Dancing Lessons: A Bonding Experience
by Ruby Bayan
The rhythmic Latino beat filled the hall as partners eagerly hopped onto the dance floor, as if mesmerized by the intoxicating pulsations of the Samba. I was just about to ask my seatmate, Leonardo, to take me; then I realized that I didn’t know how to do the Samba.
So, I sat back, and together with the other self-conscious and timid guests, became a captive spectator. My head and shoulders moved to the beat, involuntarily, I should say, as I marveled at the fluid synchronicity of the dancers. The pairs sashayed with eyes half-closed, spellbound and completely immersed in the spirit of the tempo. Leonardo, an avid ballroom dancer, held his partner like they were in love. I envied his sinuous moves and wished I were on the floor with him.
Then I thought to myself, I had taken up ballroom dancing lessons, about half a decade ago, when social dancing had just started making a comeback. My college friends, who had already contracted instructors for weekly sessions, succeeded in convincing me of the health benefits of the retro dances.
Good for the Body
My friends were right. Moderate dances, like Tango, Mambo and Cha-cha burns as much as 300 calories in an hour, while vigorous dances like the Jitterbug, burns as much as 400 calories. As an exercise, ballroom dancing ranks alongside swimming, brisk walking, cycling and tennis in helping reduce weight, controlling blood pressure, and lowering risks of coronary ailments.
Dancing also improves coordination, balance, and flexibility, toning the leg and buttock muscles, and is known to help build strong bones, and reduce age-related muscle loss and back pains. Dancing contributes to a better overall appearance, poise, and posture.
Furthermore, unlike repetitious and boring aerobic exercises that can overuse certain muscle groups, dancing employs varied steps and rhythms, creative moves, and challenging shuffles, making the activity extremely motivating. I was sold.
Good for the Soul
Later on I realized that, for me, dancing not only made my physique look better, it also made me feel good about myself – I could move gracefully, I could swing with a partner, I could perform and impress my friends with my newfound virtuoso. Dancing just made me feel good about myself.
Also, because ballroom dancing is dancing with a partner, it requires the two individuals to focus on their partners, to interact and communicate through touch and body signals, and together concentrate on perfecting a harmonious flow of movement. The bonding is what I liked most about ballroom dancing.
In fact, for that short period of time when I’m with a partner in the middle of the dance floor, nothing else matters – not the problems at work, not the laundry, not the bills – just the dance, just the fluidity of motion and music.
Dancing in America
Unfortunately, I had other priorities to attend to and ballroom dancing fell down the list just a notch above violin lessons. And then I had to migrate to America. So, sitting in that steamy Florida ballroom with Ricky Martin screaming to the crowd, and excited dancing partners, including Leonardo, sweating the night away, I seriously considered taking up dancing again.
I grabbed the yellow pages. A long list of dance studios offered nightclub, ballroom, and Latino lessons. I logged onto the Internet and typed up a search for “ballroom dancing” – 35,000+ links!
The interest in ballroom dancing had spread all over the world. Social dancing lessons are being offered in almost every major city in the USA; ballroom dancing experts are available for online consultation at AskMe.com; dancing apparel, supplies, and paraphernalia are all available for online shoppers.
The United States Amateur Ballroom Dancers Association (USABDA), which was established in 1965 to promote the acceptance of ballroom dancing (also known as dancesport) into the Olympic Games, has organized chapters all over the nation to promote awareness in social dancing through low-cost lessons and workshops. Chapter members conduct dance demonstrations in public places to educate the people about the health benefits of ballroom dancing.
BallroomDancers.com, an extensive website dedicated to the promotion of ballroom dancing, social dance, and dancesport, provides online information, through comprehensive tutorials and video clips, on various steps and innovative techniques. They also offer advice on where and how to find a trainer or a partner, and where to practice and perform.
There’s also SymphonyDancers.com, which provides tips on how to shop for the perfect dance training, and YouShouldBeDancing.com that offers professional lessons on practically all the typical ballroom and partner dances. Did I want to know what the various dances are and how they originated? Of course, and the net had the answers – at the ABCs of Ballroom Dancing.
So, okay… there’s about a dozen ballroom dancing studios here in Orlando alone – I should be able to hook up with one close by. I’ll remember to check if I like the atmosphere, the dance trainer, and how they hope to oil my rusty dancing skills.
Should I bring a dance partner? Well, I’m sure I’ll find someone interesting at the studio. But wait, I have Leonardo’s number!
[First published at New2USA.com, 2000]