Find your rhythm at an uplifting dance retreat on the island’s quiet northern coast
“Mama, you can dance,” hollers the excitable Jésus, an American of the most-enthusiastic variety to my roommate, Frankie. Feeling the pressure, I step up for my turn. Suddenly, I’m jiving around the casa terrace to a fast rock ‘n’ roll beat, my two left feet replaced with the correct composition of appendages. This is the power of Jésus; infectious enthusiasm, a dazzling smile and an otherworldly teaching gift.
On arrival at the expansive Casa la Vista estate, we had met the line-up of staff, a troupe of handsome Latinos who were tasked with improving the dance skills of the retreat attendees. Some, who attend the weekly Santhosh classes at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill, were already up to being spun around in time while still looking graceful and elegant; others needed a bit more work. But the idea behind Santhosh Retreats – set up by Samiya Noordeen, a former barrister who fell in love with Latin American dance and soon turned her hobby into a small business – has nothing to do with skill. Guests are encouraged to leave any self-conscious inhibitions at the airport and let movement be their medicine, regardless of the nimbleness of their steps.
The teaching quartet consisted of Jésus, a Puerto Rican from Atlanta; Fabrizio, a fabulous Brazilian with a mop of glossy, jet-black hair and a penchant for Pilates; brooding, snake-hipped Juan, a Colombian ballroom dancer still cleaning up on the competition circuit; and lovable Nuno from Portugal, a former judge on the Panama edition of Dancing with the Stars. Each are impossibly talented, hilariously funny and relentlessly energetic, and, though they have years of practise on the average guest, they impart their knowledge so deftly that even the most ungainly novice will soon have command of the basic steps. The extroverted team joins the retreat participants for meals, after which hours of impromptu ‘social dancing’ break out, an opportunity for a little skill-honing or just some carefree movement.
Meals are a real highlight (if you’re hoping for this to be a weight-loss retreat, it’s probably not the right choice for you) and Samiya has no time for deprivation. You’ll be dancing for five or six hours a day and the sustenance on offer is more than enough to keep you going. Samiya recruits some of Ibiza’s most exciting chefs to cater the retreat; we were lucky enough to be served the creative output of the former chef at Moro and Rotorino in London. Breakfast is a simple spread to get you through the morning activity, and a huge lunch is served early: trestle tables laden with vast bowls of colourful salads, freshly baked foccaccia and just-squeezed juices are set up at varying locations across the casa’s 33 acres. On one morning, a dawn hike along Ibiza’s rocky coastline (with a spontaneous dip for those brave enough to join the nutty teachers) culminated in a spread laid out by the shore, with the waves lapping as we ate roast chicken with butternut squash, baked aubergine with sumac and yoghurt, and a series of Asian-inspired salads. Further temptation awaits in the kitchen, where a limitless supply of home-baked bars, protein balls, nuts, tea and fruit-infused water is laid out on the off-chance you’re hungry.
Each attendee has a differing daily schedule, consisting of group classes (a combination of yoga, Pilates, aerobics and, of course, ballroom), one-to-one tuition, spa treatments and communal meals, with plenty of free time to enjoy the converted 800-year-old casa’s grounds, which feature private access to the shore, pine forests, pomegranate-trees, various sea-facing terraces, a landscaped Moroccan garden, a lounge, a lawn and an infinity pool. There’s also the opportunity for life-coaching with Samiya, who is a qualified practitioner.
Come nightfall, dresses and heels are donned for sundowners by the pool or dinner on the terrace, with plenty more music and dancing afterwards. If you’re lucky, the teachers will treat you to a performance, where their notable talents are showcased, in dance as well as song (it transpires that Nuno doubles as an excellent Anastacia, and Jésus can give John Legend a run for his money). Regardless of whether you want to samba or salsa, or perfect your paso doble, you won’t have laughed so much in years.
The next four-night retreats take place on 17 and 27 September, and cost from £1,750 a person, based on two sharing, including all meals, activities, one massage and airport transfers (for guests arriving on the designated flights), but not flights. For more information and to book, visit santhoshretreats.com or email welcome@.