The Origin of Dance

There are a lot of ideas flying around about how social dances started – who has a claim on a dance and which country a dance is from.  Even though there are many conflicting opinions to the origin of social dances, it is certain that knowing how the dances are connected gives greater insight of figures, styling and technique.  In this article I present a brief outline of how social dances are interlinked and in turn discussing the origin of dance.

Tracing the development of social dance isn’t just about the appearance of the dance itself but tracking movement of music and peoples. Dance exists because of sociality of people and the development of music.  The academic word for people influencing each other is ‘contact’.  When people of different cultures make contact a type of blending occurs.  Pieces from each culture merge to create a new form.  Likewise with dance.

If one must pinpoint the start of all social dance then the Waltz is certainly the genetic forefather of modern social dance.

The earliest whispers of Waltz were in the 16th century via a comment by the printer H S Beheim of a ‘sliding or gliding dance’1. In 1579 a ‘country daunce or rownd’ was first mentioned (OED).  At the Austrian Court in Vienna in the late 17th century (1698) couples got into the position for the Weller and waltzed around the room ¾ to Nach Tanz (after Dance) with gliding steps for Peter the Great3.   In 1781 Thomas Twining in a letter wrote:

I found on inquiry that this was a favourite German dance called a waltz. (OED) 2

This waltz matched the popular fast waltz music of Vienna and later became known as the Viennese Waltz.  The Waltz soon spread throughout Europe to France, Spain, Italy and England.

Before the 1600s in England, country-dance was danced in lines and sequences.  By the middle of the 17th century English country-dances had changed slightly thanks to the introduction of the Waltz.  It became popular to stay connected to one partner for a whole piece of music.  Touring Frenchmen imported English country-dance to France.  The French called these new dances contredanse, which maintained the 3 /4, 2 /4 or 6 /8 timing.  As ballet was also developing as a sophisticated art form in France at the time, the waltz developed with beautiful turns, rise and fall, delicate hands and an elegant sway.  As soon as the Waltz became popular in the French Court thanks to Louis XIV a generous patron of the Arts, these dances spread to Italy and Spain.

This new form of Waltz was not so well received by English aristocrats.  In July of 1816, the waltz was included in a ball given in London by the Prince Regent. A cutting editorial in The Times stated:

“We remarked with pain that the indecent foreign dance called the Waltz was introduced (we believe for the first time) at the English court on Friday last … 4

It wasn’t until the 1920s that the waltz began to take on a slower tempo.  In Boston USA, a new waltz developed out of the standard Viennese Waltz.  This slow waltz kept a steady ¾ time and enabled the dancer to take long elegant strides with picture frame poses.  This slow waltz developed into the Modern Waltz we have today.

Swing Dances – Foxtrots, Quicksteps and Swings

At the end of the Ragtime era the structure of the waltz was converted into a 4/4 time by adding a two beat slow count to match the ragtime music and the new developing Swing music.  This new form of dance in 4/4 quickly divided into three other dances.  The first was dubbed as the ‘quickstep’, initially a type of 4/4 quick waltz (Viennese waltz).  By 1914, to cater to the different speeds of Swing music, a slower dance developed from the Quickstep, which became known as the Foxtrot.  This new dance kept the elegance of the waltz.  In 1925, the American Foxtrot was standardized by Arthur Murray, which was greatly influenced by the structure and style of Argentine Tango. The Balboa and Peabody were also popular spin-offs of these new foxtrots.  As the Quickstep, American Foxtrot and English Foxtrot all developed from one another during the Swing era they share similar footwork, timing and technique.

Another dance that developed out of ragtime music was the Charleston.  A combination of solo marches (cakedance 1904, two-step 1909), the structure and holds of the waltz/foxtrot, along with Swing music, developed a 20s partnered version of the Charleston.  Later this Charleston developed into the side-by-side Charleston of the 40s.

