LaBlast is a partner-free dance fitness program developed by Dancing with the Stars pro Louis van Amstel
“I think dance is the most fun way of working out,” says Louis van Amstel, who created LaBlast, a partner-free dance fitness program offered at select gyms around the world and on DVD
“My dance life started at the age of 10 after my family decided it was important for my social skills to learn ballroom dancing,” says van Amstel on his website. “My grandparents were competitive ballroom dancers so it didn't come as a surprise to many that I should follow in their footsteps.”
The move into a structured activity requiring physical fitness, confidence and mental strength helped him overcome the bullying he endured at school. “I was bullied as a kid for being fat,” he says, “and I was an emotional eater because of what was going on at home but no one knew, so for many years I was eating."
“I was very small, I was the smallest and the youngest in my class, so that was a recipe for bullying and I just ate my emotions away. But then, dance… when I started dancing, one year in and the weight went off and I got a little vertical spurt."
“I learned to love competitive ballroom dancing because winning competitions gave me confidence, and I realized how competitive I actually was,” says van Amstel on his website. “Dancing gave me the opportunity to express feelings without saying a word and I also experienced it as therapy to deal with many emotional obstacles throughout my childhood.”
A Career in Ballroom Dance
(Image: Dancing with the Stars)
Van Amstel was born and raised in the Netherlands and left high school at the age of 16 to pursue a professional career in ballroom dance, a difficult decision he’s grateful his parents agreed to, and one that’s paid off in spades.
In 2005 he joined the inaugural cast of Dancing with the Stars (DWTS); he and celebrity partner Sabrina Bryan were recently eliminated in week 6 of Season 15.
His former celebrity partners include Kendra Wilkinson, Margaret Cho, Niecy Nash, Kelly Osbourne, Priscilla Presley, Monique Coleman, Lisa Rinna and Trista Sutter.
LaBlast Brings Dance to the Gym
Teaching untrained celebrities to not only become adept dancers but drastically increase their fitness and overall health, and watching the phenomenon that dance has become (with TV shows like DWTS and So You Think You Can Dance? garnering massive viewing audiences), van Amstel set his sights on reaching a larger audience of untrained dancers, which led to the creation of his new workout called LaBlast, which is offered at select Steve Nash Fitness World and Sports Clubs in Canada and as a DVD series.
LaBlast is a partner-free dance fitness program that incorporates easy-to-follow elements from a variety of dance styles including salsa, merengue, cha cha cha, jive, disco, samba and more.
There are five DVDs in the set, including:
- Level 1 – Let’s Dance: salsa, cha cha cha and jive
- Level 2 – Turn It Up: disco, salsa, jive and cha cha cha
- Level 3 – Hot 'n' Spicy: disco, cha cha cha, salsa, samba, paso doble and jive
- Level 4 – Twist 'n' Burn: six 15-minute workouts for upper body, waistline and legs using handheld weights
- Level 5 – Blast a Move: six, more intense, 15-minute workouts for upper body, waistline and legs using handheld weights
"Everybody was telling me, it’s such a blast, it’s such a blast,” says van Amstel, of trying to come up with a name for his new music-driven workout, “and then I thought, ok, so it’s fun, people have a blast, but also it’s a blast of a workout, you’re blasting calories. So I thought, I need to have the word ‘blast’ in there. But it wasn’t enough, I couldn’t trade mark it, it was too random."
“I had LeBlast, DeBlast, and then I was talking to some ladies from my class, and predominantly it’s female [participants], and one said, you have to call it LaBlast. And I thought, wait – in French and Spanish ‘la’ is female, and I’m from Holland so I tested it out there [‘la’ is female there as well]. I thought, right, in four or five countries everyone will say it the same way. So there’s the name.”
LaBlast as Lifestyle
But van Amstel stresses that LaBlast isn’t just a workout, it’s a lifestyle that also encourages healthy, mindful eating.
“I’ve never really been on a diet ,” he says, “I’ve never really been conscious of what I ate until I became very involved with LaBlast, and I thought, wait a minute , now I’m promoting health, I have to live by example."
“I’m not a nutritionist but I was heavily involved with nutrition for the last eight years and now I’m really very opinionated about what’s right and what’s wrong, and I hate diets. I absolutely hate diets, because to me, that is the beginning of the end. People that have to lose 50, 100 pounds, they’re going to diet and then they lose 20 pounds and they feel good, but what they had to do to get there… They can do it for a few months but one thing that happens negatively, an argument or a divorce, a death in the family, or anything, and boom, those 20 pounds will be on again."
“So you get that yo-yo. And to me, you have to be more active. If you’re active and have more fun, then the pounds will go off bit by bit. And that’s when I realized the importance of a lifestyle. When I had my own revelation about that four or five years ago I thought, my LaBlast is going to be a lifestyle."
“I’m not going to promote weight loss, I’m going to promote that your life is going to change, not physically but emotionally because you start getting more in tune with your femininity, you’re going to change your own self-esteem, and then what’s going to happen is your physical body is going to change."
“And I tested it out with Kelly Osbourne [his celebrity partner on DWTS season 9], very consciously, and [she lost] 35 pounds in 12 weeks. It was never about, ‘we’re going to make you lose weight’. No! I helped her go shopping. I said, ‘you’re going to learn how to eat,’ because she stopped eating."
“Not eating, in short, it’s holding the body in survival mode, so it’s going to hold on [to the weight]. That’s why people don’t lose weight when they don’t eat. When you eat the right thing, your body is using the energy to burn the [fat], and that’s when your body starts changing."
Osbourne credits van Amstel with her dramatic transformation. “Louis literally changed my life,” she says. “He taught me how to eat and love myself. I lost 35 pounds on DWTS thanks to Louis.”