Dance Fever in Gyms
By Rachel Rabkin
June 2, 2003
Looking to take a dance class but nervous about being a novice in a stuffy studio filled with pros? Now there's another alternative: Gyms across the country are offering dance classes ranging from salsa to swing. "The popularity of dance classes in the workout and fitness setting is growing at an astronomical rate," says Jay Travis from New York Health and Racquet Club in Manhattan. Why? Many people feel less intimated to give dancing a whirl when they're in a relaxed setting surrounded by other amateurs who are simply there to enjoy themselves-and get a great workout. In response to this increasing demand, more gyms than ever before are adding dance classes to their schedules. "Dance classes are offered at 43 percent of the fitness facilities that we poll," says David Gilroy from the IDEA Health and Fitness Association. "That's up 7 percent from last year." If you want to join in the fun and reap the fitness rewards, check out the following dance styles and see what they can do for your body.
1. DANCE STYLE: Broadway (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Footloose, Kiss Me Kate, and Annie Get Your Gun). These dance routines, based on real Broadway shows-and often taught by Broadway dancers-are broken down and taught, step-by-step, during each hour-long session.
FITNESS BENEFIT: The combinations incorporate kicks, shuffles, and turns, using a full range of motion, which helps tone muscles throughout the body-with a particular emphasis on the legs, shoulders and back. The dances also offer low-impact aerobic workouts with a real cardio benefit.
WHO CAN DO IT: "If you have enough coordination to do aerobics and you want to have fun, you can do this," says Maryann Donner, group fitness director at New York Health and Racquet Club in Manhattan. "There are men and women of all ages who are doing kicks and things they never thought they could do." Alicia Enriquez, an instructor at New York Health and Racquet Club adds, "I have teenage students who have always wanted to dance but were afraid to try, and I have students in their 70's who have been dancing for years. It's an accomplishment for all of them."
HOW TO GET STARTED: Check out the class schedule at your gym or community center. For more information log onto Crunch gyms at www.crunch.com or New York Health and Racquet Club (NYHRC) at www.hrcbest.com.
2. DANCE STYLE: Salsa, a quick-moving, Latin partner dance with lots of hip action.
FITNESS BENEFIT: This style of dance offers a great cardio workout for the whole body with the added bonus of partner interaction and catchy music. Because there is a lot of hip movement and twisting, salsa helps increase flexibility in the area around the pelvis, and helps strengthen muscles in the torso, waistline and back. Because there is a lot of bending, the thighs also get toned. "It's so much fun you forget that you're getting a workout," says a dance performer and instructor in Manhattan known as Anya.
WHO CAN DO IT: "As long as you can move, you can pick up the basics," says Anya. And you're never too young or old to try. "The great thing about salsa is that it began as a social dance, so you see three-year-old children dancing salsa and 70-year-old adults."
HOW TO GET STARTED: Look for it at your local gym, community center, or dance studio. For more information contact Crunch gyms, www.crunch.com, or log onto www.salsaweb.com or www.anya.tv.
3. DANCE STYLE: Belly dancing
FITNESS BENEFIT: Just as you might expect, the abdominals get an intense workout when belly dancing. But that's not all. The whole center of the body is engaged when shimmying and swinging, and the overall effect is a low-impact cardio workout. Also, students learn how to isolate the ribcage and do hip rotations, which helps improve coordination.
WHO CAN DO IT: The classes are almost exclusively made up of women but you need not be a seductress to try. Beginners are more than welcome.
HOW TO GET STARTED: For more information contact NYHRC, www.hrcbest.com and Crunch gyms, www.crunch.com.
4. DANCE STYLE: Ballet, the graceful, classical dance filled with pirouettes and pointed toes.
FITNESS BENEFIT: Ballet classes, which usually start with exercises at the bar and then proceed to combinations in the center of the floor, provide a total-body workout that helps improve strength, flexibility, posture, and coordination. In executing steps and movements, there is also a significant emphasis on the torso, buttocks, and thighs, so those areas can become quite toned. The end result is a long, lean, firm look.
WHO CAN DO IT: Anyone. From young children to grandparents, ballet can be useful to people at all stages of life.
HOW TO GET STARTED: Seek it out at your local gym or try the New York City Ballet Workout offered at New York Sports Clubs, www.nysc.com.
5. DANCE STYLE: Street Stomp, an urban dance style that incorporates fast foot-stomping and clapping.
FITNESS BENEFIT: This high-energy dance style results in a sweaty cardio workout. The movements particularly strengthen and tone the quads and hamstrings.
WHO CAN DO IT: This style of dance is more popular among younger crowds but you don't have to be a skater chick or dude to do it. The classes are tailored to beginners.
HOW TO GET STARTED: Check out your local gym or dance studio. For more information, follow up with Crunch gyms at www.crunch.com.
6. DANCE STYLE: Flamenco, a proud Latin dance characterized by fancy footwork combined with flowing arm and wrist movements.
FITNESS BENEFIT: More than most dance styles, flamenco helps to define arm muscles and strengthen wrists and fingers. Flamenco also significantly works the calves and ankles due to the stomping and tap-like steps. Just as with all other dances, the torso and pelvis area (the center core of the body) are involved. In addition, because flamenco is such a proud dance, the chest is kept very open and out, which means that the lat muscles are working too.
WHO CAN DO IT: Flamenco may not be for everyone. It takes a bit more coordination than some of the other dance styles but is definitely worth the effort for anyone who wants to try.
HOW TO GET STARTED: Check out your local community center, gym or dance studio. For more information, contact the 92nd Street Y in NYC at www.92y.org.
Didn't read about a dance style that interests you? Check out these options, also available at gyms:
Ballroom (Foxtrot, Swing, Tango, and Waltz) at NYHRC, www.hrcbest.com.
Cardio Fusion (It incorporates jazz and modern dance movements with a little funk-and adds up to a low-impact cardio workout) at Crunch, www.crunch.com.
House groove (Rave and Hip-Hop combo) at Crunch, www.crunch.com.
Fitness Follies (A Vegas-inspired burlesque dance class complete with feathers and boas) at Crunch, www.crunch.com.
Tap (You'll do lot of shuffles and ball-changes, and you'll need tap shoes after the first class) at NYHRC, www.hrcbest.com.
Videography (Work on choreography similar to that in pop videos, and at the end of the month the teacher will tape the class during a final performance) at Crunch, www.crunch.com.
Alicia Enriquez, NYHRC instructor and choreographer. Has been teaching for 15 years: At the club: 212-989-2300. At home: 718-441-1743.
Dayna Crawford Diamond, Crunch PR/media: firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-993-0396
Donna Cyrus, Crunch national group fitness director: 212-993-0356.
Anya, performer and instructor specializing in salsa. Teaches at Dance New York and Dance Times Square: email@example.com, 917-570-5440, www.anya.tv,
Jay Travis, NYHRC PR/media: 212-779-2101 x10
Maryann Donner, Group Fitness Director at New York Health and Racquet Club: 212-802-5198, firstname.lastname@example.org
David Gilroy at IDEA Health and Fitness Association: email@example.com, 800-999-4332 x262