// Hold it right there!

Stephen Parker explores how, when and why holding patterns should be used when instructing freestyle group exercise classes.

If it’s not part of your final choreography product, then what exactly is a holding pattern? In simple terms, a holding pattern is a move you temporarily insert into your choreography to create space and time during the layering process.

As you deliver each progression or layer in your class, you are likely to change or add direction, rhythm, timing, impact and arm lines. Ideally these layers will be small, logical and introduced one at a time, as this makes it easier and more comfortable for your students to follow and achieve the change. However, it is not always possible to layer small changes, so a holding pattern can be used to increase the ability of students to learn bigger or more detailed layers. Once students have learnt the layer, the holding pattern can be removed.

A holding pattern can also be used when you deliver a block of choreography that does not equal 16 or 32 counts of music. For example, you may have planned a block of choreography that uses only 20 counts of music; you would then use a holding pattern for the remaining 12 counts of music, to ensure you stayed with the phrase. Then, when putting your final product together, you would take out the holding pattern.

A holding pattern can be used in both freestyle step and HiLo classes in exactly the same way, and I recommend the move you select for a holding pattern be a base move.

Good examples of holding patterns for a step class include: Basic Step, Step Touch, Leg Curl, Marches.

Some good examples of a holding pattern for a HiLo class are: Step Touch, Leg Curl, Marches, V Step.

The video accompanying this article shows how a holding pattern can be used in a HiLo class prior to layering in a directional change. You’ll see how a holding pattern works in a real class situation.

Enjoy the ease with which this wonderful tool enables you to make your class an even better experience for both you and your students. Go forth and hold!


Counts Moves Photos
1 – 8 Grapevine reverse L-shape 1 & 2
9 – 14 Baby mumbo 3 & 4
15 – 16 Pivot turn  
17 – 24 Mumbo cha cha cha to the front and back 5 & 6
25 – 32 Squat curl x 2 7


(Click images to see larger)



Stephen wears clothing by www.rockwear.com.au

Learning Curves Template 1

1 – 16
Base moves: 2 grapevines, 8 marches

  • Teach 2 grapevines and 8 marches
  • 2 grapevines, layer 8 marches on the left leg
  • 2 grapevines, layer baby mumbo over 8 marches
  • Insert holding pattern of 8 step touch
  • Layer 2 grapevines reverse L-shape, baby mumbo, 8 step touch
  • 2 grapevines reverse L-shape, baby mumbo, add on 1 more baby mumbo to the back, 8 step touch
  • 2 grapevines reverse L-shape, baby mumbo, layer pivot turn, 8 step touch
  • Take out holding pattern, add on base moves Template 2.
Learning Curves Template 2

17 – 32
Base moves: 8 leg curls

  • Teach 8 leg curls
  • Layer 4 double curls
  • Layer 2 step knees, 2 double curls
  • Layer 2 mumbo cha cha cha, 2 double curls
  • Layer direction 1 mumbo cha cha cha facing front, 1 mumbo cha cha cha facing back, 2 double curls
  • Front mumbo cha cha cha, back mumbo cha cha cha, layer 2 squat curls.

Template 2 should always be taught after the final product of Template 1 to ensure all learning curves are balanced on the right and left leg.



Stephen Parker
With a background in classical dance, Stephen has been in the fitness industry for 16 years and currently holds the position of group fitness manager at Fitness First Darlinghurst, NSW. Having competed successfully in Sport Aerobics, he now focuses on helping fellow instructors develop their freestyle teaching skills and is a course presenter for Finishing First, the instructor mentoring program at Fitness First. Stephen is co-presenter and assessor for the Elite Group Exercise (Certificate III) course for Network, and is committed to doing all he can to see more freestyle group exercise on club timetables.