Head­bang­ing for health: Ger­many’s lat­est aer­o­bics trend for metal fans.

For­get Zumba – the lat­est mu­si­cal fit­ness craze is Me­talza, a form of aer­o­bics with a heavy metal sound­track. Its Ger­man cre­ator says it’s a fun way to get fit, though some ex­perts say vi­o­lent head­bang­ing should be ap­proached with cau­tion

Gulf Times Community - - FRONT PAGE - By Si­mon Sachseder

Screech­ing gui­tars and an­gry lyrics by the band Oomph! blare from the loud­speak­ers. The crowd are wear­ing all black, drip­ping with sweat as they jump up and down, dance, punch the air and head­bang.

The scene re­sem­bles a heavy metal con­cert, but this is not a muddy field or con­cert hall. In­stead, the lis­ten­ers are danc­ing be­neath the flu­o­res­cent lights of a small gym­na­sium in south-western Ger­many.

An­other sign that this isn’t a metal con­cert: No one is scream­ing. That’s partly be­cause they are out of breath, but mainly be­cause this is, in fact, a fit­ness class known as Me­talza.

Me­talza is a dance work­out sim­i­lar to Zumba, but with metal mu­sic and head­bang­ing in­stead of Latin mu­sic and hip-shak­ing. It was cre­ated by Su­sanne Koller, from the cen­tral Ger­man state of Hesse, and has since spread to sev­eral Ger­man cities, in­clud­ing the cap­i­tal, Ber­lin.

“I just don’t like the mu­sic they play at the gym,” says one Me­talza par­tic­i­pant, Anna. The same can be said of most of the peo­ple who sign up for Me­talza classes at the sports club in Lud­wigs­burg.

Seven peo­ple have shown up for the class this evening – all of them women. Per­haps that’s be­cause, in spite of the na­ture of the mu­sic, the course does fo­cus on danc­ing. “I used to do Zumba, but the mu­sic in this course speaks to me more,” says an­other par­tic­i­pant, Heike.

Not to men­tion: “Head­bang­ing is fun,” adds Anna.

Course in­struc­tor Franziska Mueckusch says that about 10 peo­ple reg­u­larly show up for the one-hour class fea­tur­ing nine songs. The youngest par­tic­i­pant is 16 years old, while the old­est is about 60. They warm up to the punk song

Pretty Fly (For A White Guy) by The Off­spring, but the chance to head­bang comes a few songs later, to

Du hast by Ramm­stein. In be­tween, the women jump around.

Oth­er­wise, the course pulls on moves from other clas­sic dance aer­o­bics and fit­ness classes. Many of the women al­ready know the moves to each song, though Mueckusch al­ways ex­plains them to the new­bies.

“In prin­ci­ple, any­thing that makes peo­ple move around more is good,” says Denise Temme from the In­sti­tute for Dance and Move­ment at the Ger­man Sports In­sti­tute in the western city of Cologne. How­ever, she is scep­ti­cal about Me­talza. “Head­bang­ing puts a lot of strain on the spine.”

For those who are un­trained, such a move could even be dan­ger­ous, she says. It’s un­clear how qual­i­fied the course in­struc­tors are, and if they would be able to re­spond ap­pro­pri­ately if a stu­dent had is­sues, says Temme. Those in­ter­ested in tak­ing the class should there­fore have a good sense of their phys­i­cal abil­i­ties and know where their lim­its are.

“Head­bang­ing in our class hap­pens only in short seg­ments and also only at se­lect mo­ments,” re­sponds Me­talza cre­ator Koller.

Par­tic­i­pants are al­ways given an al­ter­na­tive move to per­form at mo­ments where they might feel com­fort­able – so there is no health risk, Koller says. “It’s just a bit of fun.”

Koller trained Mueckusch and the other course in­struc­tors her­self. As well as read­ing ma­te­rial, the train­ing in­volves four to six week­ends of prac­ti­cal ses­sions, with videos of the chore­og­ra­phy also avail­able. Koller says that she has a ba­sic fit­ness trainer li­cense and a back­ground as a dance and move­ment in­struc­tor.

She be­gan de­vel­op­ing Me­talza five years ago. “At some point I found my­self in a Zumba class,” she ex­plains. The course was fun, but the mu­sic wasn’t really her thing. So she came up with a way to of­fer the same con­cept, but to heavy metal fans. Es­pe­cially be­cause the “heavy metal world is not so in­ter­ested in fit­ness,” she says.

Like Zumba, Me­talza uses a fran­chise model and is a pro­tected trade­mark. Koller de­vel­ops the moves to the songs, and the course in­struc­tors must pay a li­cens­ing fee.

But there is no big com­pany be­hind Me­talza – Koller says she is a lone en­tre­pre­neur, with no sup­port from in­vestors. She es­ti­mates that about 200 peo­ple across Ger­many take Me­talza classes and still – at least for now – has a day job. – DPA

IN­STRUC­TOR: Franziska Mueckusch is a Me­talza in­struc­tor in the Ger­man city of Lud­wigs­burg.

FIT­NESS: Par­tic­i­pants in a Me­talza fit­ness class in the Ger­man city of Lud­wigs­burg.

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