Dance fitness has evolved from the days of terry cloth headbands, jazz hands, and Richard Simmons-esque mini shorts. It’s become a global phenomenon merging music and dance to elevate getting fit from a grueling chore to a full-on party. Whining, twerking, and thrusting its way onto the scene on the heels of one of the most widespread dance fitness crazes, Zumba (the Latin-inspired dance workout that became a multi-million dollar franchise), is another dance fitness program fueled by ethnic beats–Afrobeats to be exact. Two sisters of African lineage, Fatima and Ramatoulie (Matou) Rashid, were drawn to music and dancing from a young age. Afrobeats was a prevalent soundtrack that ran through their African culture. Dance was the rhythm of their lives. The sisters decided to make their passion their profession, and in 2016 launched Dance the Royal Beat (DTRB), a Washington D.C. based company that seeks to enrich and empower through Afrobeats dance fitness.
How did the idea for your company come about?
The history of DTRB lies in our passion for our culture, for dance, and the desire to be self-sufficient. We were sitting around our family’s dining room table discussing the woes of our jobs. Now to be clear, we are grateful for the jobs we have, and we do them well, but we wanted more; we wanted to be our own bosses, able to move and do as we please at all times. So after that vent session, we asked ourselves what we could do to change this pattern and get out of the 9-5 box. At the time, we were heavy in the gyms and noticed that some classes were starting to play our music, Afrobeats, but the moves did not match the songs. It was nice to hear the music we jam to at home, but it was also frustrating to continually see the moves done in a non-traditional vibe. The instructors tried but did not do justice to the songs. We would say, “Mannnnn, we could turn this class up with the right moves!” The light bulb above our heads started flickering, but it wasn’t quite lit yet. Ongoing casual discussions eventually turned into a full blown business idea. We realized that we listen to Afrobeats every day and dance (and LOVE IT!), so why not make this a dance fitness option for the masses, offer a different culture to the gyms, and bring a dream we always had to fruition. The light bulb was shining bright now!
What’s the origin of the name, Dance The Royal Beat?
To give a little backstory to our dream, dance has always been something we each wanted to pursue since childhood; however, our father was not having it (just like every African father, lol) and felt you must pursue something more and leave dance as a hobby. We did not become doctors, lawyers or engineers though; it just wasn’t our thing. We went the business degree route, but waking up every day to go do work for someone else was not our passion nor what we wanted to do for the rest of lives. DTRB makes us happy, even when we get up early for classes we don’t mind because we love this company. The name of our brand had to sing to us just as Afrobeats music does; it had to say who we are, what we represent, and what we want people to capture (especially to rid the negative connotation associated with Africa at times). When we came up with the name, Dance The Royal Beat, it was like YES, YES, YES! (light bulbs, yes plural, were shining big time). We come from a bloodline of kings and queens. Our culture is rich, and music is one of the biggest influences. We are royalty, and that’s why we Dance the Royal Beat.
What does your company offer and to whom?
DTRB is an Afrobeats dance fitness company catering to youth, adults and groups. We provide an experience in which attendees will drip sweat moving to the music of Africa. We offer classes in the DMV area through fitness clubs and DTRB hosted events, classes in select cities across the country, curriculum design that addresses the specific needs of an organization, and private events as requested.
How has the experience been working together as partners to expand this vision?
We come from the same womb; we are sisters, lol. It is a blessing for us to work together. We know our strengths individually and work collectively to make DTRB a success.
What is Afrobeats and why is that your chosen modality?
Afrobeats derives from West Africa where it first became popular with the youth, but now it’s recognizable worldwide. Afrobeats music is a fusion of non-traditional instruments, electronic sounds, grooves, synths, and hip-hop kicks. Our parents are from West Africa, and we were raised in that culture at home, so that’s why we’re drawn to this style. In addition, it’s the BEATS. When we hear this music, we instantly start moving and vibing and want others to join in on this experience.
What is the impact/importance of Afrobeats?
Afrobeats caters to the young African adults of today, which allowed us to make our own lane. In every major city, Afrobeats parties are very popular. The music is now even being played on major market Top 40 and pop radio stations. It’s important to still have good music that we can relate to, dance to, and party to. Afrobeats is this music; it stems from traditional culture but is executed in a modern way. Afrobeats dance is a unique genre of its own, and beyond music, it gives us another option in dance and fitness.
How is your company/style/brand unique from others out there?
There are companies who do Afrobeats dance events but very few focus on this style as a way of fitness as well. We are unique in our mission to incorporate this style of dance fitness to be internationally recognized in all gyms/fitness locations. We want to bring the African culture to the mainstream fitness society.
What has been the impact of social media on your brand?
We put up new dance videos regularly showcasing our music and moves. Through the hundreds of views and comments, even from legends in the African music sphere like Awilo Longomba, social media has played a big role in providing the opportunity to display who we are and what we do to a greater population. It has attracted new people to our classes, allowed us to network with other artists in this field, and has led to new opportunities for our growth.
What advice would you give to aspiring dancers and entrepreneurs?
Most importantly, place the Heavenly Father in all aspects of the business for direction and discernment.
What can we expect next from DTRB?
We are currently on the weekly schedules of local organizations and gyms and are accepting bookings to host events at different locations beyond the DMV area. We have an upcoming event this fall also. We will be collaborating with another organization to host a massive Afrobeats dance fitness class in D.C. with the theme, Rep Your Country. Bring your country’s flag, your squad, and show us your flavor on the dance floor.
Where can people follow you or find out more information?
Connect with us on Instagram and Facebook @DanceTheRoyalBeat, via our website www.dancetheroyalbeat.com, and of course we’d love to see you in an upcoming class!