Skip to main content

FitPro speaks to international presenter, Helen Carpenter-Waters, and Personal Trainer and Group Exercise Instructor from Pendle Leisure Trust, Elaine Adams-Gilligan, to hear their take on the great choreo debate.

Helen Carpenter-Waters


“I believe that many instructors lack confidence in their ability to create a safe and effective class, plus the time and energy to market it and make it successful”

Described by convention organisers and colleagues as an ‘industry icon’, renowned for her original chorography and exceptional teaching skills, Carpenter-Waters is the founder of health and fitness academy, DYBO, and is incredibly passionate about independent fitness.

My training as an independent fit pro, combined with my experience, has given me the confidence to personalise my teaching. I offer a variety of levels and intensity within a class, and provide different content across all classes. I’m sensitive to my clients’ needs and I respond accordingly. I don’t see this happening in pre-choreographed programmes.

I think the familiarity of content offered within pre-choreo programmes can provide comfort and confidence to the participant. However, this familiarity may also lead to boredom if participants become overly familiar with a particular format, style and structure. A regular participant may not feel challenged if too few, or any new, challenges and progressions are offered.

I know that many instructors are time poor and so the prospect of someone else taking responsibility for all aspects of a class appears to make life easier for them. I also believe that many instructors lack confidence in their ability to create a safe and effective class, and have concerns regarding the time and energy it takes to market it and make it successful.

I prefer to experience independent education from a variety of sources since I think this helps develop a broad base of understanding. I’m always listening out for great tracks, wherever I am. I also find that Dean and Dex of MyGroupFit provide a fantastic variety of mixes from past and present, along with special playlists suitable for all types of freestyle classes.

The freestyle community

In the early days, health clubs invested heavily in pre-choreo products and the independent ETM/group X freestylers were either pushed into (or happily transferred over to) teaching these programmes. Those of us who already worked in the community often stayed independent. Interestingly, dance-based fitness teachers and the Pilates, yoga, mind/body teachers seem to have remained independent for most, if not their entire teaching timetable.

In addition to my own weekly DYBO classes, I run regular ‘independence days’ and invite presenters of freestyle dance and fitness to join in for a day of original and creative dance.

Elaine Adams-Gilligan 

“A lot of people get more ‘gains’ from doing a certain pre-choreographed class, a certain amount of times a week. Clients like knowing what they are going to do and what they will have to tolerate”

What’s great about pre-choreographed programmes is that they always deliver a balanced routine. I don’t think they restrict personality – the personality is what you bring to the class.

I do think clients like knowing what’s coming. I teach both freestyle and pre-choreo, and have used pre-choreo step, but in a freestyle format. This helps to break down the movements and transitions.

I really love freestyle and also enjoy teaching aerobics and aqua aerobics. It gives me great freedom and allows me to pull from the elements I’ve done in the pre-choreo sessions. You can bring out combinations that you haven’t done or seen before, and you can cut together transition steps. I think by teaching both freestyle and pre-choreo, I get the best of both.

 Why pre-choreo gets a thumbs up

The pre-choreo programmes follow trends extremely well and that’s a big plus. A lot of education also comes with these programmes. Many instructors teach as a second job so can’t always remain on top of what’s happening in the industry, and pre-choreo keeps you a little ahead of some of the things going on.

For many people, choreography can be frightening. If you start to throw a load of choreography at the average person, they start to back off. Instructors need to consider the days when they just want to have a bit of fun with their clients.

 Why is there a divide?

Instructors can be put off if they have to go and subscribe to a particular genre or if they have to go on a training course. I do think that pre-choreo instructors should still freelance; it makes for a better instructor all round if you aren’t tied to one thing. Pre-choreo gives you a hell of a lot of material to work with in the future.

There are some instructors out there who are great, but they just can’t put a routine together. That’s where pre-choreo is brilliant; it’s inclusive. I’ve seen some fabulous pre-choreo instructors who have never worked in freestyle. There aren’t many people teaching freestyle anymore, and I do think that’s a great shame.


If you enjoyed this article and would like to enhance your group exercise skills try our CPD course HERE