By 1920, the dance floors were getting crowded so an on-the-spot fast foxtrot was developed.  The new Lindy Hop combined the structure of the foxtrot, movements of Charleston and was perfect for the faster Swings.  The Lindy Hop is considered the first of all the Swing dances.  A straightforward genealogy can be traced in connection with developing music:

1920s – 1950s – Lindy Hop (8 count quick foxtrot)

1930s – Jitterbug (a 6 count/triple swing of the Lindy Hop)

1940s – Boogie Woogie (a 6 count of the Jitterbug with spot basic)
Eastern/East Coast Swing (6 count from Jitterbug)
Bug (a single swing from the Jitterbug)

1950s – Jive (6 count swing from East coast Swing)
West Coast Swing (8 count Swing from Lindy Hop)
Rockabilly (a 2 step swing from Bug)

1955 – Rock and Roll (a single swing from the Bug)

1970s – Hustle (a single swing from Bug)

1980s – Modern Jive/Cerock (originally Bug brought over to France by US soldiers in 1940s)

Latin Dances – Tangos, Rumbas & Mambos, Sambas


Argentine Tango developed from the 1890s in Argentina.  However, this dance was first introduced by Spanish settlers.  The dance developed in Spain fusing Arabic (Moroccan) movements with the structure of contra-danse (originally English country-dance).  This tango was both a solo and couple countra-danse in Spain with strong flamenco styling which is still present in the modern Tangos of today.  In the early 20th century the Tango was introduced to America and by 1913 with influences from Africa and Creole the dance returned to Spain and Europe with new form and style.  Nowadays there are many different varieties of tango around the world.


Latin dance has African influences, yes, but the form and structure of Latin dance comes from Europe – waltz/contra-danse.  A slow ¾ contra-danse developed in Spain called the Bolero, which spread across southern Europe. Sebastiano Carezo is credited with inventing the dance in 17805. In the 1790s French colonists fled the Haitian Revolution and brought Bolero/contra-danse to Cuba.  By 1803 a new ‘contradanza’ with ‘bolero-son’, had developed in Havana.  Its romantic 6/8 music evolved into the ‘clave’, criolla and guajira and the dance turned into 2/4 timing.  Because of the spread of the waltz around the world, this new contradanza split into two dances – Danza/Danzón which has similar patterns to the waltz, and Contradanza/Rumba which kept the rocking forward and back movements.  In the last quarter of the 19th Century Cuban bolero-son had a strong tradition.

Danzón-Rumba was introduced to America and Europe in the 1930s as a romantic 4/4 time box step similar to the waltz.  It was standardized by Arthur Murray and its popularity peaked in the 50s America.  The Contradanza-Rumba was brought to England via the dance teacher Monsieur Pierre.  International Rumba still features the contra-dance rocks however the styling has been greatly modified for performance.

In the 1930s in Havana, a new form of music developed out of rumba – Mambo.  This was largely due to the influence of American Jazz.  Perez Prado, a Havana ‘Mambo’ musician moved to Mexico in 1940 and was ‘discovered’ by the US.  By 1949 Mambo music had spread across America and to Europe.  Along with the introduction of Prados music came his ‘Mambo’ dance.  However, this dance was certainly not a new invention – it was just a faster version of the rumba-dance Prado had seen Cuban dancers do back in Havana.

In the 1970s Salsa developed out of the ‘rediscovery’ of rumba-son with electric instruments. There are three main happenings, all in the US, that created ‘Salsa’ music: in 1973 there was a record label TV special called ‘Salsa’, in 1974 a Latin album with vocalist Junior Gonzalez was released and in 1976 the concert ‘Salsa’ was organized in New York by the label Fania with the Larry Harlow’s orchestra.  Likewise, the mamboised-rumba dance of the American 50s was ‘rediscovered’ being revamped as ‘Salsa’ to enhance this new music scene of North America.  During the 70s New York, Miami and Colombia where the main centers for Salsa.

Cha Cha

It is commonly thought that the Cha Cha (Cha) was developed in Havana and in 1952 the dance instructor Monsieur Pierre introduced it to England while Arthur Murray introduced a standardised form to America.  The actual origin of the 8 count pattern with chasé step is thought to have developed from the dancers in Havana trying to syncopate steps to danzón-mambo music.  The dancers where unsuccessful at this, as Enrique Jorrín (the inventor of Cha Cha music) observed in 1951 who then set out to develop Cha Cha music to make it easier for the dancers to syncopate.

It could be suggested that this new syncopation was a variation of the Rumba-Mambo.  However, this is likely not the case.  Cha Cha was a local version of the imported American Lindy Hop.

