There’s no escaping it... Britain’s got ballroom dance fever. And it’s all thanks to the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing show, which has captured the nation’s attention with its sequin-clad, twinkle-toed – or should I say left-footed – celebrities and controversial judges.
Once-upon-a-time ballroom and Latin dancing had a very different reputation – you either needed to be an old age pensioner or have a taste for fake tan to take part. But today it’s making a comeback – and why not? Not only is it fun, frivolous and ultra-glam, it’s also great for keeping you fit and toned. So, what are you waiting for? Peel yourself off that sofa and put on your dancing shoes!
Foxtrot to fitnessMany of you may be wondering how a past time so popular with geriatrics can keep you in shape...well, it can!
Rachelle Stretch from the English Amateur Dancesport Association (EADA) carried out a study into the athleticism of dancesport [the official term for competitive ballroom and Latin dancing] for Dance Today.
She discovered that medical research shows dancesport is comparable with other sporting activities such as basketball, squash and cross country running. Dancers perform at over 80 percent of their maximum oxygen consumption level and burn at least 300 calories per hour*.
A study by the University of Freiburg found that the exertion and breathing rates of dancesport athletes performing a single dance were the same as cyclists, swimmers and 800m runners over the same two minute period.
Tango to toned musclesSiblings Ben and Becky started dancing when they were three-years-old and they haven’t stopped since! They are ranked second in the under 19 Youth Ballroom and Latin charts.
Ben said: “We dance every night. It helps build strength and muscle for me and keeps Becky slim and toned. Ballroom and Latin dancing helps maintain stamina during physical tests and it has particularly boosted our fitness levels for athletics and cross country running at school.”
If you’re still not convinced, you only need to check out pro-dancer Camilla Dallerup’s toned legs and Brendan Cole’s beautiful bod to see proof that the tango keeps you in tip top shape!
Judge for yourselfNo-nonsense Strictly judge Arlene Phillips points out that it’s more than just your body that benefits:
“Ballroom is one of the most exciting ways to get fit. Dance works the brain and the body at the same time and you can pretty much dance any dance to the music you love to hear.”
Stars in the makingSo is there a new generation of rising stars in Ballroom and Latin dancing? Or is it just celebs with too much time on their hands that are testing out their twinkle toes?
Sixteen-year-old Steph Humphrey appeared in the Telegraph earlier in the year as the first pupil to take a GCSE exam in ballroom dancing, after being captivated by the BBC show.
Steph’s not the only enthusiast, Strictly has opened the floodgates to a wave of interest in the sport and, ironically, there is now a shortage of teachers to keep up with demand.
Keith Holmes, chief executive of the International Dance Teachers Association is trying to get ballroom back into schools. He told Timesonline they needed “another 1,000 teachers to cope with the demand created by Strictly Come Dancing.”
Dancing queens – and kingsJohn, 16, and Katherine, 18, (another brother and sister couple) are youth and amateur ballroom and Latin competitors. John was crowned Junior British Ballroom and Latin champion last year with his former partner.
“Dancing is really exciting and interesting; it’s great to have something to work on after school,” he says. “It’s also very unique, and makes you feel individual at school.
We both started competing when we realised how much passion we had for the sport.”
Are you ready to discover that passion and cha-cha-cha your way into shape? Enjoy the craze while it lasts – who knows who you’ll be dancing cheek to cheek with...
* British Journal of Sports Medicine, Vol 22, Issue 2 57-60 Heart rate and estimated energy expenditure during ballroom dancing