JUST Discover A New Confident Energy (DANCE) is a new and interactive dance class that caters to both men and women. The instructor is Ameera Groenveldt. If you’re looking for a new lease on life or want to expand your horizon by taking on a new challenge but have no clue where to start, this class is for you.

A free class took place at the Yogesh Building on Saturday, February 8. There were about 17 participants and I was one of them. I honestly had no idea what to expect when I decided to attend the class. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I assumed it would be the same old one-two-step dance routine; but boy was I wrong! I loved the JUST DANCE experience. Now, I’m not stating this in order for it to sound like a cliché, but this class was just AWESOME! If you attended the session, I’m sure you’ll be hungry for more.

The women who attended the class were of various shapes, sizes, races and ages. Despite all of that, we were reminded that we were more alike than we realized. Many of us, especially those who have to care for others throughout the day, must always remember to look after ourselves as well as we do for those around us. The hustle and bustle of life will not come to an end if we choose to be good to be ourselves. Your family, friends and the job you have will continue to exist whether you’re around or not. So take time out for yourself no matter how busy life becomes.

Class participants were given the opportunity to look in a mirror and say three positive things about themselves. Now I know at this point you may be saying, “Heck no! No thank you. Not me. I’m too afraid or shy.” Whatever we tell ourselves when it comes to making a positive change, we all feel the same way at times. But if you ask yourself what you have to lose, the answer is usually not one thing. You actually have everything to gain. I know what it’s like to express yourself in public or to try to just be comfortable in a group setting. Shared information is to be kept within the walls of the class as the purpose is to build up each person in the room and not add to any of the tearing down which already goes on in the world around us or even in our lives.

Those of us in the class all had in common that we were ready for a change in our lives. We were ready to take a risk and we knew that failing is a learning experience and that we should not be afraid to try things. Too often we tear ourselves down, as the saying goes, “You’re your own worst enemy.” But you don’t have to follow that mantra. Mothers with children who attended the class were reminded not to use their kids as an excuse. Everyone can pursue her dreams. You are the only one that can stop you; and your children will benefit from your example as their mother.

During the class, we did a couple of exercises and were given tips on how to focus on what is important and learn to appreciate the beautiful individual in each of us. We did stretching exercises before going into dancing. This made me feel like a super woman and reminded me that we are beautiful, strong and can do whatever makes us happy, even outside of the walls of the dance class. The class made us feel that we are sexy and smart and can achieve anything. Music can endear that feeling. Some women seemed to really try and were glowing while dancing and even after.

Groeneveldt does not pick just any type of music to play, each song appears to be carefully chosen in order to empower and strengthen each and every participant, mentally and emotionally. This class is not only a brilliant idea, but it is a necessary idea. There are many people struggling in their day-to-day lives, comparing themselves to others, over-thinking their ideas and dreams and not taking action to be who they desire to be. I’m not saying that if you attend this class, it will be a magic potion to success, but I am saying that if you were to incorporate this with whatever else you may be doing to better your life, it will be well worth it. I definitely plan to attend the classes when they start in March. Each class will consist of 10 women.

Anyone interested can contact Ameera Groeneveldt directly: 1 721 524-7999; justdancesxm@gmail.com or via her Facebook page.

By Laura Bijnsdorp

Want to come cave diving with me?

“Put your left hand on your weight belt, and your right hand on your regulator and mask. Now jump!” said my dive-guide. I jumped into the cold, clear water and shakily rubbed my mask clean. I am always a bit nervous before a dive, but this time I was beyond nervous; not only was I diving, I was going to be cave-diving!

Cave diving, which originated in the United Kingdom, is underwater diving in water-filled caves. Compared to caving and scuba diving, there are relatively few practitioners of cave diving. This is due in part to the specialized equipment and skill sets required, and because of the high potential risks due to the specific environment. I was going to do a fairly easy dive, no deeper than 10 metres, so risks were minimal, yet the idea of not being able to swim up to reach air if I needed to, freaked me out!

My dive-guide had explained everything in detail before the dive. We did not have to worry too much about the depth of our dive, but he reminded me that if anything went wrong, I would need to remain calm, as we would have to possibly swim back through tunnels to get out. There also would be darker areas, where we would need flashlights, and I would have to keep my buoyancy (balance) under control not to hit any cave formations such as sharp stalagmites and stalactites.

Despite these risks, and my fear, I was determined to try a cave-dive or two. These water-filled caves attract people like myself to see unexplored nature and present divers with a technical diving challenge and see fauna and formations you see nowhere else.