From 1902, Havana became know to Americans as the Paris of the Caribbean.  The first Swing and Jazz music hit Cuba in the late 1920s.  The first Cuban big band, Hermanos Castros, started in 1929. International Jazz stars such as Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra performed in Havana.  Cuba became a hot tourist destination and was ahead of Las Vegas with luxury hotels and show casinos.  By the 1950s Havana had 300,000 American tourists a year.  Throughout the years, American tourists brought with them their Swing to dance at the Big Band salons in Havana.  The local Havana dancers mixed with these Swinging Americans and so a ‘contact’ occurred and dances were exchanged – Cuba’s Rumba with the America’s Swing.

The Lindy Hop and the Cha Cha have the same elements – step, step, triple step, step, step, triple step.  Because of the ‘dance swap’ the Cubans are likely to have applied their rumba technique to the Swing steps.  It is also likely that Jorrín saw the Cuban dancers trying to practice the Swing (not a syncopated Mambo) unsuccessfully to Mambo music.  Hence, the birth of Cha Cha music and the accidental invention of the Cha Cha dance.


Couple Samba is known as Maxixe in Brazil and first made an appearance in 1868.  It was introduced to North America around 1910 and was patterned in a French dance book in 1928.  The Maxixe is actually a lively combination of waltz and tango with an ‘african’ bounce.  It is said that the dance developed from African servants trying to copy their master’s contra-danse.

The Bossa Nova dance is unheard of in Brazil.  When Bossa Nova music reached North America all the dance studios wanted to be the first to have the Bossa Nova dance.  The dance was simple and elegant, but short lived as it did not develop naturally through contact of people like all the other dances here mentioned.


1 – Nettl, Paul. Birth of the Waltz, in Dance Index vol 5, no. 9. 1946 New York: Dance Index-Ballet Caravan, Inc. page 211
2 –
3 – Nettl, Paul. Birth of the Waltz, in Dance Index vol 5, no. 9. 1946 New York: Dance Index-Ballet Caravan, Inc. p 208, 211
4 – Source: The Times of London, 16th July 1816
5 – Journal of the American Musicological Society 24, (Autumn, 1971), pp477-48


How to double your workout in half the time? Just dance!

In the 1950s it was discovered that physical health directly linked to exercise (or lack of it). As this era focused on ‘efficiency’ (think ‘Speedee Service System’ of MacDonald’s), structured exercise started out as a ‘must do’ rather than a ‘joy to’.  For decades governments have promoted the benefits of a weekly exercise regime to help curb the rising health problems of society. However, as our technology gets more sophisticated to make our lives easier, the less time we have to exercise.

Below are five proactive ways you can increase your fitness and exercise without increasing workout time.

An Active Lifestyle

Today it is thought that for good physical health an adult needs to work out for 30-45mins, three times a week, with weights and cardio activity. Alas, lifestyle physical activity, recreational fitness, unorganised activity, whatever you like to call it, has been undermined as valuable daily exercise. The health benefits of an active day can improve physical fitness just as much as a structured 60min exercise program.

You can actually get as much benefit from daily activity as you can by going to a gym — and maybe more,‘ says Barry A. Franklin, PhD, national spokesman for the American Heart Association.

What’s more, an active lifestyle will actually enhance a structured exercise program – the more your body is active throughout the day, the easier it is to increase activity in a workout.

Franklin says ‘A body at rest tends to remain at rest; a body in motion tends to remain in motion. So the more you move in any given time period, the easier it becomes to keep moving’.

So, to help decrease your workout time and increase your structured exercise intensity, keep your body moving throughout the day.

Rhythm and Movement Variation

One of the reasons a gym workout can frustrate the development of physical health is because of its limited activity.

The whole gym environment, especially if it’s machine-based, focuses on very fixed, linear-path movements, but the body doesn’t really work that way in real life,’ says physical trainer Dino Novak, ACES, ACSM.

When the body becomes used to a set rhythm or routine, the easier the activity becomes and the less effective on the body. For the body to use more energy it needs to be forced into unfamiliar rhythms and varying movements. To maximise the benefits of your workout you need to vary your activities constantly.

Colette Bouchez WebMD says:
‘Too often, we get stuck in the rut of doing the same exercise over and over — be it running on a treadmill, doing circuit training or riding a bike. Yet mastering a single workout isn’t necessarily the way to increase fitness. In fact, it might even set you back’.

For greater fitness your body needs unexpected exercise.  To help increase the benefits of your workout time, choose activities that make you change direction – stop, twist, turn, jump, lower and start.  Vary activities regularly – low impact, endurance, cardio, strength, toning, flexibility, limbering and relaxation.

