Instead of hitting the treadmill, adult beginner dance classes are becoming an increasingly popular fitness option. Beginner dance classes from ballet to bellydance are full of adult dancers who haven’t danced in years, or maybe have never taken a formal dance class in their lives. This ongoing series to YEG Fitness will look at training in various dance styles, specifically for the perspective of a beginner, with tips to keep your body safe and healthy and if you need a small space for some home dance floors to practice, there are a variety that could be placed in a small space. Before looking at specific dance styles, it is important to remember a few key alignment, safety, and mindfulness techniques to keep you on the dance floor, instead of in the audience.
The first thing to be aware of regardless of dance style is to make sure you have a neutral pelvis. Be aware of where your natural pelvis sits, and avoid tilting your pelvis too far forward or backward. At first this may be uncomfortable, but it is important to protect your lower back. As you get stronger, over time it will begin to feel more normal. For dancers with a natural sway back, it is especially important to check in with this area of your body throughout class. Work on strengthening your lower abs and pelvic floor to assist in maintaining this posture.
Depending on the style of dance you are taking, there will be different expectations on knee placement. Ballet expects straight legs with engaged glutes, hamstrings and inner thighs; other dance forms such as belly dance or a dance fitness class like Zumba, expect knees to be softly bent. Be careful to never hyperextend your knees. Also, regardless of dance style, be mindful of your knee alignment. Always keep your knees tracking directly over the ankle, whether you are turned out or not.
Ankle support and strength are key to being successful in dance class. Being in relevé (on the ball of your foot) can make you prone to an ankle injury. Make sure weight placement is towards the big two/inside of the foot so you don’t roll your ankle out. Include calf raises and toe taps in your regular exercise routine to keep your ankles strong and healthy.
Finally, when concentrating on learning new dance moves, dancers often think so much about the feet that the upper body is forgotten. Dancer’s arms are often up overhead, or out to the side, putting a lot of pressure on the shoulders. In particular, shoulders can be a dead giveaway for stress and tension. Make sure to bring your awareness back to your arms and shoulders throughout class. Roll your shoulders back and down, away from your ears to avoid shoulder and neck pain, which increases arm stamina and creates a better dance line.
Here is a list of my favourite types of dance that are good for any fitness level to keep fit and have fun:
- Zumba: Zumba is a popular dance fitness program that combines Latin-inspired dance moves with energetic music. It’s a great option for beginners who want to have fun while getting fit. Zumba classes typically incorporate a variety of dance styles like salsa, merengue, and hip-hop, making it a dynamic and engaging workout. The choreography is designed to be accessible, allowing participants to follow along easily. Zumba not only helps improve cardiovascular endurance and coordination but also boosts mood and reduces stress.
- Hip-Hop: Hip-hop dance is a dynamic and high-energy style that originated in urban communities. It encompasses various street dance styles and is known for its expressive movements and rhythmic beats. Hip-hop classes for beginners focus on teaching foundational moves, grooves, and simple choreography. This dance form not only provides an excellent cardiovascular workout but also enhances flexibility, strength, and agility. It’s a fantastic way to develop body awareness, boost confidence, and release your inner creativity.
- Ballet Fitness: Ballet-inspired fitness classes have gained popularity in recent years, offering a low-impact yet effective workout for beginners. These classes combine elements of classical ballet with conditioning exercises to improve strength, flexibility, and posture. While the emphasis is on sculpting and toning the body, ballet fitness also enhances grace, balance, and coordination. Beginners can expect to learn basic ballet positions and movements modified for fitness purposes, making it accessible to those without prior dance experience.
- Jazzercise: Jazzercise is a fusion of jazz dance, resistance training, and cardio exercises. It combines upbeat dance routines with strength and endurance exercises, resulting in a full-body workout that burns calories and tones muscles. Jazzercise classes are designed for all fitness levels, including beginners, and provide a fun and energetic atmosphere. Participants can expect a mix of dance choreography, aerobics, and strength training intervals, all set to popular music. It’s an enjoyable way to improve cardiovascular fitness, strength, and flexibility while letting loose and having a great time.
Remember, the most important aspect of choosing a dance style for fitness is finding one that you enjoy and feel motivated to continue. These dance forms provide a great starting point for beginners looking to keep fit while having fun. Start with a beginner-friendly class or instructional videos to learn the basics and gradually progress at your own pace. Dance your way to fitness and embrace the joy of movement!
Leslie is bellydance instructor and performer in Edmonton, but considers herself a lifelong student of dance. You can take classes with her at School of Raq Bellydance Studio or Foot Notes Dance Studio.