Recently, TV shows like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance have brought the joy of dancing into our homes and hearts. While the professionals have trained hard to make it look so effortless, there are classes and options for any skill level, age group and dance form that peaks your interest. If you have even the slightest inkling to hit the dance floor in style or revive your childhood passion, don’t feel intimidated—just go for it. The following personal stories of transformation and tales from Atlanta’s experts show you how dancing isn’t only fun, but also can benefit your mind, body and soul. Hopefully, they will inspire your own dance, dance revolution
As we all know, heart-pumping cardio exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. For many of us, though, going for a run or using the machines at the gym doesn’t have any appeal. “The most obvious health benefit of dance is that it’s a great form of exercise,” says Antonio Daza, president of Daza Dance Ballroom Academy. “We hear over and over again from our clients that it’s so much fun and it doesn’t ‘feel’ like you’re working out.” Dancing benefits your heart health, circulation, posture, body alignment, flexibility and stamina, among other things.
A dance studio also can serve as a stress-free zone, a chance to unwind after a long day at work. “Our students are able to let go of their day-to-day worries and just have some fun, even if only for 1 hour,” says Tim Meyers, studio director at Dance 101 Inc.
All dances are good for you in some way, so the type of dance you choose truly depends on your individual needs and interests. “Some find serenity in the soothing music of a waltz or the jazzy sound of a foxtrot. But there can be a release with any dance—the samba is hot, Latin and tropical; belly dance is exotic with its shimmies and Middle Eastern rhythms; hip-hop is raw and rough with a strong, pulsating beat,” Daza explains.
Here’s a list to help you select your favorite form:
• Ballroom dancing, which includes swing, waltz, rumba, salsa and more, varies in intensity and can be particularly good for your posture
• Belly dancing is woman-centric, very energetic and works the full body with a focus on core strength
• Line dancing is a fun option if you enjoy country music and dancing with a partner
• Classes like ballet, hip-hop, jazz, tap and modern are other choreographed choices that can give you a full-body cardio and strength-training workout
• Pole dancing is becoming mainstream at gyms and specialized studios around town, and is great for building upper-body and core strength
• Aerobic dance classes also are offered through your local gym—look for names like Salsa Fit or Zumba
• Nightclubs present different types of music and atmospheres, depending on what you are looking for
Friendship and confidence building
Dancing is a great way to meet people with whom you already have something in common. “There is a sense of community among our students, and many of them refer to their friends here as their ‘dance family,’” Meyers says. April Ross, Zumba instructor with Andrew and Walter Young Family YMCA, adds, “Socially, dance gives people a chance to be themselves and connect with others. No matter where someone is from, we all understand music and dance—it is a universal connection.”
Like any skill, part of learning how to dance includes making mistakes along the way, and everyone in the class is in the same boat. The better you become, the more confident you’ll feel. “In my 15 years at Arthur Murray Dance Studio, I have seen numerous people change their appearance either by losing weight or updating their wardrobe and hairstyle, and inwardly gain enough confidence to be the first person on the floor and the last person off,” says Jose Quintanilla, studio manager with Arthur Murray Dance Studio
Love at first dance
Because partner dancing involves nonverbal communication and closeness, it can be a way to bond with your other half. “I’ve seen many of our students use the night of class as a date night with a spouse, which is a nice way to reconnect and spend time together,” says Jennifer Boozer, a professional dance instructor who teaches swing and salsa at the Emory Center for Lifelong Learning. Daza adds, “We’ve seen so many lives completely transformed because of dance—couples who have had marriage problems have taken dance courses with us and it teaches them teamwork.”
“I always wanted to learn how to salsa dance and started taking lessons in May 2008. What really pushed me to join was that I wanted to lose weight and become more active. I lost 25 pounds by dancing, in addition to eating healthier. Initially, I was only attending a 1 ½-hour group lesson every week. Then, I became friends with other students and we started going out dancing at clubs up to four times a week. The beautiful thing is that we would go out to practice our moves and have fun on the dance floor with no alcohol involved. Just think of all the calories that we burned! In addition to losing weight, I feel more confident knowing that I am good at something as a result of dedication and practice. I also have met so many incredible people that share my passion.” —Sophia Casusky, English teacher
“I’ve been dancing for just over a year now. I’ve always wanted to learn some type of dance other than just moving to music. So, when I found out that the YMCA offered dance classes, I knew it was then or never. I’ve tried salsa, Zumba, belly dancing and African dance so far. My salsa and Zumba classes have become my no-stress zones. On Thursdays after work, I know I’m heading to the Y to work out any stressed areas of my body after sitting at a computer all day. Dancing gives a natural high—I’m more energized, my mind is sharper and I found out that dancing is a great way to work my abs, strengthen my legs and tone my thighs, buttocks and even arms. This has also been a good way to make friends. I’ve met a great group of people, we hug each other in greeting, laugh together, encourage each other, tease, high five and it’s all fun. I’ve found something that I absolutely love.”
—Dona Halliday, art director, Best Self Atlanta
A chance meeting in 2001 at Northlake Mall’s monthly Dine & Dance soiree turned into a trip down the aisle for Bobbie Pike, 68, and George Edwards, 73, of Stone Mountain. They credit their passion for dancing as the factor that ultimately brought them together. Married since July 2002, the dancing duo maintains their health and strengthens their relationship with this active hobby. Last year, they even took their talent on a European vacation, dancing in romantic locales like Germany and Vienna, where they ended their trip with the traditional Viennese waltz.