Increase Intensity

It is well known that the less intense a workout the longer it needs to be to get the same benefits of a high intensity fitness program. So to increase fitness without increasing workout time, it is obvious that an increase in intensity is needed.

Bouchez says:
The general rule of thumb: The more vigorous the activity, the less time you need to do it to get optimum results. And the more leisurely your activity, the longer your exercise session should be.

According to Choose To Move, spending 15 minutes climbing stairs, jumping rope, or sprinting a mile will give you results equal to that of playing volleyball or touch football for 45 minutes, walking 1 3/4 mile in 35 minutes, or dancing fast for 30 minutes. And you’ll get the same result from bicycling 4 miles in 15 minutes as from mowing the lawn for 45 minutes.

So, increasing the intensity of your workout will help increase fitness without increasing workout time.


Focusing on your physical activity will increase exercise benefits. Thinking about your movements, thinking about your pace etc help to perfect technique and effectiveness. Reading while on a treadmill or watching TV will distract and lower exercise intensity.

So, to decrease your workout time you can increase your workout intensity by doing activities that need concentration.

No Rest for the Fit

A good nights sleep is vital for an active body. However, decreasing your rest between exercise will increase fitness without increasing workout time.

If you don’t give your body a chance to recover between exercises, it must get in better condition in order to repair itself for the next bout of activity — so you’re automatically getting more out of each workout,” says fitness expert John Ellis Spencer.

So, reducing rest periods will teach the body to recover quicker, therefore increasing fitness without increasing workout time.

And the best activity that will help you increase your fitness without increasing your workout time is… DANCE!

Dance activities are a great way to increase physical activity through lifestyle. Dance is a social activity; it benefits the community and is a performance art.  It is also a structured learning program – exercise for the mind too!

Dance activities are fantastic for varying rhythm and routine. Direction, pace, flexibility, isolation, and unfamiliar movements are all a part of dance practise. In fact, every three minutes, when a new song comes on, all the variables change!

Dance enables activity to be at varying intensities for all fitness levels. When more intensity is needed, faster music can be played with more vigourous dance movements.

Dance exercises the body as well as the mind. Thinking of movement, communicating with your partner through lead/follow and navigating the floor requires an active mind.

Dance is an excellent place to increase fitness through reducing rest periods. In social dance or dance workouts, music is played consecutively enabling you to decrease your rest periods until you can dance continuously for 30mins+ straight.

So, what are you waiting for – get an active lifestyle, change your rhythms, increase intensity, focus and reduce your rests without increasing your workout time – JUST DANCE!


Er du sikker på at det er vals du lærer?

English below

Dansestudioer og instruktører liker å slenge om seg med populære fraser som ‘engelsk’, ‘internasjonal’, ‘elegant’, ‘bryllup’ og ‘brudevals’ for å tiltrekke seg nye kunder. Hvis dans er helt nytt for deg høres dette sikkert fantastisk ut, men hvordan vet du at du får det instruktørene lover deg?

Hva ligger i navnet?
Noen ganger annonserer instruktørene ‘vals’, men lærer deg noe helt annet. Det er ordlyden som lurer deg. For eksempel betyr ikke ‘brudevals’ eller ‘bryllupsvals’ nødvendigvis ‘vals’. En brudevals eller bryllupsvals er bare et annet navn for brudens og brudgommens første dans på et bryllup. Den første dansen kan være hvilken dans som helst – Cha Cha, Quickstep, Salsa eller vals. På grunn av den løse betydningen av ordet brudevals har instruktører en tendens til å lære nybegynnere en liksom-vals og spare den virkelige valsen til mer langsiktige kunder. Hvis du tar leksjoner som kalles brudevals og du forventer å lære en tradisjonell langsom vals, bør du insistere å få lære enten en engelsk vals eller moderne vals.

