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Dance class or dance fitness?

What’s your style?  "Dancing with the Stars" or Zumba?

Burning calories, toning muscles, and having fun all at the same time sounds too good to be true.

Dancing has many benefits including burning calories, building stronger bones, lubricating joints (which helps with arthritis), helping control cholesterol, benefits heart and lungs, strengthens stabilizer muscles that aid in balance and helps to elevate our endorphin levels.

Perfect footwork and body movement patterns make dance an art that becomes a workout. The attention to posture and technique is the center of the performance.

Having an instructor that is patient, has years of experience and teaching correct form is extremely important. It may take more mental work in the beginning to get the steps right, but eventually you will be able to put it all together and feel the workout.

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A few years ago, I enrolled in ballroom dance lessons, hoping to learn some dance skills and grace. Like anything worth having, it takes practice, patience  and persistence.

Zumba is on the other end of the dance spectrum. It’s an hour-long workout with easy to follow fast dance moves alternating with slower moves for an interval-training workout that tones muscles and burns calories.

Dance steps are borrowed from meringue, salsa, reggaeand cumbia. The allure is from the perception that it’s more of a dance party than an exercise routine.

With Zumba being so popular, classes can be enormous and filled with enthusiastic but inexperienced folks looking for a great workout. Yes, I was one of these folks (a few months back) trying to better myself by trying something new.

My best advice is to take an intro class to learn proper technique so you can avoid injury and have a good workout.

If you are a Zumba fanatic, be aware of any aches and pains you may feel. Overuse injuries can occur in this type of workou, too, especially if you don’t cross train with other forms of exercise. Zumba involves a lot of pivoting and side to side motions, so having the proper footwear can save your knees and ankles from injury.

No matter what your dance of choice may be, moving and having fun will be a step in the right direction for your health.

Terri Allred, owner of Rochester International Dance Studio, which offers dance and dance fitness classes such as "Shimmy Fit, Latin Fit, and Bollywood Fit" has some tips on what to look for in dance classes and dance fitness classes.

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Dance classes:

• Professionally Trained Teachers.

• Breaks down moves with attention to muscle groups, skeletal motivation of movement and posture.

• Culturally authentic moves.

• Can be slower paced initially while learning blocks for progression of skills, coordination, rhythm and tempo.

• Some classes teach choreography and some teach improvisation (free dance in response to music).

• Usually much more individualized attention and feedback about correct movement.

• Can create community and friendships.

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Dance fitness classes:

• Want to experience the fun of the music or cultural style but not build skills for dance.

• Faster paced initially since goal isn’t to master a progression of skills, but to get an aerobic workout.

• Can be mixed cultural styles, movements, not necessarily correct posture or technique but goal is movement, not skill.

• Little individual attention, just follow along.

• Can have party atmosphere- feel like you are a member of something.

• Usually much more aerobic than introductory dance classes.

(Terri wanted to note that classes at the RIDS are smaller groups and offer more individual attention than most, and do pay extra attention to posture and technique their classes.)

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