Thanks to the popularity of Strictly Come Dancing in recent years, ballroom dancing has seen something of a resurgence. If you're taken by the grace and elegance of at least some of the stars we see whirling round the dance floor each week, why not try it for yourself?
What are the benefits?
From a physical point of view, dancing has always been great exercise. Improved posture, flexibility and coordination will all be noticeable once you get into the swing of things, and Italian research has even shown that just 21 minutes of dancing, three times a week, is equivalent to the cardiovascular benefits of working out on a treadmill or exercise bike. You'll be working muscles you never knew you had, and since such emphasis is placed on posture, the core muscles in particular will benefit. And a regular spot of cha-cha or quickstep will certainly help to keep your waistline slim.
As one would expect, ballroom dancing can also be great for your mental health, not least because, as with any exercise, your body will release those feel-good endorphins and act as a big-time stress-reliever. As your dance skills grow, so too will your physical confidence and self esteem, and dancing with a partner - much more of a challenge than dancing alone - means your mind will get a workout too.
Then, of course, there's the social aspect. Whether you are looking to strengthen your own relationship or are simply looking to meet like-minded people, ballroom dance classes contain a social component that you won't get by hitting the gym. Lastly, it is easily adapted for both young and old (and everyone in between) so can be enjoyed by anyone from any walk of life.
What's my style?
In competitive terms, ballroom is split into two standard types; the classical ballroom style, which includes the likes of the foxtrot, waltz and tango, and Latin styles such as the samba, rumba and paso doble. Swing or jazz styles have also made their way onto the dance floor in the form of the Lindy-hop and the Charleston. So whether you are looking for a full-on cardio workout, a smouldering Latin duet or the more sedate pace of the waltz, there's something for you. Beginners usually start with the classical styles, but if you're bitten by the ballroom bug, you'll find each of the styles comes with its own challenge and enjoyment.
If you're unsure whether ballroom is for you, start by taking a look at one or two of the many online resources. There are a whole host of websites that include instructional videos to show you the basic elements of ballroom dance, and teach you the steps and styles, all for free. A quick search on YouTube and you'll find plenty to pique your interest. If you're lacking in confidence or nervous about attending classes to start with, a DVD for beginner's will give you a good base, and most come with step-by-step instruction to some of the easier dances. Perfect for couples looking to gain a little knowledge before dancing in public!
Finding a class
Such is its renewed popularity, ballroom dance classes can now be found all over the country, and there are plenty of online resources to help you find your nearest or ideal course. Sites such as Dancenearyou.co.uk or uk-ballroom.co.uk can point you in the right direction, with classes listed by region. Once you've found a local class, it's worth going to watch so that you can see pupils and instructors in action. It'll give you the chance to chat to others taking classes and may help you to feel at ease when you start learning yourself.
Many will even give you a free trial class so you don't need to sign up for a full course if you're not sure you'll enjoy it. Both pairs and singles are always welcome at good dance classes. So don't restrict your enjoyment of ballroom to Saturday night TV - try it for yourself and see just how much fun it really is.
Have you recently taken up ballroom dancing? What advice would you give to absolute beginners looking to give it a try? Leave your comments below...