About dance There are many forms of dance, from ballroom to barn dancing and disco to Morris dancing. Dance has always been a part of human culture, rituals and celebrations. Today, most dancing is about recreation and self-expression, although it can also be done as a competitive activity. Dancing is an enjoyable way to be more physically active and stay fit. Health benefits of dancing Dancing can be a way to stay fit for people of all ages, shapes and sizes. It has a wide range of physical and mental benefits including: improved condition of your heart and lungs increased muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness increased aerobic fitness improved muscle tone and strength weight management stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis better coordination, agility and flexibility improved balance and spatial awareness increased physical confidence improved mental functioning improved general and psychological wellbeing greater self-confidence and self-esteem better social skills. Getting started with dancing You can dance in a group, with a partner, or on your own. There are lots of different places where you can enjoy dancing, for example, at dance schools, social venues, community halls and in your own home. Dancing has become such a popular way to be active and keep fit, that most fitness clubs now offer dance classes in their group exercise programs. Dancing can be done both competitively and socially. It can be a great recreational and sporting choice, because anyone of any age can take part. It doesn’t matter whether it is cold or raining, as dancing is usually done indoors. The gear you need for dancing will depend on the style of dancing you choose. For example, tap dancing will involve buying tap shoes, however many forms of dance do not need special equipment or footwear. To get started, simply choose a style you enjoy, or would like to try, look online for dance schools in your local area and join a class. Types of dance There are many styles of dance to choose from, each with its own attractions. Popular styles of dancing include: Ballet – mostly performed to classical music, this dance style focuses on strength, technique and flexibility. Ballroom dancing – this involves a number of partner-dancing styles such as the waltz, swing, foxtrot, rumba and tango. Belly dancing – originating in the Middle East, this dance style is a fun way to exercise. Hip-hop – performed mostly to hip-hop music, this urban dance style can involve breaking, popping, locking and freestyling. Jazz – a high-energy dance style involving kicks, leaps and turns to the beat of the music. Pole dancing – has become increasingly popular as a form of exercise. It involves dancing with a vertical pole, and requires muscle endurance, coordination, and upper- and lower-body strength. Salsa – involving a mixture of Caribbean, Latin American and African influences, salsa is usually a partner dance and emphasises rhythms and sensuality. Square-dancing – a type of folk dancing where 4 couples dance in a square pattern, moving around each other and changing partners. Tap dancing – focuses on timing and beats. The name originates from the tapping sounds made when the small metal plates on the dancer’s shoes touch the ground. Choosing a dance style When choosing a dance style, ask yourself questions such as: Do I want to dance to improve my fitness? Am I trying to improve my flexibility and coordination? Do I prefer fast dancing or slow dancing? Do I want to dance with a partner, or on my own? Do I want to join a group, or have private lessons? Will I enjoy competitions, or do I want to dance just for fun? General tips for dancing If you are thinking of taking up dancing, suggestions include: See your doctor for a check-up if you have a medical condition, are overweight, are over 40 years of age or are unfit. Wear layers of clothing that you can take off as your body warms up. Do warm-up activities before you begin a dance session. Drink plenty of water before, during and after dancing. Make sure you rest between dance sessions. Don’t push yourself too far or too fast, especially if you are a beginner. Wear professionally fitted shoes appropriate to your style of dance. Check with your dance instructor that you are holding the correct form. Sit and watch new dance moves first. Learning new moves increases your risk of injury, especially if you are already tired. Perform regular leg-strengthening exercises. Move as fluidly and gracefully as you can. Cool down after a dance session, including stretching.