Hubert Burda Media

Moves Like Dana

Pilates, hip hop, rumba, cha cha, boxing and now Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis. Is there anything DANA CHEONG hasn’t tried?

There are people who workout and there are people who really workout. Dana Cheong falls into the latter category. You’ll have to be blind not to realise it.
Her arms and legs are slim and toned and her abdomen is runway flat (she looks like she is born to wear Herve Leger dresses). Then there is her exceptionally good skin, clear and unblemished, and her sky-high energy level. Cheong zips from one place to another and regardless of what she is doing, she never seems to tire out.
Turns out she’s been a fitness buff for a good 15 years and has done a tour of duty through pilates, different dance forms, boxing and now, Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis.
First introduced to her a decade ago by her then-pilates instructor Ivana Danielli, Gyrotonic is a form of exercise that she is now so passionate about, she even underwent a course to become a certified instructor.
With its roots in yoga, tai chi and dance, the Gyrotonic methodology comprises of a sequence of spiraling and circular movements that work the upper and lower body seamlessly in rhythmic repetition, synchronised with the breath. The exercises are performed with the aid of specialised equipment known as the Pulley Tower Combination Unit, which contains pulleys attached to weights and a pair of circular discs that allow you to move almost as if you were shuffling mahjong tiles. Gyrokinesis exercises are essentially the same thing, according to Cheong, but practiced without equipment and either on a stool or mat.
Not long after having her second child, a son, she decided to pick up pilates with Danielli, who is recognised as one of the first few who introduced the form of exercise to Singapore. “She opened the door to understanding my body, especially after I had my baby, I kind of lost it — what stomach muscle?” Cheong laughs at the memory of herself post-pregnancy.
It was in one of the classes that Danielli slipped in a Gyrotonic session and the rest, as they say, is history. Yet in those early years, Cheong admits she wasn’t totally dedicated to it, preferring instead to dance and box (“I love it!”). She started with hip hop, doing the “attitude thang” to the beats of Ciara and Beyoncé, before dropping it and shimmying on to Latin ballroom.
“I wanted to do it seriously and because its essence was so different from hip hop, I had to give that up,” says Cheong. What ensued was six years of Latin ballroom dancing, going so far as to participate in competitions with a professional partner.
Her intense commitment meant she used to train intensively up to six days a week, for at least two hours each time. Yet she knew it would not last: “I fulfilled my dance journey very much to the max and then I understood it had to come to an end because my body was being subjected to a lot of wear and tear.”
Although she was focused on Latin ballroom, Cheong still kept up with Gyrotonic classes, though on a much reduced scale. It was when she retired from dancing that she went back to it full-time. After realising just how much she enjoyed it, she decided to take up the instructor course and is now a certified trainer (she’s also recently embarked on the programme to become a Gyrokinesis instructor).
Today, she runs a hobby-business out of an apartment in the Bukit Timah area, where she has a Gyrotonic Cobra Elite pulley tower unit on which all the different types of exercises can be done. She has between 15 and 20 students (or “clients”, as she prefers to call them) at any one time, all of whom attend hour-long, one-on-one classes with her.
One of her pet peeves is when a client walks into her studio and tells her she wants to look like Cheong (which is a great compliment, we must add). “It’s not always possible because we are all built differently,” she emphasises.
What she does do though is start the class with a conversation on how her client is feeling and what she feels like working on for that session. Just as it is with a yoga or pilates class, it is important she gives clear and detailed explanations and instructions because every one works the entire body and it is important the client realises that: “I will try to use my mouth and talk non-stop like a grandma.”
Classes aside, Cheong trains up to three times a week on her own for an hour each time: “After that, I feel so good about myself. It’s beautiful, I feel like [I’m in] heaven.”
Clearly, Gyrotonic has done her a world of good — and she’s definitely feeling the positive kickbacks. Part of a Cuban salsa group, she still participates in the occasional competition. In the past, she would have needed an instructor specially to help her stretch and warm up before hitting the dance floor, but now she doesn’t need to. Half an hour on the Cobra Elite and she is ready to rumble: “I was like wow, it proves that this is really good.”
A firm believer in the healing benefits of spa massages, she goes once a week to get unknotted by a sports therapist — except she doesn’t really have any kinks to work out. Her masseur constantly teases her about how she makes his job a breeze: “It’s hearing things like this, from a totally independent point of view, that tells me Gyrotonic is working good for me.”
Which is why Cheong is hell bent on being the Messiah for the methodology and spread its word: “I really want people to know about it.” On one hand, she plans to teach in community centres and foundations set up for survivors of different kinds of illnesses such as cancer; on the other hand, she wants to reach out to children — especially those who dance or are athletes — and encourage them to pick it up. “Gyrotonic is so wonderful. I started late but the kids can start young.”
Fashion Director / Eddie Halim
Photographer / Alvin Kean Wong
Hair artist / Jenny Lee from Monsoon
Hair House using L’Oreal Professional
Make–up artist / John Lee using YSL Beaute
Photography Assistant / Mun Kong
Intern / Whitney Yuen