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Dancing Into Fitness2 Comments

admin | 9:23 am | March 7, 2012 | Fitness and Exercise

DanceDancing is a magical and transforming art that can awaken a weary soul and uplift the spirit to soaring heights. It contains in it the capacity to inspire romance and love, to turn sadness into joy and to heal body, mind and soul. Dancing can improve body image and self esteem and reduces anxiety and depression. Stronger bones and muscles, better muscle tone, improved posture and balance, increased flexibility, better stamina and reduced muscle tension and pain are just some of the physical benefits that dancers enjoy. Let’s face it, mundane gym workouts are not for everyone. So, if you’re looking for a more expressive, adventurous physical fitness programme that also provides an element of fun, why not take up dancing?

Dancing unites us across cultures and generations. Almost anyone can dance and you’re never too old to start. All you need is some enthusiasm, a sense of rhythm and a love for music. The rest involves some dedication and practice. Here’s a look are some of the hottest and most soulful dance modalities out there, all designed to help you kick up your hills and get moving.


Ballet is the foundation upon which most dance forms are built. Don’t let the grace and ease of the prima ballerina as she dips and twirls fool you. Ballet is hard work. It demands a lot of physical strength and flexibility, but if you don’t have it, you can always build it up. According to Romy Saltz, Johannesburg based ballerina and teacher, “Ballet builds flexibility, lean muscle and fabulous tone, especially in the legs. Ballerinas also enjoy good posture and a graceful stride.” Previous ballet experience is an advantage, but it’s certainly not essential. Tight fitting clothes and leather ballet shoes are a must.


Contemporary dance is similar to ballet in that it involves strength and flexibility, although it is less rigid and controlled. It works with the extended natural alignment of the body to create movements that feel free and fluid. According to Alfred Hinkel, artistic director at Jazzart Dance Theatre, “Contemporary dance is not about fairy tales and butterflies, but rather deals with real life and current issues as we experience them in the modern world. It is therefore always evolving.” Cotemporary dance moves range from classical ballet-like movements to the more funky and jazzy styles. It’s a great cardiovascular workout that also helps develop strength, muscle tone and flexibility.


You’ve seen the meticulous, funky moves of Brittney Spears and Justin Timberlake as they groove to your favorite pop songs on MTV. According to funk teacher Clinton Shalkoff, “It’s a very detailed form of dance that involves a lot of head, shoulder, rib and hip isolations. Funk jazz and hip-hop are slightly different forms of dance in that funk involves looser movements, but the two terms are often used interchangeably”. Funk jazz and hip-hop typical attract a younger following, although people of any age who are looking for a funkier, street-style of dancing can enjoy it. These dance styles are fast-paced and make for a great cardiovascular workout.


Grab a partner and head off to the nearest ballroom dancing studio where you can enjoy learning classic old school dances like the Swing, Foxtrot, Waltz, and Tango. If you’re looking for something a little saucier, try some Latin American flavour with dances like the Cha Cha, Rumba and Samba. For an even better workout, try gyrating your hips in some steamy Salsa classes. With ballroom dancing it’s the man’s job to lead the dancing partnership, while women simply need to let go and follow the lead. Its complete surrender on the women’s part. You don’t have to have your own partner either, as most classes rotate partners anyway. Ballroom dancing can be quite vigorous so it’s a good cardiovascular workout.


Shimmering, flowing skirts; slow, hypnotic movements and a rhythmic swirl and thrust of a women’s bare belly, make for a mesmerising and powerful dance form. Created in 2500 BC, belly dancing was originally developed by women for women, although many women get into belly dancing these days to learn a sensual dance for their husbands. Belly dancing creates enormous flexibility in the hips and pelvis. According to Astrid Lewis, Johannesburg-based belly dancing instructor, “Working into the hip area can also help with gynecological problems and helps boost fertility. It’s also an empowering practice that helps develop self-esteem, confidence and sensuality.”


Why not get his heart racing too and take up pole dancing? You may not believe it, but pole dancing is actually a full-body workout. You use your own body weight to maneuver yourself around and grip onto the pole so its great resistance training. You can also enjoy better core strength and stronger leg, arm and back muscles. Super flexibility is another advantage to regular training. So grab a group of girlfriends, take some lessons and start twirling.


Capoeira is actually a martial art form that was developed by African slaves in Brazil. In an attempt to disguise their self-defense tactics they incorporated them into ritual African dance moves to crate the art form of Capoeira as we know it today. It’s a stylised form of dance that is usually performed in a circle or “roda” with a sound background provided by musical instruments. Capoeira demands agility and flexibility and helps develop extreme fitness and muscle definition. Fighting involves mainly leg kicks and dodges, with little emphasis placed contact fighting. Capoeira also involves some acrobatic work, like summersaults and back flips.


Put simply, NIA (Neuromuscular Integrative Action) is a fusion of movement styles, including dance, martial arts and the healing arts. “NIA is an extremely free and fluid form of dance designed to help people connect with the joy of movement.” explains Town based NIA instructor, Nicci Gates. The steps are simple and repetitive, which assists the body to deeply relax as it moves and sways. It aims to create movements that are absorbed by the body without using any mental thought processes, making it somewhat meditative in nature. Visualisation techniques are also used to help create a sense of present moment awareness. The class uses an eclectic range of music styles selected to inspire a range of physical, mental and emotional responses. It demands no prior dance experience and is accessible to people of all ages and fitness levels.


Zumba is a relatively new dance form, which originated in Columbia in the early 1990s, that combines Latin style music with contempory and Latin dance (think samba, salsa and even Bollywood moves). Expect to do some squats and lunges too, and prepare to have fun and sweat!

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