Put on Your Dancin' Shoes
Author: Linda Hopkins
Everywhere you look, people are swinging, shagging, cha-cha-ing, hip-hopping, tapping, tangoing, and waltzing. Under the spell of celebrities and professionals, as seen on the popular television series, Dancing with the Stars, more and more ordinary Americans are donning their dancing shoes, signing up for lessons and stepping out on the dance floor. While some may have visions of grandeur, others just want to have fun. But all are discovering the mental, physical and social benefits of moving to music.
Whether you secretly sashay across your living room when you’re home alone or you shake a leg publicly with your significant other, you’re on the right track. Not only is dancing a great way to let loose and have a good time, but it also provides some powerful health benefits.
Mayo Clinic researchers report that dancing helps to:
develop muscle tone and
improve posture, balance and coordination.
Whether you like to kick up your heels to hip hop, classical or country, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), dancing can:
lower your risk of coronary heart disease
decrease blood pressure
help you manage your weight and
strengthen your bones.
Dancing is a unique form of exercise because it provides the heart-healthy benefits of an aerobic exercise while also stimulating the mind. A 21-year study published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that dancing can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Dancing offers a triple benefit for the brain, explained Dr. Joe Verghese, a neurologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and a lead researcher of the study. Not only does the physical aspect of dancing increase the blood flow to the brain, but the social aspect of the activity helps alleviate stress, depression, and loneliness. Dancing requires memorizing steps and working with a partner, providing mental challenges that are crucial for brain health, he added.
In addition to the physical benefits, area dance instructors point out that dancing helps people overcome depression, gain confidence and increase their self-esteem, all of which contribute to a healthy outlook on life. So what are you waiting for?
No matter your skill level, there’s always room for improvement in dance. If you’ve never danced and would like to learn, plenty of opportunities exist to get you started on the right foot. Perhaps you would like to learn a new form of dance, brush up on your skills, or take your dancing to the next level. Area experts are eager to help students of all abilities achieve their goals. Following are a few places to get started:
Fred Astaire Dance Studio, 8 Cardinal Rd., Unit D. 681-6168: Accepting students ages 3-103, the Fred Astaire Studio offers classic ballroom dance instruction, including the foxtrot, swing and waltz as well as a number of Latin dances and even the Carolina shag—all partner dances. According to co-owner Armando Aseneta, their highly trained and experienced instructors can accommodate anyone from a beginning social dancer to an advanced competition dancer. Initially, he encourages beginners to just get out there and move and not worry about the technical aspects. Both group lessons and private instruction are available—no partner necessary. All students are encouraged to attend weekly practice parties at the studio and to participate in community dancing opportunities at public and private clubs. For more information about Fred Astaire programs, visit www.fredastaire.com.
Dancing Dynamics – Ballroom & Latin Dancing, Jeremy Gonzalez, 843-338-6011: Offerings wonderful dance instruction in an intimate environment for private and or group lessons. Dancing Dynamics affordable rate welcomes all ages and all levels to experience Jeremy’s fun personalized lessons. Jeremy encourages to everyone that dancing is not only a healthy, active way to have fun but builds on individuals self esteem and confidence. Ballroom Dancing helps with balance, poise, posture that carries into everyday living. Please know that you don’t need a partner and wel
Hilton Head Dance School, 24 Palmetto Business Park. 843-785-5477: Open since 1985, the Hilton Head Dance School and Theatre specializes in classic ballet, also offering tap, hip-hop and jazz instruction. Owners John Carlyle and wife, Karena Brock-Carlyle, both former international performers, bring an impressive degree of training and experience to our area. “It’s wonderful to be able to give back what I was given,” said Karena. Students are encouraged to start performing early to develop confidence on stage, which, according to Karena, is an ability that spills over into every aspect of life. For instructor biographies, schedules, tuition and more information, visit www.hiltonheaddance.com.
Paramount Dance and Entertainment, Legacy Fitness, Moss Creek Plaza. 683.2561: Popular local DJ, Joe Little, a.k.a. “The Spin Wizard,” teaches social dancing to adults, with pre-arranged group and private lessons available. Dancing since early childhood and going on to train under some of the top performers and instructors in the Washington D.C. area, he is proficient in a variety of dance styles, including ballroom, shag and other popular social dances. “Like any teacher, I find self-satisfaction in watching my students grow and develop confidence,” he said. Meet Joe on Friday nights at Signals Lounge where he spins tunes for ballroom dancers, shaggers and anyone else who wants to get up and dance!
Breakthrough Fitness Center, 130 Arrow Rd., 341-2166: If you’re ready to step out of the box, consider signing up for hip-hop lessons with Joi Dupre at Breakthrough Fitness Center. Open to the public, on Tuesday nights from 6:30-7:30 p.m., students from high school up are invited to join in the fun for $10 per class. Dupre holds a BA in dance from the University of South Florida. Prior to moving to Hilton Head Island, she was the artistic director and choreographer for the night club Glam Slam Miami which was owned by Prince, performed with Patti Labelle in Super Bowl XXIX, and choreographed for the Atlanta Hawks dance team, among other accomplishments. She currently serves as co-director with Holly Brown for the local 5-6-7-8 Senior Dance Company. “It moves me to teach,” she said. “My motto is ‘Fake it till you make it, shake your butt and have a good time!’” Read Dupre’s bio at www.massageforlife.com or call 298-3496 for more information.
