Hip Shake Fitness Founder Charlene Dipaola Talks Creating Online Dance Studio



L-R: Lesley Dimson (current Hip Shake Fitness cubscriber), Charlene Dipaola (Hip Shake Fitness founder/CEO), Nicole Steen (“Flirty Hip Hop” Instructor), Melissa Welch and Solange Deschatres (Dance workout volunteers) / Photo Credit: Ben Lioe

Ever wished you could take your favorite dance class to go? Last October, Los Angeles-based online marketing guru, Charlene Dipaola, founded her own online dance studio called Hip Shake Fitness. After moving from Culver City back to her native Los Angeles, the adjunct Digital Analytics professor at UCLA was bummed her beloved Bollywood dance class wasn’t readily accessible.

After putting her data-driven analysis to work, the Filipina-American did research on the different type of dances people Googled constantly and discovered that hip-hop, belly and ballet were the most searched routines. While there are several dance e-studios like Dance Plug and CLI Studios, Diapola’s mission as founder/CEO for HSF is to get more women active.

“I was actually really surprised that there’s no real platform online that’s just for online dance workouts,” she tells her sweat. “I go to classes here [in Los Angeles] and a lot of people go to hip-hop dance class or belly dance class or Bollywood dance class, there’s really no platform where they can do that online. As soon as I found out, I was like there’s an opportunity here.”

HSF offers a plethora of workouts made for diverse musical tastes like Brazilian warrior, dancehall jams, ballroom Latin, Bollywood belly dance and old-school hip-hop. Each instructor radiates body-positive vibes and came to Dipaolo as personal recommendations from friends or were simply rockstar instructors during dance classed she took.

Members who sign up on the HSF website can get unlimited access to the dance workouts for $18 a month or also take advantage of a 30-day free trial by typing the word “hersweat.” Being able to sweat hard and dance like no one’s watching from the comfort of your own home or hotel room? Priceless.

Below, the former Senior Director of Business Intelligence at Spin Media talks building her dance business, her mantra on body image and how she juggles her personal, professional and fitness lives.

her sweat.: What inspired you to create this online dance studio?

Charlene Dipaola: A couple of things. One, I’ve always had a passion for dance. I’m trained in Capoeira, which is martial arts based in dance, and I’ve been trained in that for over seven years. I also have a background in ballet, so for me dance is a really great way for me to feel free and just feel like I can express myself. It’s always been something I’ve loved. When I started my own business, I was like I wanted to work on something I’m passionate about.

In addition to that, I was thinking about how to get more people, especially women, to be active. There’s actually more men who work out than women based on a Center For Disease Control study about health behavior in the USA where men (50.4%) were more likely than women (42.1%) to have met the 2008 federal guidelines for aerobic physical activity. Then, when you do a dance workout, you actually see more women [taking the class], so this platform is for women to be able to dance everywhere, any time.

Was there a specific dance class you took that you wished you could take with you while traveling?

I used to really love this Bollywood class in Culver City but then I moved 40 minutes away. It just didn’t make sense for me to go all the way there and then go back home. I wished that I could put that studio [where I live] and make it more accessible to me, then I thought there’s gotta be other people with the same issue.

We all can’t be so lucky. In New York, I’m sure there’s tons of dance classes and dance workouts that you can go to, but I talked to people and one of my friends who lives in Texas said they could maybe go to a community center and there’s maybe Zumba there for all these older grandmas. And that’s fine to do but sometimes you kind of want music that’s something more in your age range.

Describe the different dance styles HSF offers.

Unfortunately, I haven’t found a ballet teacher yet but I have hip-hop and belly dance teachers. From that, I just kind of look all over L.A. I’ve been attending a lot of dance classes and I see which teacher I really feel good about because I want [Hip Shake Fitness] to be a body-positive place as well ‘cause I think some teachers are more body-positive than others.

You know how you leave a class and feel really happy? Like getting out of a class and feeling like, “I did something that’s really good” and not “oh I really need to lose weight”? Sometimes, you can have a teacher that’s not very positive so it’s a combination of research and also taking dance classes.

If I really love a dance class and I really sweat, I’ll talk to those teachers and hopefully, we can work something out. That’s kind of how I ended up with these dance classes now: old-school hip-hop, flirty hip-hop, dance hall, jams, L.A. latin––a ballroom dancing-type of dance workout––and one for my capoeira background. It’s not Maculele; it’s like a Brazilian stick dance. For example, the L.A. Latin teacher was my wedding dance teacher and I love him. [Laughs] Some of the other teachers were recommended by my friends.

You mentioned wanting Hip Shake Fitness to be a “body-positive place.”

As I talked to a lot of people about dance classes, I heard a lot of women say they would love to join a dance class but they don’t want to be that person in the back and can’t follow anything. People think that when they go to [class] they’re just gonna look stupid.

I was also personally inspired by “This Girl Can,” a national campaign developed in England that celebrates active women, who are doing their thing no matter how well they do it or how they look.

In all of our workouts, we don’t hire fitness models so when you’re taking this workout, you feel like you’re working out with your friends or sister or mom. To me, this makes the workouts more approachable and I personally get motivated because of “This Girl Can.”

As a CEO, what is your advice on balancing a fitness, personal and professional lives?

I wish I could tell you my fitness life, personal life and professional life is balanced. [Laughs] I try to work on it every day. In terms of my fitness life, I try to do something every day, even if it’s just a run, a walk or a 30-minute workout on Hip Shake. Whatever it is, I try to do something active every day.

For my professional and personal life, that’s something I really struggle with. I feel like, especially as a woman, we think we should be able to do everything but it’s really hard to do everything because something always has to give. I use this task manager called Asana for both my professional and personal life and I just try to evaluate every week: What are my real big goals? And I’ll be sure to get those done.

For more on Hip Shake Fitness, click here.

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