Why dancing is a great way to keep you active

A belly dancing class

It’s fun, it’s sociable and it’s brilliant exercise to boot. But if you’ve never tried dancing, you may not realise there’s a type for everyone, as Sarah Brealey finds out.

Whether you’ve got two left feet or think you’d be a match for Strictly Come Dancing’s Anton du Beke, the activity has far more to offer than you may think. Ballroom has enjoyed a huge revival, thanks to the incredibly successful BBC programme, now in its 13th series, but taking to the floor doesn’t have to be about perfecting a terrific tango or fabulous foxtrot.

If ballroom’s not your bag, what about ceroc, salsa, Morris dancing or even belly dancing? Whatever the style, dancing is a great way to meet people in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have someone to go with. Lots of classes are organised so you can go on your own, while for certain types of dance such as tap or line-dancing, you don’t need a partner at all.

Dancing is a great way of keeping fit and meeting people. I can’t recommend it enough

Rachelle Stretch, vice-president of the English Amateur Dancesport Association, says: “Dancing is a great way of keeping fit. It will improve muscle tone and help with flexibility as well as being a good cardiovascular exercise.”

The benefits don’t end there – dancing can build stamina, help keep bones healthy and improve your posture. Remembering the different steps will also exercise your memory.

All forms of dancing can count towards the 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity that we should all do each week. Plus people aged 65 and over in particular should do activities that also improve balance and co-ordination at least twice a week, and dancing fits the bill here too.

“But it’s also a great way of meeting people and is far more sociable than running on a treadmill at the gym, for instance,” adds Rachelle. “I can’t recommend it enough.”

Even better, you’ll have lots of fun at the same time. So go on – find out which dance you’ve got inside you!

Ballroom

Best for: Old-fashioned glamour

BallroomWhat it involves: Ballroom has something for a range of tastes and ages – it can cover everything from a gentle waltz to the quickstep, foxtrot and Latin-inspired tango, rumba and cha cha cha.

You’ll be dancing with a partner, but you may not need to bring one to the class. Strictly fans, this is the one for you. You won’t need to wear sequins though!

Ceroc

Best for: Those with two left feet

What it involves: It’s a mixture of salsa and jive, but without the complicated footwork – you can learn the basic steps in one evening. You’ll change partners during the session, so you don’t need to bring someone with you.

Line dancing

Best for: Dancing without a partner

Line dancing What it involves: In this country and western-inspired dance, two lines of people perform choreographed steps at the same time. There’s no physical contact and the balance between men and women doesn’t matter.

Traditional line dancing is to country music, but you can dance to lots of other styles too. Cowboy boots optional!

Tap dancing

Best for: Jazz fans

What it involves: Tap dancing is jazz-inspired and uses the soles of the shoes like a percussion instrument to create beats and patterns. If you want to do it seriously, you’ll probably need special tap shoes, but you can start off with any pair of good well-soled shoes. Tap dancing shares some similarities with clog dancing, which is traditional in England and Wales.

Belly dancing

Best for: Boosting confidence

Belly dancing What it involves: Not just for entertaining tourists, belly dancing is Middle Eastern in origin and usually practised by women.

Despite the name, every part of the body is involved, but especially the hips and pelvis. Moves include a shimmy of the hips and rotating movements of the hips or chest and because it’s low-impact, it’s suitable for people with joint problems.

You don’t have to dress up – just wear something comfortable that you can move in easily.

Indian dance

Best for: Bollywood film fans

What it involves: There are different forms of Indian dancing, including Bhangra, which is based on Punjabi folk dance, or Bollywood dancing, which is more of a fusion of different styles. If you can’t find a class near you, look for a Bhangra or Bollywood dance DVD you can try at home.

Salsa

A couple dancing salsaBest for: Latin spice

What it involves: An energetic dance with fast rhythm, salsa originated in Cuba but is popular all over the world. It’s based on a four-beat measure with three steps, or weight changes. You’ll usually dance with a partner, though there are solo forms.

Zumba

Best for: Getting into shape

What it involves: Zumba is fitness-focused, with Latin-inspired moves done to high-energy music. Variants include Zumba Gold, for older adults, and even Aqua Zumba in a swimming pool.

Morris dancing

Best for: Lovers of tradition

Morris dancingWhat it involves: Morris dancing has been practised in England for at least 500 years, but has had a revival in the past few decades. Individual groups, called sides, usually meet regularly and to give public shows.

A side will usually have a squire or captain, a ‘bagman’ or secretary and a foreman responsible for teaching the dances, and its own costume. There are different varieties of morris dancing, including sword dancing and molly dancing.

How to find a dance class

Check out your local sports centre, dance school or community hall or take a look in your local newspaper or Yellow Pages.

Otherwise, visit the Dance Near You website and Dance Web for classes in your area.

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