7 fun dance workouts to try
If your enjoyment of going to the gym day after day is starting to diminish – spin, squats, sprint, repeat – mixing up the way you workout could rekindle your fitness flame. Trialling a dance class may be just the motivation you need.
So you think you can dance?
Answer: yes, yes you can. In Australia and New Zealand alone, there are thousands of drop-in dance classes where beginners – even those of us hiding out in the back row – can casually try a style that they’re keen on, without committing to one million lessons. And the best bit? They are so good for you! With physical activity associated with higher levels of cardiovascular health, fitness in general obviously has huge health benefits, but it’s the proven mental and social aspects of dance that give it such a huge tick of approval from the experts.
We’re not just talking about feeling an improved level of happiness, either. Those who spend time moving to music have reported an increased strength in long-term memory ability and higher levels of social satisfaction.
“Not only does it get you moving, but it often takes place in a social environment that can help to reduce isolation and build up a sense of community,” explains Katrina Rank, Ausdance Victoria’s (ausdancevic.org.au) director of education and lifelong learning. “It’s a great way to meet new people who share similar interests, too!” adds the school’s general manager, Clare McKenzie.
And with a recent study by the European Journal Of Sport Science linking mini dance sessions to positive changes in mood, high energy, and lower stress levels, rhythmic movement has become just as much of a mental exercise as a physical one. Even if it’s just you and Beyonce busting out in the bedroom, science wants you to get your groove on.
Shake it till you make it
“Remember, everyone feels nervous at their first class, not just you,” reassures McKenzie. “Call the studio to find out about how the class is run, so you know exactly what to expect!”
A water bottle, comfy clothes and mini towel might help, but seeking out your people – other newbies to fumble, giggle and shake your booty with – is the key to making you feel less like your dad at a disco and more Beyoncé – circa always. “Look out for the beginner’s classes, so you know you’ll be among other people that are new to dance, too,” says McKenzie. And if you’re wondering where to position yourself so you don’t stick out like an uncoordinated thumb? The answer is not up the back, in the corner halfway to the next suburb. McKenzie recommends popping yourself where you can actually see what’s going on. “You may be able to follow the more experienced dancers in front of you, but it’s best if you can see the teacher directly,” she says. Head to the middle if the front seems too daunting.
Find your dance style
When it comes to dance, hunting down a style that suits you can be one of the hardest bits about committing to a long-term class. Hip-hop, ballet, salsa or modern – in other words: easy-going, disciplined or relaxed? We’ve popped together a mini rundown of exactly what to expect at each class, so you can dance with confidence and nail the first class.
1. Strong by Zumba - Best for working up a (fun) sweat
If you’ve ever hit up a Zumba class, your hips, stomach, and core would be familiar with the high-cardio, Latin-inspired workout where routines feel more like a fun night out than a fitness class. Strong by Zumba takes it up a notch – higher-intensity interval training that leans on more athletic fitness moves. It’s still inspired by dance, but more of a HIIT workout done to fast-paced hip-hop rhythms.
Where? Your gym! Group classes should run pretty regularly during the week. If you can’t get to one, a DVD in your lounge room is the next best thing.
You’ll need: Activewear, water, and a towel.
2. Clubbercise - Best for stress relief
If you’re a human who listens to music, chances are you’ve done some of these moves before. Clubbercise fuses easy-to-follow dance and strengthening steps with the visual elements of an old-school rave – think flashing LED glow sticks, disco lights, and total darkness. Benefits include building strength – a one-hour class uses 2500 kilojoules – de-stressing and indulging in a killer soundtrack.
Where? Gyms, fitness studios, and real-life nightclubs. Hit up clubbercise.com/australia for local pop-ups.
You’ll need: Reuseable glow sticks, activewear, ready-to-party vibes, and your best daggy dance moves.
3. Salsa - Best for socialising
Fast beats, Latin-inspired moves, aerobic-based, but oh-so-sexy – learning to salsa is the ultimate confidence booster for rhythm lovers. Although partner-based, many dance schools will encourage you to rock up on your own and swap partners throughout the class. Beware: there is a lot of step-learning. However, science suggests the mental stimulation is great for strengthening long-term memory.
Where? Private dance studios and community centres.
You’ll need: Knee-length skirt, dress or tight pants, medium-heeled shoes with ankle straps.
4. Jazzercise - Best for boosting your mood
The reinvention of iconic ’80s jazzercise means less leg warmers, lycra and leotards, and more pulse-pounding and beat-bumping. Cardio, strength, Pilates, hip-hop, yoga, and kickboxing are married together for the ultimate dance party workout minus the hangover the next day.
Where? jazzercise.com.au, as studios are popping up all over the place.
You’ll need: Loads of water, activewear, and all the energy.
5. NLNL (No Lights, No Lycra) - Best for newbies
Speaking of parties and lycra, No Lights, No Lycra classes let you embrace all the tragic and invigorating qualities about dancing while hiding out in the dark. Yep, letting loose isn’t as intimidating when you can literally crump, twerk and grind like no-one is watching! Inhibitions are left at the door, along with any desire to sit still when you hear a beat. And the best bit? Classes are super-loose and unstructured so there are no tricky steps to learn!
Where? Hit up nolightsnolycra.com for a list of registered venues. Think anywhere there is a huge (dark) space – town halls, school halls, and community centres!
You’ll need: Yourself – yep, that’s literally it.
6. Barre - Best for strength
If the idea of taking a ballet class gives you flashbacks of five-year-old you enduring scary-tight buns and strict teachers – but you do secretly want to nail a pirouette again – enrol in a barre trial class and make some new memories (and muscles). With ballet-inspired postures and equipment, the classes focus on combining isometric (holding still) strength training with high reps of small-range movements. Handheld weights and resistance bands take this up a notch!
Where? Private studios. Some gyms offer classes as well.
You’ll need: Tights, extra-grip socks, hand-held weights, and a gym mat.
7. Tap dancing - Best for the laughs
Nope, you don’t have to be a kid to don some noisy shoes and heel-toe it to some old-timey piano. Adult tap classes are an awesome way to reminisce on something you used to be awesome at – especially if you grab some old friends and scoot down memory lane! Timing, rhythm and a real sense of beat are the major skills you’ll learn. But if you can walk, shuffle and laugh – a lot – you’ve pretty much nailed it.
Where? Private dance studios, specialised tap dance schools, and community centres.
You’ll need: Comfy loose clothing, your old tap shoes and a supportive sports bra (lots of jumping).
5 reasons to get your groove on
1. Regularly learning new dance routines has been shown to be linked with a 76 per cent reduction in dementia risk.
2. People over 40 who dance may almost halve their risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
3. Aerobic dance training has been shown to be just as effective to losing weight as cycling and jogging.
4. A dance class may lift your mood more than a gym sesh or listening to upbeat music.
5. Regular booty-shaking may help prevent bone problems like arthritis.