Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 25, 2013 at 1:52 p.m.
No longer are dance lessons reserved for kindergarten-aged ballet students.
DANCING IN GAINESVILLE
For more information about all styles of recreational dancing and a calendar of classes, contact Andrew Weitzen at 352-327-3672 or go to the Gainesville Dance Association website, www.gainesvilledance.com
In fact, thanks to popular shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and surprising medical studies, adults are counting and stepping and waltzing their way to better health.
A handful of studios in the Gainesville area offer ballroom dancing lessons, and all of them promote the social and physical benefits of the growing hobby. Ray and Eileen Parris, who have taught in Michigan, Georgia and a handful of places in Florida, enjoy how the art of dancing combines with low-impact exercise.
“They say that next to swimming, dancing is the best overall exercise there is,” Eileen says. “I was never a jogger or a runner. I much prefer getting my exercise through dancing and enjoying it. It's never really hard when it's fun.”
Parris Studios holds evening group lessons twice a week, in addition to monthly socials.
People who worry they're out of shape or have two left feet shouldn't feel nervous about starting to dance, says Andrew Weitzen, president of the Gainesville Dance Association.
“It's kind of like speaking a foreign language,” he says. “It can be intimidating at first, but it's a lot of fun when you start getting the hang of it. Most people come out looking for something to do and to meet other people. They think it's going to be fun, plus you're also acquiring a skill that you can use anywhere.”
Gainesville Dance Association hosts classes in a multitude of dance styles seven days a week at various locations, available through the association's newsletters and dance calendar. You can learn capoiera, waltz, Israeli dance, swing, tango and English country dancing.
Weitzen, a Gainesville High School alum, played sports to keep active. Now he enjoys the more social side to dancing as physical exercise.
Dancers aren't required to come in twosomes, as many instructors will rotate dancers throughout a lesson to make sure each person is learning the skills and routines correctly. But playing the odds, Weitzen says it's good to be a guy.
“It'll be one guy, and you'll have five girls asking into your arms,” he laughs. “But seriously, that's a misconception. You're dancing with everyone, sometimes in close embrace, but it's nothing sexual. It's just dancing. It's like tennis.”
Whether it's a fast-paced cha-cha or smooth and steady tango, each style of dance offers a different form of exercise. Dancing is aerobic, but also focuses on muscle control, posture and memory.
“You learn a lot about human nature,” says Weitzen, who teaches Israeli dance classes, among other styles. “You want to dance as one with a whole other separate person. I can tell what's going on in a partner's brain just through holding their hands.”
Researchers have frequently shown that regular physical activity can keep your body healthy as you age, but dancing's special requirements, such as recalling dance steps, will keep your brain in top shape, as well.
A 2003 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that ballroom dancing at least twice a week made people less likely to develop dementia. Research also has shown that some people with Alzheimer's disease are able to remember forgotten details when they dance to music they once knew.
Joe Glover, University of Florida Provost and Senior Vice President for Student Affairs, woke up one morning and decided he needed to learn how to dance. Twenty-five years later, he's still going strong.
“It's curious that I could easily dance for an hour, but can't run for 10 minutes,” he says. “It's also a very precise activity with a lot of kinetics, geometry, movement and choreography that keeps the mind engaged as well as the body.
Like many local dancers, Glover traces his dancing beginnings to Maria Alvarez, whose Imperial Dance Studio taught hundreds and hundreds of students in its 31 years of existence. Alvarez decided to close the studio in March in order to “semi-retire” and enjoy dance without the stress of running a business, she says.
“It's something that snowballs,” she says of dancing. “It's a fun, very social kind of activity that so many people have in common. People who don't know each other can start dancing like they've known each other for years. For most people, the hardest dance step is getting through that front door.”
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