So much to be excited about in the fall!
Philinese & Jesse + Ava & Jim
Single-Time East Coast Swing Demonstration
Sexy and 17 by Stray Cats
Ava & Jesse
En El Jardin by Alejandro Fernandez and Gloria Estefan
I recently read a wonderful analogy about dancing on the Time magazine website. Rick Smeeton, a lecturer at University of Brighton, compared dancing to a car being driven in the city. Frequent stopping, starting, and changing direction pushes the body to burn a lot of calories just as it causes a car to use more fuel. In fact, while engaging in partner dancing you can burn up to 500 calories per hour, but you probably won’t realize it because you’ll be having so much fun!
But calorie burn isn’t the only thing that makes ballroom dancing a great form of exercise. When dancing with a partner your entire body is engaged. You will use not only the large powerful muscles that move you through life, but many of the smaller accessory muscles that are not challenged by normal daily activities. Your core, back, and shoulders must act together to maintain good posture and a toned frame so that you can have a good connection with your partner. Your legs and hips must propel you not only forward and backward, but also side-to-side and up-and-down. And because dancing is low impact, it tones your muscles and improves your coordination without stressing your joints.
So, is ballroom dancing really exercise? Yes! And a darned good one at that.
All right, if I’m honest, I think you should know a lot more than three dances. But in general, you need at least three: one for slow music, one for fast music, and one for intermediate tempos. So here are three very handy dances that will fit the bill for almost any occasion.
Not every studio teaches slow lounge, but it works beautifully for those slow songs that will inevitably be playing for the first half-hour or so of any event (wedding reception, class reunion, charity gala). It can be relaxed and friendly, sensual and romantic, or even a little campy, depending on the song and the mood of the couple dancing. In fact, many engaged couples will learn it for their first dance and then also use it for the father-daughter or mother-son dance. It’s that versatile!
Swing is a big umbrella that includes several dances (many of them regional), but the simplest is push-pull. It’s fast and fun, making it a go to dance for parties. Unlike most forms of swing (which use a syncopated 6-count rhythm), push-pull has a simple four beat pattern, making it easier to learn and to lead. It’s also less taxing than its more complex cousins, and therefore appropriate for almost any age or fitness level.
And then there is rumba. At first glance it’s not an obvious choice, since it’s traditionally a Latin dance, but the rumba rhythm can be found in oldies, pop, and even country music. The basic movement is a simple box-step that anyone can learn. From there you can add a few simple patterns for social dancing, or develop a sophisticated repertoire of wraps, turns, Latin motion, and styling.
So, these are my choices for the three dances everyone should know. What are yours?
When I first started dancing, I resisted getting dance shoes. I felt I wasn’t “good enough”. To me, they were something only professionals and serious competitors wore, and as a rank amateur I wasn’t worthy of calling myself a dancer. So I dithered and wore sandals, ballet flats, and even moccasins to class. Adequate, but hardly exciting.
I don’t remember what finally pushed me to purchase my first pair. Perhaps it was an upcoming show, or simply that everyone else at my level had long since taken the plunge. At any rate, they were only a middling quality basic black t-strap pump, but to me they were magic. From the moment I put them on I felt like a “real dancer”. Instantly I held myself differently, stood taller, and had a little more sass in my step. The steel shank supporting my foot made me feel stable and strong. The suede sole let me turn and spin with abandon. And ahhh, the padding.
I’ve purchased many, many dance shoes since then, but I still have that first pair. They’re full of holes and full of memories. So, do you really need dance shoes? Strictly speaking, you do not. But why not treat yourself to a pair and see if they don’t come with a sprinkle of magic?