Scuba diving, whether in caves or normally in open water such as oceans or lakes, is a great sport. Once you get used to the new sensations, it’s very enjoyable and relaxing. Whether you are a beginner recreational diver interested in seeing the beautiful reefs of the sea, or an experienced deep-sea diver who travels to depths seldom seen by the human eye, scuba diving can provide numerous benefits.

Swimming provides both a cardiovascular workout and a muscular workout with little to no strain on our joints. Your muscles also work harder underwater as you move against the resistance of the current and the water itself. With this, you strengthen your muscles as well as develop your flexibility and endurance. Like swimming, which builds up the muscles in your thighs and shoulders, diving can help tone your different muscle areas, consequently giving you better posture.

Related to exercising your circulatory system, diving can also help lower blood pressure. There are studies reporting that those who dive on a regular basis are less likely to be prone to strokes and heart attacks. Slow, deep breathing is important in scuba diving to optimize air consumption and bottom time. An added bonus is that deep, steady breathing promotes a calm attitude and reduces the risk of a lung-expansion injury.

Similar to breathing during meditation, breathing slowly and deeply while diving induces a calm, relaxed state while the diver focuses on the underwater environment rather than thinking about problems they may be experiencing in daily life. This helps to reduce stress and balance the nervous system. A relaxed, calm state of mind has been proven to promote a positive attitude and prevent depression.

We entered the dark tunnel of the cave-system and I definitely did not feel relaxed. But once I calmed myself down, and allowed myself to take in my surroundings, I was in awe! I was in a different world. I almost felt as if I were an astronaut swimming through an alien planet.

Blue light shone through occasional air holes and huge dramatic rock formations led us through large rooms and tight tunnels. The strangest sensation was probably diving past a wall of air pockets, that made it feel like the world was upside down and there was a lake above us. The only reminder that I was swimming in an earthly cave-system was the occasional blind cat-fish that swam past us.

Cave diving should be an item on everyone’s bucket list. 

Free exercise with positive results

You don’t need to pay a monthly gym subscription to take a walk; all you need are some good walking shoes and a safe path for you to use. Remember the old adage about the apple? Well, walking may also keep the doctor away.

By Claudienne Peterson

~ With Cameron Hyman ~

Dedicated to his photography and to Crossfit, this humble young man had a demeanour that quickly put me at ease for this interview. What I love about this story is that Cameron is a “late bloomer” in finding his passion, but that hasn’t slowed him down from being one of Sint Maarten’s top photography sensations!

How long have you been into photography?

A little over three years.

What sparked your interest in photography?

When I was studying in New York, a church friend of mine got a camera and let me use it; that’s when I got intophotography. It was fun at first. There were other seasoned photographers around me who helped me out with learning more about cameras.

How old are you?

I am 27 years old.

Is photography your full-time job?

Yes. It has been since January 2016.

What did you study in college?

Accounting and finance.

Was it scary to make the transition into photography?

Yes. I worked part-time in that field when I first returned to Sint Maarten.

What was studying in New York like?

Well, there’s winter – it’s very different than here for sure. I think that anywhere you go to study will open your mind; but New York was just a different experience.

You are also into Crossfit. Growing up, were you always into fitness?

I was always into sports. Basketball was most accessible, and I played flag football every Sunday, but now I’m also fulltime with Crossfit and have been training on a professional level for a year. I train four to six hours a day on average.

Why did you start Crossfit?

I needed some means to stay fit, and playing football on Sundays wasn’t cutting it. When I came back home from college and saw there was the BOX – that’s what we call the Crossfit gym – here, I joined.

Who introduced you to Crossfit?

I learned of it from watching TV. It’s not really like mainstream sport, but it’s big in the US, so I was glad for the opportunity to start it here.

What within Crossfit is your strong point?

What a lot of people would say that I’m good at is burpees; and what I think I’m good at is anything that involves leg endurance.

What’s your eating regimen like?

No carbs at night. I try to eat as close to Paleo as possible – some days are harder than others. I don’t drink alcohol period!

What foods are hard to resist?

Pizza – thin crust with mushrooms.

Do you cook?

Yes. I’ve been recently into sweet potato with some sort of grilled meat – chicken or steak usually.

What supplements do you take to support your competitive training?

Multivitamins, fish oil, amino acids and whey protein.

What’s your favourite protein shake flavour?

My favourite flavour is peanut butter chocolate.

What do you think people on Sint Maarten struggle with in terms of fitness?