Where to go to dance
Now that you’ve learned a few smooth moves, it’s time to get out on the dance floor. A number of area establishments provide venues for dancing:
Fred Astaire Dance Studio, 8 Cardinal Rd., Ste. D: The public is invited to join the professional instructors and their students every Tuesday night for dancing practice—first visit, free; $15 thereafter. No partner necessary. For more information, call 681-6168.
Monkey Business, 33 Office Park Rd., #25, Park Plaza: Offering a variety of dance music provided by popular DJs, local musicians and nationally acclaimed bands, you’re sure to get in a groove at Monkey Business. For entertainment schedule, ticket information and hours of operation, call 686-3545.
Montego Bay, 33 Office Park Rd., #11, Park Plaza: Owned by Brian and Michelle Reahm of the musical group, Target, the dance club provides a variety of music, including beach favorites, reggae, karaoke, and more, Mon.-Sat. 7 p.m.-2 a.m. For nightly specials and more information, call 785-3590 or visit www.montegobayhhi.com.
Moss Creek Country Club: Ballroom dancers can enjoy an elegant dinner dance once a month (with the exception of July and August), hosted by Axel and Christine Graf. Available by invitation only, find out how you can participate by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Regatta’s Lounge, 23 Ocean Ln., Hilton Oceanfront Resort, Palmetto Dunes: Join the throngs of locals and visitors who have discovered the exciting nightlife at Regatta’s Lounge. Live bands provide a variety of music for your listening and dancing pleasure. For more information, call 842-8000.
Signals Lounge, Crowne Plaza Resort, Shipyard Plantation
Join local dance enthusiasts each Friday night from 5-10 p.m. Popular DJ, Joe Little, provides the music, starting with ballroom selections and moving to beach music and other dance hits. For more information, call 842-2400.
The Hilton Head Island Carolina Shag Club: The Hilton Head Island organization offers a variety of parties and shag events for members. To join or for more information, visit www.hhishag.com, or call Pat Hughes at 681-2832. Serious shaggers will want to check out multi-state events by visiting www.shagdance.com.
Joe little demonstrates a dip to writer, Linda Hopkins
Confirmed Wallflower Turns the Beat Around
For eight years, I attended a private school where dancing was strictly forbidden. Although my mother (who wore out our living room carpet dancing the Jitterbug) didn’t subscribe to their rules, I never learned to cut a rug. By the time I reached high school, my mom tried to teach me to slow dance (just in case I got asked to the prom). I’ll never forget her saying, “You’re like dancing with an ironing board.” Well, that did it. Subsequently, I turned down all invitations that might remotely lead to a dance floor.
Fast forward a few decades, and I am still the proverbial wallflower. I have a complete repertoire of excuses ready anytime I am asked to dance, and I’ve even been known to break down and cry. (Now that will scare away the most persistent suitor!) But all of that is about to change.
Last Saturday, after much begging and pleading, my husband, Tom, agreed to take one dance lesson with me. “I would rather have a root canal,” he said, muttering something about how much he loved me.
Enter Joe Little, a charismatic, Kenny Rogers look-alike with a smooth, laidback style. He didn’t put on any music or start showing off his own fancy footwork. Instead, he spent some time getting to know us and discovering where we were: square one. He started the lesson by explaining the basic elements of dance. As he showed me how to be “the frame,” he demonstrated how easy it was to push me around the dance floor—a form of silent communication that works like magic, he explained.
“If you can push a wheelbarrow or change a tire, you can dance,” he said to Tom, who was already feeling more confident. (He’s very good with wheelbarrows and lug nuts.) True to his engineering mentality, once he saw that there was reason behind the rhythm, he began to relate.
Then came the hard part: Choosing to start with the official South Carolina dance, we decided to learn the shag. Joe broke down the basic step and at least got us shuffling our feet to the beat of the same drummer. He showed Tom how easy it would be to turn me every which way but loose simply by lifting my arm at just the right time. I could tell Tom was reveling in his newfound authority. And to be honest, I think following my man’s lead is pretty exciting.
“I like to call it ‘floor play,’” quipped Joe, extolling the marital benefits of dancing.
By the end of the hour, we knew a basic step, a right and left turn. I figured that was as close as I would ever get to Dancing with the Stars.
When we reached the car, Tom immediately began saying, “That’s as good as it gets,” referring to Joe’s easygoing, perfectly logical teaching style. He even suggested that we practice at home and sign up for a few more lessons.
It may be a while before we get up the nerve to dance in public, but when we do, be sure to notice my new frame—less like an ironing board, more like a wheelbarrow. I’m about 35 years too late for the prom, but this wallflower is about to blossom!
Contact Joe Little at 843-683-2561.