Hva ligger i trinnet?
Hvis du lærer den valsen som ble annonsert betyr de at du får det du betaler for. Hvis en instruktør annonserer med ‘engelsk vals’ bør de lære deg engelsk vals og ikke en generisk ‘gå-stopp’ vals som alle kan lære av sin egen bestemor. For å være sikker på at du at du får den valsen du betaler for, trenger du å vite litt om de tradisjonelle ballroom-valsene. Gjør et søk på YouTube etter både ‘Modern/American Waltz’ og ‘English/International Waltz’. Se etter de videoene som er for nybegynnere – klipp fra oppvisninger viser deg kun hvordan valsen din kan se ut etter 10 år med undervisning og trening.
Her er dessuten litt om ballroom-valsene:

Engelsk vals
Selv om denne valsen ble utviklet av britene kalles den også internasjonal vals, ettersom britene prøver hardt å få ballroom-dans med som en olympisk gren. Denne valsen er en ‘lukket vals’ siden paret aldri bryter ut, dvs. at de alltid har kontakt ved mellomgulvet. Det er ingen vendinger, ingen doble håndgrep, ingen skyggestillinger – bare et kontinuerlig dansegrep. Valsen har typisk et ‘forbipasserende’ fotarbeid, ved at føttene passerer hverandre på det tredje slaget for å skape en mer glidende bevegelse over gulvet.

Moderne vals
Denne valsen kalles også American Style. I motsetning til engelsk vals utviklet denne dansen en ‘Fred Astaire’-stil med åpne bevegelser og trinn som tillot å danse side ved side og snurre rundt. Denne valsen har typisk et ‘lukket’ fotarbeid, som betyr at føttene kommer sammen på det tredje slaget.

Hva ligger i musikken?
Valsmusikk er en sjelden vare. Det lages ikke mange langsomme valser i musikkindustrien, så spillelister med vals er veldig korte. Det internasjonale ballroom-miljøet har lagd sine egne valser med ‘fast tempo’ som i beste fall er kvalmende billige. Det mange ikke vet om langsom vals er at musikken er naturlig utformet for å være melankolsk. Tre slag i hver takt og myke toner skaper den ømme elegansen i valsen. Musikken er åpenbart ikke ment å smile av med titler som ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’ og ‘Vanishing’. Langsomme valser der derfor ikke spesielt egnet som brudevals, med unntak av et titalls låter som gjennom årene har blitt spilt ihjel.
En annen ting mange ikke vet om vals er at den er ment for å danses til 3/4-takt (en takt på 1,2,3). De fleste velger en musikk til sin brudedans som er i 4/4-takt (en takt på 1,2,3,4). Til slik langsom musikk er ofte en Rumba et bedre valg. Rumba kalles ofte ‘kjærlighetsdansen’, og selv om det er en latinamerikansk dans er trinnene i Danzón-Rumba svært lik vals. Istedet for å velge en dans til brudevalsen, velg heller musikken og tilpass dansen deretter. Å bytte takt i en langsom dans fra 3/4 til 4/4-takt er ikke noe problem. Men hvis instruktøren din ikke vet hvordan man omformer en vals til en Rumba eller omvendt for å passe til din favorittmusikk, bør du nok vurdere å skaffe en ny instruktør.

Are You Sure You Are Leaning the Waltz?

Dance studios and teachers like to throw around popular terms in dance like ‘English’, ‘International’, ‘elegant’, ‘wedding’ and ‘bridal’ to attract the attention of new clients. If you are new to dancing everything can sound wonderful but how do you know if you are getting what the teachers are preaching?

What’s in a name
Sometimes teachers advertise ‘Waltz’ but teach something entirely different. It is the wording that can fool you. For instance, Bridal Waltz or Wedding Waltz doesn’t necessarily mean ‘Waltz’. A Bridal Waltz or Wedding Waltz is just another name for a bride and grooms First Dance at their wedding. The First Dance can be any dance – a Cha Cha, Quickstep, Salsa or a Waltz. Because of the loose meaning of Bridal Waltz teachers have a tendency to teach beginners a kind-of-Waltz and save the real thing for more serious clients. If you are taking lessons that are called Bridal Waltz and you expect to be taught a traditional ballroom Slow Waltz then insist on learning either English Waltz or Modern Waltz.

What’s in a step
Learning the Waltz that is advertised means you get what you are paying for. If an instructor is advertising English Waltz they should teach English Waltz and not a generic ‘step-tap’ Waltz, which anyone can learn from their grandma. To make sure you are getting the Waltz you are paying for you need to know a little about the traditional ballroom Waltzes. Do a YouTube search for both Modern or American Waltz and English or International Waltz. Look at the clips that are for beginners – the showcase Waltzes will only show what your Waltz could look like after 10 years of learning and practise.
Also, here is a little about the ballroom Waltzes:

English Waltz
Even though this Waltz was developed by the English it is also called International Waltz as the English are trying hard to get their ballroom dancing into the Olympics. This Waltz is a ‘closed Waltz’ as the couples never break away, meaning their diaphragms are always connected – no underarm turns, no double handholds, no shadow positions – just continuous dance hold. This Waltz typically has ‘passing’ footwork meaning the feet pass each other on the 3rd count to create a smoother glide across the floor.

