There are many great reasons to take up dance as a hobby. You might want to meet new people. You might want to find a form of exercise that is actually fun. You might have even been seduced by all the sequins on Strictly Come Dancing. Whatever your reasons, there has never been a better time to start dancing.
Apart from being a way of Getting physically active, there are many other health benefits to dancing. These vary a little from dance to dance but include things like better balance, posture and coordination.
Recent research even showed that dancing can help reverse signs of ageing in the brain. This research, Dancing or Fitness Sport? is featured in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience website. However, if you have a history of any long-term health problems, it is worth talking to your doctor ahead of time to discuss what would be suitable (especially if you have had problems affecting your heart, lungs or joints).
Different types of classes
If you've never danced before, there are several ways to get started.
A lot of places run taster/informal classes. These are ideal if you just want to try out a new dance.
They usually run weekly or monthly and are designed for people who have never danced before. Often they will cover the basics but teach slightly different steps each time.
Attending a couple of these taster classes will give you a good idea of whether you want to continue with that specific type of dance. You might also feel that these informal classes are a fun way to spend an evening and then decide to attend them regularly.
If you want to become a bit more serious, there are also regularly scheduled dance courses. These are usually weekly lessons that build on what you learn each time. You'll really feel like you've mastered a proper routine by the end if you attend the whole series of courses.
Day courses. Sometimes there are single day dance courses. These teach you a single dance for several hours, but they can be pretty exhausting.
Dance socials. Dance socials can be standalone events, or they can be attached to the end of a class. Either way, they give you a chance to chat with some of your dance buddies and show off what you've learnt.
Different types of dance
There are many different types of dances you can learn. Here is a brief description of a small selection:
Modern ballroom started in the early 20th century in Europe and the U.S. It grew out of earlier styles that were often danced by members of the European upper classes. Modern examples of ballroom dancing include waltz, foxtrot, quickstep and American smooth.
Ballroom is almost always danced with a partner in a close hold. Don't worry if you don't have someone to go with you, since you usually switch partners during the class.
Some forms (like the slow English waltz) have a relaxed pace and are excellent for posture. Other forms (such as quickstep, as the name implies) are danced at a much faster pace. These will have you spinning around the dance floor together and are a great workout.
A warning though: if you ever go to a Viennese waltz class, make sure you are okay twirling around. It is like a human version of the teacup ride and can be quite dizzying!
Discover regional ballroom classes throughout the country: ZEM Dancesport UK
Latin dances get their name from their Latin American origins. There are many different styles and forms. These include the slow, romantic rumba, its faster cousin, the cha-cha, the festive samba and the stompy paso doble. Usually, they are danced in partner hold like ballroom. This hold is often broken for partners to do spins or other flourishes.
All of these dances are great for coordination and memory—if you don't move together with your partner, the odd toe might get stepped on! The faster ones are a great workout too.
As they are mostly danced to a common rhythm, they are very versatile dances. This means you can show off your moves in all sorts of situations—from bars to bar mitzvahs.
Find regional Latin classes throughout the country: ZEM Dancesport UK
Swing dances are a group of dances that developed in the 20s, 30s and 40s. They mostly started in the U.S. along with the rise of swing, big band and hot jazz music.
Often these dances are fast paced and energetic in style. They frequently involve lifts, twirls, kicks and a lot of fancy footwork.
These are usually danced in partial hold with a partner, but there are some group dances as well. Jitterbug (or jive, its Latin equivalent) tends to be fast paced. Charleston or Lindy Hop tend to be a bit slower. Boogie Woogie is often somewhere in between. All of them tend to be quite physically demanding. Therefore, comfortable clothes that allow a lot of movement are a must.
Explore swing classes:
- AreYouDancing (regional classes throughout the country)
- Glasgow Lindy Hoppers (Glasgow)
- Swing Dance Leeds (Leeds)
- Swing Out Manchester (Manchester)
- Swing Patrol (London and Brighton)
- Swingtime Classes (regional classes throughout Scotland)
Unlike the rest of this list, Zumba is not a traditional dance. It is a dance based workout that was developed in the 1990s by Alberto Perez. It includes elements of Latin dancing, athletics and line dancing to exercise the whole body.
Zumba sessions are led from the front like a gym class, and everyone follows individually. They also tend not to have the social element of a traditional dance class, partly because you don't partner up to dance and partly because people are too out of breath to have a conversation anyway!
The addition of music and rhythm certainly makes a traditional athletic workout fun. But before you start, keep in mind that a reasonable level of fitness is recommended.
Explore regional Zumba classes throughout the country: Zumba Fitness, LLC
Belly dancing has the most ancient origins of any of the dances described here. Many believe it began in Egypt over 2000 years ago. It is usually danced to traditional Middle Eastern music.
It emphasizes control of the body and complex movements of the muscles. It is excellent for core strength, as these muscles are often the ones being used. Since it is often more fluid than other forms of dance, this makes it low impact on the joints as well.
Usually it is danced by an individual, but sometimes it might be performed by a group. While it has always been associated with women, classes welcome men as well.
Discover belly dancing classes:
- Dancebuzz (London)
- The Dancehouse (Manchester)
- Edinburgh Belly Dancing (Edinburgh)
- WorldBellyDance (Brighton)
- WorldBellyDance (Wales)
Line Dancing/Square Dancing
These are dances that are always performed together as a group. They grew out of traditional folk dance and court dances.
The most famous example of these dances started in the U.S. and are danced to country and western music.
Both of these types of dances are good for coordination and memory, since you have to keep in rhythm with a whole group. But if you're tempted to sneak in at the back of the class, be careful. These dances often involve turning around, so you might end up at the front and have to lead.
Find regional line dancing/square dancing courses throughout the country: DanceNearYou
Although the hora may be the most famous Jewish dance, Israeli dancing has many different styles and is more choreographed. First there is Israeli folk dancing, which is great fun and great exercise. To find out more, visit the Hora Wiki website, a treasury of Israeli folk dance information. Also, check your local community centre/synagogue for Israeli dancing classes and events.
There is also modern Israeli dancing, which is a form of line dancing that is typically danced to Israeli pop music. It has developed as more of a social activity rather than the celebratory one.
Discover and enjoy
Different kinds of classes and events are popping up all over the country. There are so many that you might find it difficult to choose the right one for you.
A good way of finding out is searching YouTube for the dance you want to try. Watching a video can really help you decide.
Whichever dance you pick though, just remember... the most important thing is to have fun doing it!