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Let’s Dance

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Dancing reduces stress, improves strength, increases energy, improves muscle tone, decreases blood pressure and helps control weight. It not only exercises the body, but it also exercises the mind. Dancing can also be a low-impact workout that’s great for people of all ages and physical abilities.

Toe-Tapping Terms:

Ballroom dancing
A term generally used to describe the social dances of the day. American ballroom dancing concentrates on musicality and interpreting feeling in the music.

Cha Cha
This is a party dance. Cha Cha music is popular in all music genres, including country, funk and hip-hop.

Tango
A standard ballroom dance, the tango is the next in popularity behind the waltz and foxtrot. But unlike the waltz and foxtrot, the tango steps include sharp staccato placement. It’s also characterized by stunning, sharp head turns and provocative figures.

Foxtrot
Typically danced to big band swing music, the foxtrot was developed by American entertainer Henry Fox.

Rumba
The rumba is a slow, sensuous, romantic dance that spotlights the lady and her flirtatious behavior. It is usually danced to a slow Latin beat.

Salsa
The name salsa describes the flavor of this dance. It includes a lot of shaking, hip action and shimmying. The basic step of salsa can be learned with less than 10 minutes of practice.

Waltz
Dating back about 300 years, the waltz is popular all over the world as the “backbone” of ballroom dance. With its easy-to-hear 1-2-3, 1-2-3 rhythm pattern and simple box step foundation pattern, the waltz is also easy to learn.

Sometimes Carole Davidson and her husband, Jim, push aside the furniture, roll the carpet back and just dance.

“We dance through the house,” said Carole with a giggle. “And to be married 27 years and dance around the house, that’s something.”

Carole and Jim are ballroom dance enthusiasts, joining countless couples nationwide who want to command the dance floor like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in part because of popular hit shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “Shall we Dance?”

“I’m totally hooked on “Dancing with the Stars,” said Carole. “I think shows like that have made it more accessible. If I could only dance like they do, I’d be thrilled.”

Carole had talked about taking ballroom dance classes with a reluctant Jim for years, then The Dance Studio opened in Kilmarnock last November and the opportunity presented itself.

“Poor Jim,” said Carole. “It was make or break. I told him we were doing it and we started calling friends and got three other couples together for the class.

“Most of the husbands went kickin’ and screamin’ at first but now we’re just having a blast,” she added. “We dance, we go to dinner, we drink wine. I just can’t say how much fun we’re having.”

The Davidsons of White Stone are among about 48 people taking ballroom dance lessons from Katie Wilkins at The Dance Studio on West Church Street in Kilmarnock.

Wilkins started dancing when she was five years old at the Northumberland School of Dance in Callao. She returned from college and started teaching dance classes in Reedville. Last fall, she opened the Kilmarnock studio and teaches everything from hippity-hop classes for children as young as three to ballroom dance classes for adults.

“I really don’t know how old my oldest student is,” said Wilkins. “A lot of my students under the age category just write ‘old’.”

Students in her six-week beginning ballroom class learn enough moves to do three complete dances.

“Even the husbands that get dragged here end up really enjoying it,” said Wilkins.

Ballroom dancing is now recognized by the International Olympic Committee as DanceSport, an athletic competitive sport.

It’s not only fun but it’s also a great form of exercise for both the body and mind, according to Wilkins and most of her students.

“We do it for exercise but we also do it for fun,” said Linda McConahey. “It’s something we can do together.”

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Instructor Katie Wilkins uses the mirror to demonstrate moves to her students.
Linda and her husband, Bill, of Lancaster have been taking dance classes together for about five years. They still drive to Richmond one night a week for class and go a couple of times a month for dances at about five different Richmond area venues.

The two are in Wilkins’ intermediate class.

“I always danced. I did ballet and jazz,” said Linda. “But Bill never did dance. After we moved here in 2001, he actually arranged it all, the lessons in Richmond. Now he really enjoys it.”

Some studies indicate that a half-hour of sustained dance can burn as many as 200 to 400 calories. In fact, 20 minutes of dancing rigorously can provide as much exercise as 20 minutes of swimming or biking. It not only works the legs but also the abdominals, improving posture and balance, and can be a great cardiovascular workout.

Dancing reduces stress, improves strength, increases energy, improves muscle tone, decreases blood pressure and helps control weight.

At the beginning level, dancers get a more vigorous workout from dances like the cha cha and rumba. Advanced dancers start to really work the upper arms and shoulders by honing techniques and holding positions longer.

Dancing can also be a low-impact workout that’s great for people of all ages and physical abilities.

“I think at the beginning level, you really get the joints moving. Basic ballroom dancing is not high impact, so anyone can do it,” said Wilkins.

“And you don’t have to be coordinated,” she added. “You just have to be able to count. If you can count to 4-6-8, you can dance.”

And dancing not only exercises the body, but it also exercises the mind.

According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, ballroom dancing is associated with a lowered risk of dementia. Following complex dance steps, counting, moving in time and staying in rhythm all requires concentration.

“You’re exercising your mind just like you’re exercising your muscles,” said Wilkins.

And according to many of Wilkins’ students, dancing is also a relationship booster.

For the Davidsons, who are dancing their way around the house, it’s something new and exciting after 27 years of marriage.

“We enjoy doing this together more than I ever thought we would,” said Carole. “Practicing at home, dancing all around the house, that alone is fun.”

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From left, Eleanor Beane, Ellie Hyde and instructor Katie Wilkins demonstrate ballet during The Dance Studio’s open house.

posted 02.26.2010

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