for when they come to you?
Everyone is looking to be tightened and toned. Everyone wants their ass lifted, their abs tighter, their arms wrapped around to be more muscular. Just etch those lines on their body. In order to do that, unless someone has a very thin base to start, we have to do dance cardio to shed the weight. With my clients who just need to tighten up their skin, we do tons of planks, arabesques, long attitudes, butt-lifting and thigh-thinning to take you in inches. I never met someone, no matter how skinny, who doesn’t want their thighs tightened and toned.
What is the most common problem area people like to focus on?
Inner thighs, lower abs and triceps are the most underworked areas of the body. I tend to really focus on the areas that are less developed. You’d be amazed, you can do squats and lunges in a different way to make sure that you hit those muscles. Everyone thinks, “Oh I’m going to bulk up.” If you do those exercises wrong, you’ll totally bulk up. If you do them correctly, it hits the right spots.
What’s the trick of working out correctly?
With squats and lunges, people make the mistake of putting the effort in the front of the body. So they put weight in their toes. The second your knee goes in front of the toe, it’s all in the quad. The ass has to go back, the knee has to be behind the toe and you press up and through so it wraps into your inner thigh. People are like why do my inner thighs hurt? It’s because you did the exercises correctly. With leg lifts, they’re going to use their hamstrings and their quads because those are the larger muscles that they are used to using, which is a big problem, because you’re reworking those areas that you don’t want to work. It has to come from the abs and the glute muscles. I like to tell my clients, think of your abs and butt muscles in red, and those are the only muscles that exist, so you have to hold it, contract and then lift your leg. Otherwise, it just goes into your leg.
How much cardio do you have to do per week in order to shed weight?
The rule for cardio, especially if you want to lose weight, it has to be more days than not, which will be four or more days. Less than that and you won’t see consistent results. I don’t do cardio for a half hour or hour at a time. The only way to do it and not sustain injury is to mix it up. So between the high impact, jumpy techno cardio, which is great for getting rid of cellulite, I implement low impact hip hop stuff. When you do that, you’re still burning calories, but you’re not ruining your feet or ankles. People have this misconception that you have to kill yourself to get the right result. You have to not injure yourself. Burpees for example, they’re killer, they raise your heart rate and burn a shit ton of calories.
So you don’t think people should do a 50 min spinning class?
I think every workout has it place. If someone came to me and needed to lose 30 to 40 pounds, I tell them to go spin for a month and then come back to me because if you dance with too much weight on your knees, you’re going to blow out your knee.
What about running?
Running is great, but I think it’s more of a mental thing for a lot of people. If you’re going to run, you need to do a massive amount of stretching and you need to mix it up with butt lifts, otherwise, your butt will go completely flat if you just run for 50 minutes. You burned calories, but you’re not doing much for the actual look of your body. You’re not changing it in any sort of way. It’s just calories in, calories out. I know a lot of the people who run, who look exactly the same as they did five years ago. There’s a reason for that.
Do you ever get clients who want to look like a certain celeb?
Totally. I’ve had people rip out pages in magazines and be like, “This! I want this!” Julianne Moore, Cate Blanchett. My clients are all pretty smart. They’re not asking to look like Gisele. A lot of my women in my forties are like Gwyneth looks crazy good but there’s a reason for that. When she’s on that carpet or magazine cover, she did a massive amount of dieting and working out to get there, it’s not something that you can maintain day to day.
How much does diet play a role in getting the body you want?
Eighty percent. Even using myself as an example. The second I took out grain and dairy, my body did a massive shift. It’s really important what you’re putting in your mouth and how much you’re eating. You can do any workout, only get so much results, if you don’t do the eating portions. It’s a big contributing factor. Especially around the midsection, it’s diet. I can etch lines in there once you can see your muscles.
What is the best eating plan to get those crazy abs you have?
Dairy is a big bloater. Quite frankly, dairy should be out of everyone’s diet. I don’t have a problem with grains, I love them but I think if you’re going to be in a bikini or if you’re going to be in a certain dress, it’s something you need to be very mindful of because grains hold water. Anything processed is going to sit in your stomach because it doesn’t flow through your body. The more clean, natural and whole you eat, the easier it’s going to be to shed weight, the easier it’s going to be to shed weight, the easier it’s going to be to see your muscles, otherwise you’re working on top of food that you’ve eaten because it sticks to your bones and it doesn’t get processed.
What does a day in the life diet-wise look like for you?
I usually like to start with some sort of juice in the morning. I love a lemon, cayenne. Something fiery, but citrusy. Or I’ll pick up grapefruit, pomegranate seeds, something really quick in the morning because I’m on the go. Usually mid-morning I like to do a protein. After your first workout of the day, you need to replenish with some protein so I make sure it’s either chia seeds, a protein shake, eggs or almond butter. Then early afternoon, pretty much daily without fail, I’m doing some sort of kale salad with sweet potatoes or beets, beans, avocado or eggs. Something on top. I need to eat like six times a day so for a snack I’m usually doing hummus or almond butter with carrots or celery just to keep me going through the nighttime classes. Nighttime it’s usually protein and a veg of some sort. I do a lot of soups at night because it fills you up but its not overpowering and you can sleep on it. I try not to do too much at night. It’s really easy, especially for someone like me whose been working out all day to overindulge at night. I leave that for the weekends.
