Directing Class Energy is Like Directing a Stage Play

Stage plays can create powerful emotions in the audience. Characters come alive in a compelling way that makes us forget where we are. Theater can teach us to think in new ways.

Actors, directors, and designers work hard at this ancient art. They know about creating energy and conveying a message. What can we, as indoor cycling instructors, learn from the stage about how to create and direct class energy?

The comparisons between putting on a stage play and putting on an indoor cycling class are striking. Both require:

  • A physical structure that makes energy rise and fall in an intentional way
  • Significant preparation
  • A strong sense of presence during presentation
  • An understanding that the “audience” comes first
  • The ability to adapt to changing or unforeseen circumstances
  • Constant learning and honing of craft

Upon examination, these two seemingly disparate professions have a great deal in common.  Humans have been practicing and studying drama for thousands of years. Indoor cycling started in the late 1980s. Let’s examine more closely these six ways in which the relatively new field of indoor cycling can learn from the ancient art of theater. The similarities may surprise you.


Bill Roach is a regular ICA contributor. Karla Kash is a Spinning®certified indoor cycling instructor and associate professor of theatre at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.

4 Responses to “Directing Class Energy is Like Directing a Stage Play”

  1. JohnAndrews says:

    This is an excellent article. I agree on so many points. The preparation in creating a great profile with focus on population, purpose, and profile is right on. I have learned so much in my first year thanks to ICA and a commitment to my classes. Directing the class, following the plan, and patiently building the energy with great queuing has paid off. Thanks again Bill. I have taken classes in the past where little preparation and concern for the participants resulted in people leaving early or just giving up.

    • Bill Roach says:

      Thank YOU, John. I know your commitment to meticulous preparation makes your classes special for your riders. It is more work, but it is so much more rewarding than just “winging it”. And I agree with you totally that ICA both sets the standard for excellence and then provides the information necessary to get there. I love how you are soaking this all up.

  2. Bill Roach says:

    Thanks Christine. I appreciate and respect your thoughts. The idea of a larger body of work is intriguing. It had not occurred to me. Maybe a future article?? Thank you.

  3. Christine Nielsen says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to put this together. I have a background in theatre and use thts analogy all the time when talking to instructors. I would add that we can extend that analogy to establishing a throughline for each of our classes. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Through_line. I would go farther to suggest that each class be seen as a component of a larger “body of work”. Thes layers of both drama and consistency are enormously comforting for student and instructor alike.

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