Dance is currently surfing on a huge and ever-increasing wave of popularity. The zeitgeist of prime-time television shows and a host of teen movies, dance has reached a level of cool not seen since the late 70s. With so many people keen to get involved, classes are in high demand but, if you are organised and willing to commit, almost all dance styles offer a bit more than your average workout.
CONTEMPORARY: Contemporary dance is more free and versatile than traditional dance styles. The movement works with the natural alignment of of your body, and is influenced by many techniques including ballet, modern, yoga and pilates. There is a focus on breathing and posture, and using emotion to influence the way your body moves. Contemporary can be very restorative for your mind as well as challenging your body. The Place, in London, runs classes for total beginners to professional level regularly throughout the year. Classes and Courses Manager, Anna Helsby, advocates the group classes as an excellent way to socialise with like-minded people who can inspire each other. Each class begins anaerobically, with exercises that build muscle tone and core strength, and then progress to travelling and jumping sequences for cardiovascular fitness, burning calories and developing neuromuscular coordination, which has been proven to increase brain agility in general. Anna recommends that beginners enrol for a full term (£99), attending regularly to build up the basic technique. After about a year students should be ready to move up a level, and can attend classes on a more casual basis (£11 per class). The Place also hold short, intense courses during the summer and Easter, and there is a useful tool on the website for those with experience to identify which level class to start at. www.theplace.org.uk
LATIN AND BALLROOM: More than any other style, latin and ballroom dance has been given a new lease of life following the success of Strictly Come Dancing (UK) and Dancing with the Stars (US). Often dancing with a variety of partners throughout the lesson, latin and ballroom dance is a brilliant way to meet people and gain confidence or bond with your partner. It is about trust, cooperation and working together. Toning your calves, thighs and buttocks, and strengthening the core muscles of the abdomen and back, dancing continually for 30 minutes burns the same calories as swimming or cycling. ‘The Health and fitness benefits of latin and ballroom dancing are huge for all ages,’ say Strictly Come Dancing professionals Darren Bennett and Lilia Kopylova. ‘No matter what level you train at, it exercises the whole body, building stamina and benefiting co-ordination. It is invigorating and fun and the perfect exercise for couples to do together.’ Check outwww.dancesport.uk.com to find classes in your area.
ZUMBA: Zumba classes are a total body work-out for all ages and fitness levels. The routines are simple and easy-to-follow, so no previous dance experience is necessary, it’s just about keeping your body moving and having fun. ‘Zumba Fitness is a form of interval training in which you increase and decrease the intensity of your workout through varied rhythms and dance styles,’ explains Beto Perez, founder of Zumba Fitness, ‘it also has strength-training components, so in addition to getting your heart rate up, Zumba classes work your thighs, butt, core, upper body, and all your trouble spots.’ The upbeat music blends exotic Latin and international rhythms, making the whole experience more like going out than working out. You learn the basic steps of styles such as salsa, merengue and cumbia, with plenty of hip shaking and bum wiggling. Over 12 million Zumba Fitness enthusiasts worldwide attend regular classes in gyms and community centres with trained instructors, as well as many more who follow the Zumba Fitness DVD at home. www.zumba.com