Let’s Go Dancing!
From Chicago steppin’ to hand dancing to ballroom, sisters are loving the fitness, friendship and fun that swinging with a partner can offer. Single ladies welcome!
There’s just something about holding hands and moving gracefully to music that you just don’t get from droppin’ it like it’s hot to Lizzo at a club or doing the wobble or the electric slide at a wedding. Partner dancing encompasses many different types of dance, including ballroom dancing, Chicago steppin’ and hand dancing — anything that involves a couple who are touching each other while moving out on the dance floor.
While dancing in any form has obvious health benefits (cardio exercise, muscle strengthening) there are some extra special benefits to partner dancing, like building neuroplasticity. “It’s … good for your brain because you’re constantly remembering patterns,” says Leon Turetsky, professional ballroom dancer, certified personal trainer and founder of Passion4dancing.com. “It [helps] to keep your mind sharp.”
And while solo dancers typically carve out a space for themselves on the dance floor and don’t usually veer too far away from it, partner dancers have to carefully navigate across a relatively crowded floor filled with other couples. This maneuvering helps keep your reaction time sharp and helps dancers get a better sense of where they are in space, says Anneliese Burns Wilson, vice chairman of the National Dance Foundation and founder of ABCforDance.com.
No more struggling to reach a certain step count on your Fitbit or Apple watch when you’re moving to a beat! Partner dancing is a whole lot of fun. The popularity of different types of partner dancing varies from region to region, but in Washington, D.C., hand dancing is arguably the favorite. This partner swing-style dance is the city’s official dance by proclamation of the Council of the District of Columbia, says Jacque Ballard, president of the National Hand Dance Association (NHDA). “You can find a [hand dance class] on every corner … within D.C., Maryland or Virginia.”
Sherry Bradley, a member of the NHDA, found one of those classes and has been hand dancing for over 10 years. “The best thing I could do was to take classes … it’s good for my health,” says Bradley. “It keeps me moving, keeps me going.” She got a head start with the dance style because it was performed in her own household while she was growing up. “I got into it because my parents used to hand dance. And I always liked it, and I wanted to learn it,” she says. “As a child I used to go with them to some events … they’d go to a friend’s house, and I’d be with the [other] children. They’d be in the basement hand dancing.”
Chicago steppin’ is another popular form of partner dancing. It originated in Chicago, but it’s extremely popular in many other pockets of the U.S., including Detroit, Atlanta and Miami, says Freddie “Chicago” Edmonds, a Chicago steppin’ instructor in Denver. Most of his students are over age 40, and his oldest student was 95. “She’s a sharp lady… and she can dance,” says Edmonds. His dance classes are also used as a workout alternative for a lot of his students. “A lot of people don’t like going to the gym. [In my classes] you can come learn something and get your steps in. It’s all about health and wellness — getting the body moving,” he says.
Edmonds’ wife, Lisa, has actually been moving with Chicago steppin’ for about a year and a half. “I love the couples dancing. I love dancing with [Freddie]… It’s great exercise, too. It’s something I love to do to relax and have fun.” She notes that even though steppin’ is a partner dance, many of the people who come to the events arrive solo. So there’s no reason for single ladies to stay away.
So, how do you find a partner dance class? It all depends on where you are and what type of dancing you might want to try. Searching online (type of dance + your city) is a good first step, says Wilson. She also notes that class listings from community colleges, universities and adult schools are other good options. And if you’re specifically into hand dancing check out the listings at NationalHandDanceAssociation.org.