"Teach me how to dance!" is what they are saying. They may say it in many different ways, from a wistful "You know, I've always wanted to learn the tango…" to a declarative "Hip hop is da shizzle!" - but it all means the same thing: people want to learn to move, to express themselves and respond to music with their bodies. Why has dance, in spite of its many changes over the years, remained one of mankind's most universal pastimes?
Benefits of Dance
There are many answers to that question, because there are many benefits to dancing. Even better, almost all the benefits are common to all forms of dance.
- Community - Dancers must learn from each other; this means that they are also in each other's company, and often go through the same struggles and triumphs as they share their art. As the internet has taken root in many cultures, these communities have truly grown to be worldwide.
- Grace - The actual clinical definition of dance can be summed up as "controlled, deliberate movement." By learning greater control of their body, people become more confident and aware of their movement in other areas, as well.
- Health - The body is an instrument that declines with disuse. By dancing, whether it be the strenuous head spins of a b-boy to an elderly woman learning basic ballet, the act of dancing strengthens muscles, ligaments, and bones.
- Aesthetic Appreciation - When someone says "Teach me how to dance!" they are also asking for a greater understanding of dance, both that which they are learning and other movement forms as well. Increased understanding of an art leads to more ways to enjoy it.
Teach Me How to Dance…What?
"What do you want to learn?" is the first thing out of most teacher's mouths when someone wants to learn. Picking out the form of dance most appropriate to your interest is the first step before even trying to find a dance studio. There are many different forms of dance from many, many different cultures, ranging from the ancient to the futuristic.Someone looking for active, aerobic movements might try hip hop, belly dance, or jazz dance. There are many forms of exercise that have integrated dance into their movements, and there are many DVDs and classes combining things like salsa or other dance techniques into cardio workout routines.
Those looking for more of a coupled experience would probably look first at some of the rhythm dances offered at dance studios all over the world. Dances like foxtrot, tango, and the rumba all require a partner, and it can be as rewarding (if not more so) to learn the dance with the other person as it is to ultimately dance with them. In addition, romantic couples have enjoyed the waltz and the Argentinian tango to grow closer together. There are many other dance forms like that as well.
Sometimes people want to get more in touch with their cultural heritage, and there are many forms of folk dancing from every country imaginable. Greece has an especially rich tradition of community dance, and Morris Dancing is another very popular cultural dance. Line dancing in America is swiftly becoming the folk dance of the U.S.A., not requiring any partner or special training to take your place in the group dance moves.
How to Find Good Dance Instruction
While starting to dance is easy (simply begin to move), learning how to dance a certain way can be a more tricky decision. There are many dance teachers who will teach outside of their area of expertise to take advantage of a certain fad, such as a jazz teacher who thinks they can simply analyze the moves of hip hop in order to teach it. It is important that a dance teacher not only have credentials but that they also have references - ideally other students who will give an honest appraisal of their experience in a dance school. Using the internet to research dance education is the best place to start, followed by a visit to the potential school itself.
The good news is that the answer to "Teach me to dance!" is almost always going to end up being "Alright! Let's move!" as the movement to the beat goes on from person to person.