What is your biggest indulgence?
I have an 80/20 rule, which is a Paleo rule. That’s about three cheat meals a week. And by cheat, you don’t need to go ridiculously overboard but I like to be able to go out. No one wants to go out with someone whose not eating dairy, grains and not drinking alcohol. That’s fucked up and it shouldn’t happen. You need to live your life. You need to go out with your friends and let loose and have a piece of pizza. But the trick is you can’t do it consistently for days on end, because once you do that, you’re in a phase. Now you’re spiraling. You have to clean it up. So usually, I’ll give myself the weekend nights, Friday night, Saturday night, maybe Sunday afternoon, those will be my cheats. And then when I’m back into my week schedule, I’m back into my eating mode. And that’s how you keep it balanced.
Do you have a favorite “cheat” meal? I love Mexican. I love sweet potato fries but I’ve made it that sweet potato fries are part of my Paleo plan.
Is Paleo the best plan for you?
I’m mostly Paleo, that’s how I feel best, digestively and my look body-wise. The way that I’m built, not much will change unless I change my eating. Especially for lower body. There’s been a very conscious diet change. I’m not a nutritionist, I just speak from my experience. My best advice is to stay away from processed, grains and dairy. Just be mindful of it. Be aware of what’s going in. But it’s also psychological. Food is a very emotional thing. For women especially. We comfort ourselves with it. I do, for certain. Being a dancer for years, I went through my unhealthy phases and my healthy phases. Everyone goes through their phases of having to learn that.
What if someone has only 30 min to workout?
Totally doable. Intervals are the fastest way to burn calories. You don’t need creativity. 50 jumping jacks, some planks, jump lunges, then sit-ups. You can mix it up and burn a shit ton of calories then do some butt-lifting and isolated exercises at the end then a little stretch. It’s arguably a better workout because you are 100% committed. I would do maybe one high impact cardio, one low impact cardio, an interval cardio, some kickboxing, a sexy abs exercise and bring it down to the floor.
What is your personal workout when you’re not dancing?
I love doing yoga because it’s the alter ego to this workout. It’s mindful, slow, focuses on the breath, which centers me. It’s really nice to slow down, breathe and replenishes my oxygen and blood. It’s a good meditation. I do a vinyasa flow at Lyon’s Den. It’s a Baron Baptiste method. I also like going to Barry’s Bootcamp, just for something completely different but the energy is super high.
What about people who say they “can’t dance”?
It’s a mind game. You have to get over the mental stumbling block of not being a good dancer. No one’s born into it, it takes practice. Anywhere between 3 and 5 classes, you start to find your rhythm and start to not feel like such an idiot in front of the mirror. No one’s watching you. Everyone is watching themselves. It’s being comfortable in your own skin. 99% of the women that come in are not dancers. I start with a lot of freestyle so everyone’s on page one. There’s a little dancer inside all of us, you just have to let her free.
But why dance? Why not jumping rope, spinning or step aerobics?
People have found that doing a Barry’s or a Soul Cycle doesn’t change your body in the same way. A lot of people who do SoulCycle, they’re built like a brick. Dancing literally gets every single muscle. There’s no stone unturned. I want to make sure I’m getting every single body part in.
Have you helped clients break out of their shell through dance?
I’ve watched some of my clients literally change personalities from someone who’s a little prudish to all of a sudden they’re starting to move in a different way, their wardrobe changes as their personality changes. They start to become more open and are more themselves. Then we start talking about their sex lives and then we have a really good workout. We talk about, “Oh I don’t like this little bit of flab when I’m in this position,” and I’m like, well let’s fix it. Easily done.
With Valentine’s Day coming up which moves from KPDanceBody segue into the bedroom? There is no segue, it all belongs in the bedroom. Any of the sexy ab stuff, the hip rolls or isolation moves. If I have clients who are looking super stiff, their spine has no range of motion, their hips are locked from desk jobs and sitting all day, I literally say, husband, boyfriend, one night stand, I don’t care, get on top, rock that shit, find your inner sex goddess. It’s true, if you don’t use it, you lose it.
What are the most important body areas to focus on when it comes to the bedroom?
The abs and the ass have to come correct. You’re not getting it good if those two are not right and tight. And you’re also not going to feel good about it. You’re talking isolating the butt muscles, side leg lifts, sexy abs with hip rotations, it’s contracting the low abs in a different way. Regular crunches don’t actually do much. That’s why we put it as a topper at the end of the day because by the time you get to that point, you’ve already blown out your abs.
What is your final piece of advice for people who say they can’t move like that?
This is the quintessential class, you’re moving in ways that you never would, it breaks yourself out of the box that you build yourself into. I have given people homework, either go in the bathroom mirror, roll up your shirt and look at your abs as they move. Find your range of motion. A lot of women are very mechanical, they’re cut off from the neck down, they don’t feel their bodies, they don’t have that organic flow. It’s so much sexier when you can move.