Planning a trip to Brazil and want to dance the samba like a local? One famous dancer can help: “Practice near a puddle,” says Lance Bass. “Step up and over it before going down into the knee on the other side.” Of course, he should know—Bass displayed his dance moves not just with iconic boy band ‘N Sync, but also during an appearance on Dancing with the Stars.
With seven seasons under its belt and a regular viewership that sometimes tops 20 million, Dancing with the Stars—whose the finale airs on May 19—has clearly hit on a passion point. But what about when it’s your turn on the dance floor? Now that everyone’s a critic, cutting the rug while you’re traveling can seem, well, a little more daunting than it did in the pre-DWTS days. The new level of scrutiny might even prompt a few of us to take dance lessons.
So we’ve rounded up hot spots to perfect the world’s most iconic dances and found some DWTS stars to offer insider tips on bringing these steps to life. If you’re looking to rumba in Miami, for example, you’ll want to check out the old-school Cuban big band at the Ritz-Carlton in Key Biscayne and heed Jane Seymour’s advice: “Imagine you have ‘snake hips,’” she says.
Learning to dance on location is exactly what Wall Street analyst Anita Saha (who’s also a fan of DWTS) did, with a nine-day tango tour in Buenos Aires.
“What I admire most about Dancing with the Stars,” Saha says, “is its message that total novices—celebrities or not—can hold their own given the right instruction, time, and dedication.” So she booked her trip (which combined formal instruction, social dancing, and sightseeing) through DanceSport, a New York–based Latin dance studio. On her return, not only was she confident enough to enjoy a newly tango-centric social calendar; she even auditioned to be a tango-dancing film extra.
Even for those of us not interested in casting calls, there are lots of reasons to combine dance lessons with a vacation. For one, learning a dance form in the country where it was born—the Viennese waltz in Austria, the samba in Brazil—can provide a deep sense of cultural appreciation.
Dance travelers “come home with an understanding of the culture on a cellular level,” says Dancing with the Stars judge Carrie Ann Inaba. “Dance is much more than just entertainment in other cultures; it has meaning and depth and a true place in their social structures.”
Another plus to vacation dancing is the ability to transcend spoken communication. Most forms of cultural immersion require at least some linguistic ability, says Paul Pellicoro, owner of DanceSport studio, but “there’s no language barrier with dance.” (For confirmation, ask anyone who’s just spent a night samba-ing in Rio how many times the Portuguese pluperfect came up.)
Lastly, letting go of your inhibitions and feeling like the Lord of the Dance can be much easier when you’re far removed from anyone who knows you as, say, Lord or Lady of the Marketing Department.
“Once you are away from your everyday surroundings, you have more space to let yourself go,” says Bruno Tonioli, a judge on Dancing with the Stars.
According to the show’s cohost, Samantha Harris, that sentiment even holds true for actual stars. “Hugh Jackman told me that he and his wife took dance lessons in Latin America,” Harris says. “And they just adored it.”