Dance is the fastest growing art form. More than 4.8 million people regularly attend community dance groups each year in England alone and there are high numbers in Ireland too.
Whether you like to jump or jive, tap or tango, shake your belly or your booty, dancing is one of the most enjoyable ways to get some exercise.
Regular dancing is great for losing weight, maintaining strong bones, improving posture and muscle strength, increasing balance and co-ordination and beating stress.
One of the best things about dancing is that while you’re having fun moving to music and meeting new people, you’re getting all the health benefits of a good workout.
This guide will help you get started in dancing, including wheelchair dancing, introduce you to some popular dance styles to help you find a dance class in your area.
Before you start
Most accredited dance schools hold beginners’ courses and welcome people with disabilities. Schools are friendly and a great way to socialise. If you don’t want to go on your own, get a friend to go with you.
Classes can cost as little as £5-10 for a 90-minute session. If the first class you try falls short of your expectations, don’t be put off. It’s worth trying a few different classes until you find the right one for you.
Wear comfortable clothing that gives you freedom of movement, and shoes appropriate to the dance style. Some classes – such as ballet, tap or jazz – may require specialist footwear, depending on your level.
Avoid wearing jewelry – such as earrings, rings and necklaces – which can scratch you or get caught in clothing.
Find a dance class
- The easiest way to get into dancing is to contact a dance agency in your region on the Dance Ireland website, to find dance classes near you.
- Find your nearest school or teacher accredited by the Council for Dance Education and Training (CDET), the national standards body of the professional dance industry.
- Find a class near you on the Exercise Movement & Dance Partnership website. Enter your postcode at the top of the page and get information on times, dates, location and more.
- Dance Near You has a database of 1,000-plus dance classes of all levels run by dance teachers, dance schools and studios located across Ireland.
- Search Youth Dance England’s youth dance directory to find youth dance groups and companies, school teachers and dance events near you.
- London Dance, set up by the Arts Council England and Sadler’s Wells Theatre, has a directory of dance classes offered across London.
- If you can’t wait to get your dancing shoes on, visit Change4Life’s Let’s Dance section for free online dance routines, games and ideas for all the family.
- To get into wheelchair dancing and find classes near you, contact the Wheelchair Dance Sport Association.
Not sure which dance style you’d like to try? Below is a quick guide to some of the most popular dance styles taught throughout the UK & Ireland.
Ceroc is a simplified version of jive and quite similar to swing but without the complicated footwork. Ceroc, short for the French phrase “C’est rock”, evolved from jive, which was introduced by American GIs stationed in France during the Second World War. It’s fun and easy to learn, which explains why it’s the largest and fastest growing partner dance in the UK.
For more information, including classes near you, visit Ceroc.
Street dance describes urban dance styles that evolved in the street, school yards and nightclubs, including hip-hop, popping, locking, krumping and breaking. These dances are practised competitively as well as being an art form and a form of physical exercise.
For more information, including classes near you, visit Dance Ireland, they have a lot of dance classes to choose from.
The first ballet school, the Académie Royale de Danse, was established in France in 1661. Today there are three main forms of ballet: classical, neoclassical and contemporary. Ballet’s conventional steps, grace and fluidity of movement are a great foundation for dance in general.
For more information, including classes near you, visit the Royal Academy of Dance or the British Ballet Organization.
Unlike dances such as ballet, contemporary dance is not associated with specific techniques. In contemporary dance, people attempt to explore the natural energy and emotions of their bodies to produce dances that are often very personal.
For more information, including classes near you, contact your regional dance agency on the Dance Ireland website.
Salsa dancing is a fun and flirtatious form of partner dancing, fusing steamy Afro-Caribbean and Latin styles into simple and lively movements. The word “salsa” is Spanish for “sauce” (usually hot and spicy), which is an appropriate description for a dance that is energetic, passionate and sexy. The basic steps are easy to learn and you’ll salsa your way across the dance floor before you know it.
For more information, including classes near you, visit Salsa Jive UK.
Ballroom dancing has made a comeback in recent years, partly thanks to TV shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and Strictly Dance Fever. There are many styles of ballroom dancing from around the world, such as the waltz, tango and foxtrot, and each has specific step patterns. It is essential for both partners, the leader as well as the follower, to know the steps so they can dance together.
For more information, including classes near you, visit the British Dance Council.
Zumba is a popular fitness programme inspired by Latin dance. The word “Zumba” comes from a Colombian word that means to move fast and have fun. Using upbeat Latin music together with cardiovascular exercise, Zumba is aerobic dancing that is great fun and easy to learn.
For more information, including classes near you, visit Zumba Fitness.
From Andalucia in Spain, this is the dance of swirling skirts, castanets and breathtakingly fast heel stomping. Flamenco’s musical and dance traditions are centuries old, blending gypsy, Moorish and Andalucian influences. Flamenco is a solo dance characterised by hand clapping, percussive footwork and intricate hand, arm and body movements.
For more information, including classes near you, visit the Spanish Dance Society.
Tap dance uses shoes with small metal plates on the soles to make the dance itself part of the music. Tap evolved in America and had its roots in African dance, Irish dance and clog dancing. Tap is as popular today as it was in the heyday of the great Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly musicals, and companies like Tap Dogs demonstrate how contemporary it can be.
For more information, including classes near you, visit the tap section on the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD) website.
Bollywood dancing stems from the Indian film industry and is now popular throughout the world. It is known for being upbeat and often helping to tell a story or show emotions. Bollywood dance blends classical Indian dance forms – with its intricate hand gestures and footwork – with modern western styles, including hip-hop and jazz.
For more information, including classes near you, visit the South Asian Dance Alliance.
Modern jazz dance
Jazz dancing is energetic and fun, consisting of unique moves, fancy footwork, big leaps and quick turns. Jazz dance evolved alongside jazz music and was popularised in ballrooms across the US by the big bands of the swing era. Jazz dance offers a full body workout, developing dance ability, flexibility, strength and rhythm.
For more information, including classes near you, contact your regional dance agency on the Dance UK website.
BBC3’s Dancing on Wheels has done wonders for the sport of wheelchair dancing and has raised its profile as a recreational activity. Wheelchair dancing is open to people of all abilities, including mixed ability dance partners. From the ballroom to the street – not forgetting ballet, and group dances like Gangnam or line dancing – nothing is off limits for those wheels of steel.
For more information and to find a class near you, visit the Wheelchair Dance Sport Association.