I guess it is where to go to get information. I don’t think a lot of people know the right way to go about getting healthy. For instance, I hear various conversations in the gym; I hear women talking about eating very healthy but their focus is usually on eating lots of fruits. What they don’t know is that when you are trying to lose weight, you should avoid fruits, because fruits are sugar too, and that sugar will be converted into fat and then you are in the same place.

Have you done any Crossfit events or competitions?

I just came back from Curaçao with my training partner and friend, Alan Schet. We are the only two who really train on such a competitive level, so we went to Curaçao to train with others there on a highly competitive level. I participated in a competition last year and came out 11th out of 30 participants. Recently, in Trinidad, I came out 9th out of 35; and at Fittest on the Rock, I won six medals – silver and bronze.

Back to photography now: What makes you approach someone for a shoot? What attracts you to them?

If I know them, then personality plays a big part. Otherwise, somebody may just have a face that I really like.

How do you de-stress?

Being at the BOX is a stress relief! Also, I have certain models I do shoots with; those shoots help me de-stress.

What are your top three subjects to shoot?

First, dancers – they bring a lot of emotion to the shoots. Second, faces – faces with lines, freckles and any distinct features that draw my attention. Third, fashion – and concerning fashion on Sint Maarten, it’s easier to shoot females. I guess a lot of guys here are still into the mindset that modelling is for girls. If I could add a fourth favourite subject to shoot, it would be weddings!

Do you ever worry that you’ll run out of things or ideas to shoot?

No. I guess I have an advantage because not only do I have my own ideas; but I also work with Stacy Ann Taylor, and I don’t think she ever runs out of ideas! So between her and me, I always have something fresh to shoot.

Do you consider yourself a fashionista?

I’m a fashionista when I have to be. Some days I just prefer joggers and a T-shirt. But if I have to, I can dress up.

Tell us about your blog!

My blog is all about photography.

By the way, do you have a beauty routine?

Not really. My beard is the only thing I try to maintain where beauty is concerned.

Can you give those of us who are uncomfortable on camera some advice on how to look our best on camera?

Be yourself! That works eight out of 10 times for me. I do not order my models to pose; I let them do whatever they want and then I direct them.

Name some goals you have for yourself!

Combining both photography and fitness, I hope to eventually get the opportunity to coach at the BOX, and would like to hold photography workshops by the first half of this year.

How do you keep yourself motivated in the gym?

Having goals and seeing results really help me to stay motivated.

What would you say to people who are struggling to achieve results despite working hard at the gym and having the proper eating regimen?

There has to be something wrong with the equation. If you feel like you are eating right and you are also training enough but are not getting the right results, then there’s something wrong in the equation. Some people’s bodies respond to a high volume of exercise, and some respond to less. You need to know what works for you. My nutritionist is Antonio Gummels and he’s been a big help to me in showing me what to work on. I’m not sure what my body fat percentage was when I started, but when I checked last summer I was at 21% and now I should be at about 16%. Seeing my progress helps me stay motivated.

Why do you do Crossfit? Is it for the look? To be stronger? For your physical health? Or to be able to compete?

When I first started, it was about looking fit and being fit. But now it’s about getting better overall as an athlete.

If you could go back in time and give a younger Cameron some advice, what would you say?

I would tell him to find out what he’s passionate about sooner. I don’t think that I have wasted time or done anything that I’ve regretted, but there are some things that I would have gone about differently. For example, I wouldn’t have gone to study accounting and finance.

What made you choose that study in the first place?

I studied accounting in college because it was fun in high school, and it was also simplified. In college, I decided to also study financing as well to make it more interesting.

Describe yourself in three words.

This is the toughest question yet. My first word is humble because I’d like to think that I’m humble. My second word is creative. And if there’s a word for “not caring what others have to say about me”, then that word would be my third word.

Cameron credits his friend Ardwell Irion for giving him lots of good advice on building his personal brand. Check out Cameron’s blog at www.blueskiesimages.com; visit him on Facebook: Blue Skies Images; Instagram: @blueskies_412; Snapchat: @camxera; and where his work is concerned, expect to see a fresh new Cameron soon!

By Claudienne Peterson

Rolando Brison is a name you see quite often in the news and in social media as he’s held quite a few important positions on the island, some of which have not been received well. He seems to be the man everyone loves to hate. But why? I decided to sit with Rolando and pick apart this mystery. With his new position as Director of Tourism before him, he shares how he’s been preparing himself for the new task ahead.

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