Image: Dance class
Stefano Paltera  /  AP
Adults participate in a dance class at Dance Studio No. 1 in Los Angeles.
updated 11/18/2004 4:54:04 PM ET 2004-11-18T21:54:04

Bored with the gym and tennis lessons, Marianna Orro was looking for a new exercise. She heard about a tap dance class and signed up with a friend at a studio outside Cleveland.

In the middle of her new class she heard hip-hop music next door. She signed up for that class, too.

"I don't even know the music that we dance to," said Orro, who is 57. "It's the kids' music. But dance is dance and I assured them I wouldn't be in their recital."

Orro took dance classes as a child. And like many women, she has returned to dance as a more engaging way to stay in shape.

Repetitive exercise such as running or using an elliptical machine can get boring, said Jennifer Hex, a teacher at Dance Studio No. 1 in Los Angeles. Classes once abandoned in childhood, such as tap and ballet, offer an option to at least vary the fitness routine.

Hex said people can have reservations about getting back on the floor or at the barre, which can offer benefits beyond just weight loss, such as muscle toning and stress relief.

Before taking up dance, anything from ballet to ballroom, you should first examine what sort of experience you've had before, she said. Are you a complete beginner or are familiar with time steps and shuffles? She then suggests figuring out what you want from the class, be it a good cardio workout or flexibility and toning. She then recommends observing a class first to avoid embarrassment.

"Then again," she said, "No one is probably paying attention, since everyone in a dance class is worried about how they look and not what everyone else is doing."

Just like riding a bike
Most importantly, she said people shouldn't worry if they'll be able to dance at the same level as when they were younger. Taking it one class at a time is a good rule. For new ballet students, she suggests starting out with just barre exercises and then working up to other skills. Hex said that surprisingly, movements learned as children all come back.

"Dance gets into the nervous system. It's like getting back on a bicycle," said Anita Feldman, a dance teacher at Berest Dance Center in Port Washington, N.Y. She teaches a class of seven adults, some of whom are well over 60 years old. "It makes people feel young again, and it keeps their minds sharp since they have to think about the rhythms and the steps."

Jen Cutraro in West Lafayette, Ind., said she isn't sure why she stopped taking classical ballet when she finished college. Dance had been a staple in her life since she was about 6 years old and she had taken classes regularly until she was 22.

  1. Don't miss these Health stories
    1. Splash News
      More women opting for preventive mastectomy - but should they be?

      Rates of women who are opting for preventive mastectomies, such as Angeline Jolie, have increased by an estimated 50 percent in recent years, experts say. But many doctors are puzzled because the operation doesn't carry a 100 percent guarantee, it's major surgery -- and women have other options, from a once-a-day pill to careful monitoring.

    2. Larry Page's damaged vocal cords: Treatment comes with trade-offs
    3. Report questioning salt guidelines riles heart experts
    4. CDC: 2012 was deadliest year for West Nile in US
    5. What stresses moms most? Themselves, survey says

But after a self-proclaimed "granola girl phase" she decided that at 31 she would pull out her old leotard and tights and give ballet another shot.

Amazingly, it was a graceful re-entrance.

Cutraro said most of the moves came back as well as the childhood glee of just being in dance class. She moved up from a beginner to a mixed level class and is thinking of adding more so she can get back on pointe. She isn't ruling out performing again, either.

"Sometimes I get a little dizzy moving across the floor," Cutraro said. "I remember I could definitely turn a lot faster when I was 14. And I'm still having trouble with double pirouettes."

Once the fear of getting in front of the mirrors passes, sometimes dance class brings a new mind-set.

Twenty-five-year-old Sarah Kassabian of Millburn, N.J., said that she came back to dance mainly as a way to burn off stress after work. She had taken ballet in high school but dropped it in college. Nine months ago she joined a class at a local community center. She said she's not interested in being on stage, but wants to gain leg strength, since she is also training for a marathon.

"I find that it's a way to relax and forget about the day," Kassabian said. "Ballet is pretty new to me at this point, and so I have to concentrate on what I'm doing in class, not what went on at work."

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments