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Hip & Healthy: Dance for Fitness

From Salsacise to Capoiera and Hip Hop, dancing is a fantastic way to work up a sweat.

Many of us have imagined ourselves being able to dance perfectly; gliding over the parquet, arms held just so, and impressing the daylights out of friends and family. And a quick look through the Yellow Pages in all capital cities confirms that this national craze for rhythm and the right moves is far from being a fantasy. But in many cases, it’s not the Strictly Ballroom ethic that prevails – there’s a bewildering line-up of dance disciplines, from cardio belly dancing to Latin salsacise, many of which claim to be “better than the gym”, enticing people of all ages to swing or sway their way to becoming fit and toned.

One of the main reasons that dance – whether it’s based on an ethnic tradition or a combination of elements, such as body focus, which blends capoeira, a Brazilian martial art performed to music, pilates and yoga – is making a strong comeback, is that gyms and fitness centres are taking a fresh look at their classes so children and parents can plan to do their exercise programmes together. Also, many people don’t have the time or the inclination to enroll in lengthy Asian martial arts courses or pump away at aerobics three times a week. Dancing is also a more social and a free-form way to express yourself and is suitable for people of all ages. It’s hard not to communicate in a belly dancing class when someone who is an accountant by day starts to pop her fingers and shake her hips as the teacher urges: “Feel the music”.

All the Right Moves

Yoga and pilates classes are two of the most popular forms of exercise for many women, not only because they improve fitness and tone, but because they help to reduce stress and restore wellbeing. Now there’s a new kid on the exercise block. Wu tao, which translates as “the dancing way”, is a holistic exercise therapy invented three years ago by Michelle Locke, a former ballerina with the Western Australian Ballet Company. Based on traditional Chinese medicine principles, Wu Tao uses dance, music and meditation to energise the body and balance core energy. Five dances, choreographed to express the elements of earth, water, wood, air and fire and set to appropriately themed music, are designed to unblock your qi (life-force or energy flows). Each dance element governs a pair of meridians. For example, the kidney and bladder meridians are logically linked to the water element. After learning the five dances, you can then progressively attain a flowing, energy-releasing dance experience that, according to Michelle Locke, people find addictive. Wu tao classes are now available in all states and territories in Australia.