A Timeless Tradition

April 26, 2009 § 2 Comments

The Current Ballroom Dance Craze and the Surprising Health Benefits

Ballroom Dancing – passion, blinding sequins, skimpy outfits.  That’s what most people think of when they hear “Ballroom.”  Well, that and the Hollywood and sports stars that have traded in their Italian leather soles for a sleek pair of dance shoes.  If you caught yourself pausing the remote on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, you’re not the only one.  Millions of people have tuned in to watch the stars go from bumbling idiots to the graceful Fred and Gingers of our day gliding across the dance floor.  Even the professionals on the show went from no-name dancing wonders to being a part of everyday conversation (“Did you hear that Maks and Karina are engaged?” “How about Julianne’s new album?”)  Spawning several spin-off shows, Dancing with the Stars has firmly found its way into American culture.  And with the rise in dance movies, Ballroom dancing has become an unprecedented multi-generational trend.

Dance is obviously not new, but something we keep coming back to.  As Don Dworkin, a musician known for his work with the toe-tapping groups Doc Scanlon’s Rhythm Boys and Reggie’s Red Hot Feetwarmers, says, “…in almost 30 years of playing dance music, I’ve noticed that the music runs in cycles and always comes back to the great standards of the ‘30s and ‘40s.  The music of George Gershwin, Glenn Miller, and Louis Jordan will always connect with something deep down in the American dancing psyche.”

A New Trend for All Ages

It is no surprise that Ballroom dancing offers an elegant and passionate alternative to the gyrating we’ve been seeing on the dance floor, but the real surprise is that this timeless tradition once called “your grandmother’s dancing” is now also being embraced by a much younger audience.  In explanation to this new infatuation by the younger generations, Brian McDonald, president of the National Dance Council of America said, “Young people like it because it’s different, artistic, and has a great competitive attitude about it.”  Not only that, but surprise – it has many health benefits too!

Health Benefits of Ballroom Dancing

Studies have shown that a competition Ballroom dancer has an equal breathing rate and muscle exertion as an Olympic level, 800-meter runner.  Billions of dollars a year are spent on exercise equipment and gym memberships that many people never even really use.  It seems too much of a chore to workout in the “traditional” sense.  It’s not very motivating to get on a treadmill and walk/run to nowhere for an hour.  But when exercise is fun, we’re more likely to do it.  And if it doesn’t feel like exercise – even better!

A Popular Alternative

Dancing is fast becoming a popular alternative to mainstream fitness.  Just like the other low-impact, weight-bearing exercises, dance is suitable for everyone – any age, shape, or size.  On top of burning calories, dance can also help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease.  The New England Journal of Medicine published a 2003 study demonstrating that Ballroom dancing at least twice a week helped ward off dementia.  And for people who already have Alzheimer’s, dancing to familiar music has been shown to help patients remember some forgotten memories.

Other Health Benefits

  • Tones Body
  • Fights Osteoporosis and Arthritis
    Assists the body to build and maintain strong bones, while also lubricating joints.
  • Raises Good Cholesterol Levels
    At the same time, stabilizes blood sugar levels.  More stable blood sugar means less energy crashes, stabilized appetite, and also can be an aid for those with diabetes.
  • Strengthens Muscles and Protects the Crucial Core Area
    Shields us from injury in our day-to-day lives by forcing our bodies to balance in a variety of ways.  In conjunction with the muscular system, the nervous system also works extra hard to keep the connection between the mind and body, and strengthen our reflexes and coordination.
  • Endorphin Highs
    Once our endorphin levels rise, our stress significantly falls.  This allows our immune systems to work at full potential and we feel more fit, confident, and happy – an important aspect in fighting depression.
  • Social Benefits
    What better way to get out and meet new people than on a dance floor, whether in the classroom or out on the town!

Dave Wolf, owner of The Saratoga SAVOY Center of Dance in Saratoga Springs, NY, has seen many of these benefits in his students.  “One of our students lost 30 pounds when he started with us.  And just the other day another student came in all excited that she had lost two dress sizes.”  With an extensive background, Dave has developed dance programs that have been endorsed by the American Heart Association and has instituted programs in schools for ages 11 and up.

Whether just for the health benefits, enjoyment of a night out, a new competitive sport, or to get ready for that special first dance on your wedding day, social dancing allows everyone to be part of this classic American tradition that is disguising itself as a hot new craze.

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