Modern Waltz
This Waltz is also known as American Style Waltz. In contrast to the English Waltz, this dance developed a ‘Fred Astaire style’ with open movements with steps that allow dancing side-by-side and free spins. This Waltz typically has ‘closed’ footwork, meaning the feet come together on the 3rd count.

What’s in the music
Waltz music is hard to come by. Not many Slow Waltzes are produced in the music industry and so Waltz play lists are very short. The International Ballroom scene has made their own ‘strict tempo’ Waltz pieces that are cheesy at the best of times. One thing that most people don’t know about Slow Waltz music is that it is naturally designed to be melancholy. The three beat bars with the sway-like tones create the tender elegance of the Waltz. This music is obviously not for smiling with tunes like ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’ and ‘Vanishing’. Therefore Slow Waltz music isn’t ideal for ‘Bridal Waltz’ – except for about 10 songs that have been played to death over the years.
Another thing that people don’t know about Waltz is that it is designed to be danced to ¾ music – meaning to a count of 1,2,3. Most people choose music for their First Dance or Bridal Waltz that is 4/4 – meaning a count of 1,2,3,4. To 4/4 slow music a Rumba is usually best. Rumba is called ‘the dance of love’ and even though it is a Latin dance, the Danzón-Rumba is very similar in steps to the Modern Waltz.
Rather than choosing a dance for a Bridal Waltz, choose the music first and then match the dance accordingly. Changing the timing of a slow dance from 3 /4 to 4/4 is no problem. However, if your instructor doesn’t know how to convert a Waltz to a Rumba and vice versa to match your Bridal Waltz music, you should think about getting another instructor.


Fitness for the Mind and Body through Social Dance

A Review

For many people looking to get fit, the dance floor offers an

exciting alternative to the drudgery of the gym, and experts say

sticking to an exercise regime is easier when it’s not a chore.

Social dancing is helping change the way people see exercise

especially with pop culture hits like “Dancing with the Stars” and

So You Think You can Dance”.

”Depending on the step, social dancing can burn anywhere from

250 calories to 400 calories an hour — about the same as a brisk

half-hour walk on a treadmill, and the more demanding dances

like the salsa, samba and cha-cha can be comparable to an

intense session at the gym.” (Ken Richards – spokesman for USA Dance)

”Dancing works muscles in different parts of the body and

sharpens balance and coordination. Memorizing steps, kicks and

twirls also flexes the mind — a critical benefit for older people.

You don’t get that from walking in place on a treadmill.” (Dr.

Ferdinand Venditti, spokesman for the American Heart Association and chief of

medicine at Albany Medical College)

For consistent fitness, the duration and frequency of physical

activity is more important than the intensity.  With social dancing

time flies so people may dance for long periods that will

therefore increasing their fitness.

Miranda Hitti WebMD noted in Dancing Your Way to Better Health

New social dancers may feel muscles they didn’t know they

had. That often happens with a new activity. Social dancing

often means moving backward, especially for women.  If you

are dancing the foxtrot, you are taking long, sweeping steps

backwards. This centres on the abs and buttocks, which is

very different than walking forward on a treadmill or taking a

jog around the neighbourhood.

Core Experience

The legs and arms often do the flashy dance moves. But they

are sunk without a strong body core.  The “core” muscles – the

abs and back – which are also used in Pilates, are

strengthened through pose and control techniques in social


A study by Joe Verghese appeared in The New England Journal of

Medicine in 2005.

The Dancing Brain

How might social dancing help the brain? Dance, in many

ways, is a complex activity. It’s not just purely physical. Social

dancing increases blood flow to the brain, it decreases stress,

depression, and loneliness because of dancing’s social aspect,

and provides mental challenges such as memorizing steps,

creative development and working with your partner.

