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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Swing Dance Your Way to Fitness

Aug 04, 2009 07:29PM
By Lisa Moore

With the pressures of job and social obligations pulling us in many directions, it's often hard to find time for exercise. And when we do, the thought of jogging on the treadmill or tossing around dumbbells can seem like drudgery. Swing Dance can help you dance your way to physical fitness, social confidence and personal happiness while having a blast.

Swing Dance refers to a group of dances that developed simultaneously with the swing style of jazz music in the 1920s, '30s and '40s, including the Lindy Hop, Charleston, Shag, Balboa and Blues, West Coast Swing, East Coast Swing, Rock and Roll and Jive. The variety of styles offers dancers an array of workouts from fast and jumpy to smooth and sensual or even acrobatic. Each local swing dance community has a distinct culture and their own variations of every dance.

The earliest forms of Swing Dance actually predate swing jazz  music and began in African American communities. The music features the syncopated timing associated with West African and African American music and dance, but introduces changes in the way these rhythms were played, often with a distinct delay or relaxed approach to timing.

ZoÃŽ Whittaker, President of the Charlotte Swing Dance Society, says Swing Dance is great for all ages and ability levels, and notes that her grandfather was still doing the Charleston when he passed at age 93.

“I have always contended that if you can walk you can dance,” she says. “Everything in social dancing comes in pairs. If you have two left feet then you can learn to have two right feet.” Beginners can expect to be dancing by the end of their first class, she claims.

Swing Dance can keep you fit in a variety of ways. Depending on the step, it can burn anywhere from 250 calories to 400 calories an hour — about the same as a brisk half-hour walk on a treadmill. Dancing works muscles in various parts of the body and sharpens coordination, agility and balance. Memorizing steps and twirls flexes the mind — a crucial benefit for older Americans.

The tempo and pace of each dance is set by the music. Fast songs will provide an aerobic work out, while slower, bluesy tunes offer stretching and holding a line with your partner. “Swing dancers have notoriously developed stomach muscles because everything we do comes from our core or center,” says Whittaker.

Dancing reduces stress and tension and also improves attitude, confidence and body awareness. “I've seen so many people bloom socially through dancing,” states Whittaker. “I can't tell you how many shy people walk away from their first dance lesson grinning from ear to ear.”

Swing dance offers couples a great way to spend time together, but no partner is required at classes. The Charlotte Swing Dance Society sponsors and promotes multi-cultural events that bring together community members to share the common experience of music and dance that transcends race, age, gender and creed.

So grab your zoot suit and wing tips and give it a whirl, but consider one important disclaimer - Swing Dance may be addictive. For more information about classes and events visit

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