Headbanging and Headbands in Germany
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.
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, with a bit of slam-dancing at varying intensities.
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.
Thanks, Stuttgart (dpa).