Let’s Dance: Shake Up Your Fitness Routine

A teacher of mine is bewildered by joggers and speed walkers and thinks they look so pained. ‘Stroll, take in the day! It’s better for you’, she says.

Dance is a happy compromise for fitness’ sake. You still get your cardio-aerobic kick, muscle tone, strength and flexibility, disguised in contagious upbeat rhythms.

5 Rhythms

Thank all the gods for 5 Rhythms, a form of exercise that does not discriminate on ability or age, that leaves you exhilarated and transformed.

Madhuma Thompson, who travels with her 5 Rhythms workshops, describes it as being “guided to explore and find your own expression of the five universal rhythms of flow, staccato, chaos, lyrical, stillness”. An eclectic blend of music mimics these states and your job is to respond intuitively to each. I ended up on all fours! Very jaguar… Unleashed, or unhinged? Don’t care. I loved it.

Classes are usually in a large space, can attract loads of people and are about two hours’ long. It’s a full-on work-out if you immerse yourself (an exercise inferno for A-Types on overdrive in stress-stoked bodies), but you’re free to sit out or lie down any time.

Some teachers offer guidance and group practices if you care to join in, others don’t.  DIY warm-up is essential, or suffer the muscular consequences, and take lots of water.

Belly dancing

Instead of popping your booty, belly dancing sets hips on a 180-degree spin-cycle.  In a world full of stress-induced irritable bowel syndrome, and bottom-spread and back-ache from Office Syndrome, it’s good to get things moving below the waist. Your organs will enjoy the vibrational therapy 😉

You’re also unleashing your inner goddess. Yogically speaking, belly dancing revs up the second chakra (energy centre), which holds the must-have qualities of freedom of expression, the agent of change, creative force, unconditional love, transformative and healing energy, creative force, and embracing our masculine and feminine sides.

In terms of our physical design, the hip-cycle is an unusual movement, and requires a careful approach for weak backs and a strong core.

Check this directory of dance classes or bellydancinginaustralia on Facebook.

NIA

NIA was born in 1983 out of the idea that exercise should feel good.

It’s is a combination of dance and martial-arty moves, the best of East meets West. Although there are 52 foundational moves (including floor work), you’re encouraged  to do them in your own way, so there’s no pressure to get it ‘right’. Yey!

The class format also prepares you well with a 7 cycle approach that focuses your mind and then your physical body (lungs, joints muscles) in warm-up, so there’s less risk of injury or overstepping your abilities. And there’s an end-of-class ‘nap’.

Rapturous smiling goes on in NIA classes and devotees are wildly enthusiastic.  Check out this video on the national website.

Latin

Latin probably reached a revival peak about 8 years ago but the Mambo, Merengue, Cha Cha, Salsa, Samba, Rumba are all safe with the fitness fad Zumba, based on Latin moves, upholding its reign.

Latin’s basic sequences are fairly simple compared to other dance forms, but you’ll need coordination to slip into swaying hips, rolling shoulders and directional foot work. Once you’ve got it, it’s repetitive and Latin music helps synchronise your body.

Professional Latin dance is a whole other thing  ̶  tight, dramatic, technical  ̶  if you’re up for the rigour and discipline of dance sport.

NLNL

Here is the ultimate dance for lovers of loungeroom boogie. No Lights No Lycra (NLNL) is a Melbourne-based phenomenon with global ambitions (already in Paris, Shanghai, Toronto, Los Angeles). In 2009, two dance students decided to create a safe, alcohol-drug-sleeze-free place for people of all abilities to tap into their wild side  ̶  in the dark.

“No lights” means you’re free from judging eyes and attracting unwanted attention. “No lycra”, means come as you are.  You have an entire hall in which to express yourself, no shin-grazing on coffee tables, or bugging neighbours with 80s faves after 10pm.