Researchers have also identified surprising benefits:

At the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, NY:

researchers examined how exercise influences the risk of

dementia by tracking 469 people over the age of 75 for a

period of 5 years. They found that dancing was associated

with a lower risk of dementia, while swimming, bicycling,

participating in group exercises, playing team games such as

bowling, walking for exercise, climbing stairs or doing

housework did not offer the same benefit.

Other studies have shown some unexpected ways in which dance

benefits people of different ages:

* At the University of California Irvine, medical students who took

art and dance classes were better able to observe and empathize

with their patients.

* In Sweden, elite cross-country skiers who did pre-season dance

training experienced less back pain from skiing.

* In a Korean study, depressed teens experienced relief from

dance therapy, and had measurably higher levels of serotonin.

* In Connecticut, breast cancer survivors who took part in a 12-

week therapeutic dance program at a medical centre in Meriden

improved their quality of life.

* Researchers at the Mayo Clinic, based in Rochester, MN,

identified that side-to-side dance movements help to prevent

osteoporosis by strengthening weight-bearing bones.

Make sure you consult your physician before starting any dance



Dancing Your Way to Better Health Ballroom Dancing May Help Mind, Body, and Spirit By Miranda Hitti

WebMD Feature accessed 2007

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

accessed 2007




Dance For Fitness

— Why the Ballroom Beats The Treadmill – accessed 2007

Ballroom dancing puts the swing in exercise

Steps like the cha-cha can burn as many calories as a gym workout – accessed 2007


Raising the Quality of Dance

In Northern Norway, dance has developed out of love.  In the past, Nordlendinger who wanted to learn to dance had to teach themselves.  To have social dances they then had to teach others.  This has served Northern Norway well, bringing dance to people who previously would not have had the opportunity to learn.

Because people have taught themselves to dance, and then dubbing themselves as ‘instructors’ to teach others without any proper training, only steps have been the focus of learning.  Unfortunately, technique and styling was not learnt, most likely as they are hard to self-teach through books and video.  This has created an imbalance in the dance scene in Northern Norway.  Dancers know many steps from years of community instruction however, the lack of style and technique is stunting the growth of dancers.

The problem with the quality of dance in Northern Norway

Knowing and dancing a lot of steps does not make a good dancer.  In fact, knowing all the steps in the world will not make you more impressive than a dancer who can dance a basic step with perfect styling and technique.  The reason Champions are champions because they dance the simplest of steps correctly.  Dancing correctly does not have anything to do with being ‘pompous’, but like all sports, it is about safety, longevity and integrity.

For example:
To kick a football into a goal you can ‘just kick’ or you can set the ball, step back to take your stance, pick your direction, breathe, wait for the right moment, stride into your kick to create power and speed, kick the ball with a certain part of your foot to create spin and direction, and follow through.

The same with dance: you can ‘just dance’ or you can dance!

Why should the quality of dance be raised?

Safety – like all movement there is a right way and a wrong way to dance.  Dance is not natural to the body, we have never needed it to run away from tigers.  Proper technique needs to be applied to keep the body safe.  One of the biggest problems people have in dance are knee injuries – even the simplest move of dancing forward needs to have technique.

Longevity – Learning to dance by just learning steps is going to prevent you from progressing.  The higher you go in dancing the more technique is required and so if technique is not being used in your dancing you can only stay at a basic level.

Often dance steps that are being taught as ‘advanced’ are not actually advanced.  They are just 5 basic steps put together.  The only reason why they could be considered ‘advanced’ is because you have to remember the order of the five steps.  An advanced step is about the timing, style and technique that is required in order to carry out the step.

For example:
In the world of swimming, backstroke can be basic or advanced – whether a beginner or a champion is swimming it, it is still backstroke.  The thing that makes backstroke advanced is the technique applied to it.

Integrity – Social dancing is no longer considered just a way to ‘pick up chicks’.  It has become a bona fide activity for fitness, education and lifestyle.  The quality of dance is attractive to many different governments, institutions and organisations.  In fact, the intelligence of a civilisation is relative to its integrity of culture and art.  We all know that Northern Norway is culturally mature with music, art and theatre – dancing is a way that we can show the world just how sophisticated we really are.

How to raise the quality of dance

The dance instructors in Northern Norway must all be respected for their time and commitment, and for having the courage to ‘get the ball rolling’.  Now that a good dance environment has been established, the one thing that will raise the quality of dance is to expect more from our instructors.  Expect technique, expect styling and expect proper training that is relative to the rest of the world.  In return you will need to support them, help them to become recognised in the community for the work they do and demand that the governments and authorities value and support them.

