Dance classes for your heart health

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We’ve gazed with awe at the ability of top dancers to move their feet so fluently across the floor in time to the music and in tune with their partners.

Strictly Come Dancing has brought the joy of classic lifts and twirls to millions. It’s an example of the beauty and grace of the body in motion.

But you don’t have to just watch the experts. Why not take the next step yourself – literally! Put on your dancing shoes and opt for a class. With more than 4.8 million people regularly attending community groups, dance is one of the most rapidly growing leisure activities in the UK. Join the quick, quick, not so slow revolution.

There are community groups and organisations all over the country offering lessons. Dance UK has more information, or Change4Life has a ‘Let’s Dance’ section on its website with dance routines and games that will help you find out more.

Dance your way to heart health: as a form of aerobic exercise, dance can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a study by AUT University in Auckland, enhancing aerobic power. It’s a great replacement for regular, low impact exercise such as cycling, walking or aerobics.

Dance is also great for improving posture, increasing bone and muscle strength, while enhancing co-ordination and balance. You’ll learn a new skill and explore new horizons, gaining confidence and enjoying the music you move along to.

Plus you’ll meet new people – in fact you’ll have to dance with some of them! Partners tend to be changed regularly, so don’t worry about being paired with someone who keeps treading on your shoes.

Just pack away your nerves and go. Gliding to a foxtrot has at least the appeal, surely, of a rowing machine, weights or the treadmill.

Wear comfortable clothing so that you feel free to move rather than restricted. If you opt for ballet or tap dancing you’ll need specialist clothing. Then avoid jewellery that can get caught in your clothing, or scratch your skin. Ask about the flooring where the classes are being held, as wood-sprung surfaces tend to offer extra comfort and can create less of an impact on your body. Pick a relaxed and comfortable environment with a teacher that allows you to be yourself, but also sets parameters and tells you when you’ve gone wrong. Then you’re ready!

Your teacher will take you through the basics of posture, hold, timing, technique, styling and footwork to give you the grounding to progress – then you and your partner will both adopt the moves.

The knowledge of who follows and who leads will come with time, because even if you’ve never danced before, there’s a beginner’s class out there for you. Ballroom dancing is a good place to start. It offers the classic styles of waltz, tango, quickstep and foxtrot that you might have seen and loved.

The near alternative to this is Latin ballroom, with a bit more swing and hip moves added to the classic moves. You’ll learn fabulous dances like the cha-cha, jive, samba and rumba as part of Latin ballroom. But the advantage of starting with either ballroom style is that this gives you a great overview of classic dance, and an idea of the kind of styles you might like. Plus, if you’re called up to dance at a party or event, you’ll have more to show off!

Alternatively, you can immerse yourself in the rhythms of Latin America with salsa. This global dance form has become hugely popular, with the classic side step, right and left turn and cross-body covering many a dance floor. The grace and energy of this style fuses Afro-Caribbean and Latin styles.

There’s tango too, although make sure you pick the right one. You can opt for the refined ballroom variety, or a more physical Argentinian style, the country from where tango itself actually originates.

But you don’t have to take the classical approach. Contemporary dance tends to be more free form, allowing you to do what you’re capable of in time to the music. Street dance takes moves that have evolved in urban environments and nightclubs, such as hip-hop, break dancing and body popping. Or there’s modern jazz dance, which involves big leaps and turns, and will give you a full body workout!

Don’t listen to those who say you’ve got two left feet. Go out and express yourself!
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