Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cardio: A Waste of Valuable Dance Time

"I'd rather hold a girl in my arms than a football." -Joe DeCicco, friend and dancing fanatic

Have you heard that it takes a woman 77 hours of exercise to lose a kilogram of fat? (For us Americans, that's half a pound.) That's according to a study cited by Dr. John Briffa.(1) The women who huffed and puffed three hours a week for a year ended up 4.4 pounds lighter than the sedentary women. That doesn't surprise me: my own weight loss involved a lot less exercise than what I'd been doing. I did no cardio workouts, just strength training. I had more time and energy for dancing, which is a stress reliever, helps keep me in shape, and it's a ton of fun.

It's not expensive to dance (as long as you stay away from the studios). I've found excellent lessons at clubs where the teachers really care about the students getting it. Here in Denver, there are dancing clubs that are run by nonprofit organizations, where the prices are reasonable and the clientele is focused on dancing, not drinking or hooking up. In fact, the places where I go are open to all ages, and I'd have no problem taking my 11-year-old niece to them. (If you're not sure about a certain club, ask the doorman to let you look in for five minutes to see if you want to stay.)

Here's a thread that will help you get started dancing--finding a teacher, preparing for the class, practicing, and getting the most out of your lessons. The most useful info is in the first post.

Dancing comes in a wide variety of flavors--from elegant to hip, mild to grueling, and amusing to thrilling. Here are the dances I'm familiar with.

Swing. This is my passion. It's danced to big band, early jazz, post-war combos, old R&B and early rock n roll. Dances include east coast (a good introduction to partner dancing), Charleston, balboa and lindy. Even if you're athletic, lindy and Charleston will put you through the paces. Those two are mentally challenging, too: there are many variations you can do to Charleston; lindy involves a constantly changing frame that takes months to nail down. (An aside: I was doing the Charleston at the People's Fair a few years ago and people asked me what the dance was. The Charleston is so old that you can do it in a modern context and almost nobody will be any the wiser.) The dress and atmosphere are casual. Put some duct tape on the bottom of an old pair of tennis shoes and you'll be ready to start.

Ballroom. Did you know that the waltz was scandalous when it was introduced 200 years ago? Up until then, dancers only held one another by the fingertips. Besides the waltz, ballroom dancers also do the fox trot and quick step. IME, ballroom dancers expect you to know the basics before you go to one of their dances. You don't need to be especially fit to waltz or fox trot. People dress up, but if you're looking for an ermine-and-pearls scene, I'm afraid you'll have to find a way back to the 1930s.

Latin. Rhumba, tango, salsa and cha-cha are the most common Latin dances at clubs. Hip action and attitude are important in most of these. As in ballroom, people dress up and they expect you to know the basics when you come out to dance with them, but you needn't be an athlete.

Ballet. How can something that looks so light and fluffy and pretty be so grueling? I took a ballet course a few years ago at age 37. They say ballet increases strength and flexibility, but brother, you'd better have both before you start. I finished the course, though, and it made my dancing more graceful. I've had lindy partners who could tell I'd studied ballet.

Belly Dance. I only had one belly dance class--but I got a lot of mileage out of it. It focuses on hip action that's useful for certain dances, but may not be the focus of, say, a cha-cha class. If you want to have fun and learn to move gracefully but don't want to take ballet, this might be the dance for you.

Jazz. All the jazz classes I've taken were about old solo jazz movements based on sailor dances, African dances, and mockery of white overlords. It's very different from the way people normally move nowadays, and the moves take a lot of practice to get down pat. Having learned these, though, I have a good repertoire of African-based dance movement that I can use almost anywhere. Like the Charleston, the moves are so old that practically nobody will recognize them--and you can do them in a modern context. The classes are for the energetic with a lot of time and patience.

1. Friedenreich CM, et al. Adiposity changes after a 1-year aerobic exercise intervention among postmenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial. Int J Obes (Lond). 2010 Sep 7.

1 comment:

Helen Howes said...

One kilogram is 2.2 pounds..

HH