How to tell if you are being taught dance properly

To raise the quality of your own dancing you need to choose an instructor that teaches dance properly.  There are three main elements of dance that need to be in focus when learning – technique and styling, lead/following and footwork.  If these three elements are not being taught in your classes, then maybe you should find another instructor who will give you value for money.

Here are some things to watch out for:

Bad Instruction:

Just Steps – classes that teach just steps.

Just routines – classes that don’t teach how to lead/follow every step

Good Instruction:

Technique/style – classes that teach for the whole body – arms, feet, head, diaphragm, etc

Lead/follow – classes that teach to lead/follow from the diaphragm

Latin – classes that teach Cuban Motion is created from the diaphragm
(It is a misconception that Cuban Motion comes from the knees and the hips.  Cuban Motion is the soul of Latin dance and therefore needs to come from your soul – the diaphragm.  Cuban Motion is about the flow of energy through your body.  As Latin dances are ‘earth dances’ the energy flows downwards.  If you are taught Cuban Motion from the knees your energy doesn’t have far to go before it hits the floor.  But if the Cuban Motion starts in your diaphragm it will travel through your body to your waist, your hips, your knees and your feet giving a continuous, elegant, flow to the earth.)

Ballroom – classes that teach using momentum, weight, gravity, drive and the diaphragm to dance.


The Cost of Dance

Norwegians tell me that Norway is a wealthy country – wages are high, employment is good, and education and health are free.  As this might be true, I often hear Norwegians talk about how expensive learning to dance is.  However, is this ‘talk’ just mis-leading or is it something to follow?

To see if dance lessons are really expensive or not here in Tromsø, lets compare with the prices of dancing in Australia (a country that Norway overshadows in value of money):

At a community hall International style dance studio called Star Studios, the price for a 1 hour group lesson (with at least 20 other groupers) costs AU$10.  Multiply that by 5 to get a Norwegian Kroner value and it comes to NOK50.  However, you also need to take into consideration the value of earnings in Oz.  The average income in Australia (2007) was AU$45,000.  Times that by 5 and you get NOK225,000.  The average wage in Norway in 2007 was over NOK430,000.  Therefore to get the same value, the Oz amount can be multipied by 2 to get about the same Norsk value.  This will make the cost of a Star Studios group lesson at NOK100 per hour.  Currently in Tromsø a group lesson at Salsademika is NOK100 per hour.

Lets look at another example using the same equation:

Melbourne Salsa charges AU$15 for a one hour group lesson.  Multiply by 5 for the money conversion and then multiply by 2 for a value conversion and you get NOK150 for a one hour group lesson. Currently in Tromsø a group lesson at Salsademika is still only NOK100 per hour.

Not convinced?  Lets look at private lessons:

At Studio Two Dance Centre the cost of a private lesson is AU$65 – NOK 650.  I must admit that these private lessons are very cheap.  So lets consider the cost of one of my old dance studios (which will remain nameless) for a one hour private lesson well over 5 years ago: NOK826.  In fact, even at this price, it was common for my students to have two or three private lessons with me a week.

But value is also about perception.  In Norway, to my dismay, dancing seems like it is undervalued as just a social activity that doesn’t require much commitment.  However, in Oz, learning to dance is a prestigious activity and considered the same as learning a musical instrument, golf lessons, tennis lessons, scuba diving lessons or horse riding lessons.

Lets take it back home to Norway.  How much would it cost to have a personal trainer at Sats working with you for an hour once a week?  Well, they don’t advertise the price.  (I wonder why?)  Tromsø Golf charges NOK3700 for a short season of play and only 6 group training lessons.  Tromsø Tennis Club charges NOK1800 for a one hour private lesson.  A season card at Krokenbakken just to use the lift to go skiing is NOK2800 for four to five months – they don’t show private costs but in Oslo it costs NOK575 for a 55min private ski lesson.  Tromsø Riding Sports Club charges NOK400 per hour for a private lesson.

Dancing in Tromsø also has other benefits similar to these other Tromsø clubs – community, visiting professionals, functions and activities etc.  However, unlike these clubs, the dancing scene has happenings every week, which are actually free, the skills learnt can be used in social situations, and you don’t need a horse, snow, or a racket to dance – in fact, you don’t even need a partner!