Let's Dance

It's fun, it's lively, and it's easier than you think. Step up to the music for a workout that doesn't feel like work.
Kim Cross

My husband, Eddie, will rarely admit how much he likes to dance. But you should see the big smile spread across his face--and mine--as he spins me across the floor. It makes us first-date giddy.

For the record, Eddie would like you to know that he is a certified "Tough Guy": a veteran of the Ironman Triathlon and the Eco-Challenge. He is living evidence against all claims that dancing is for sissies. "If we could make dancing an extreme sport," he says, "I could be the Lance Armstrong of swing!"

Raise Your Heart Rate
As fit as he is, even Eddie breaks a sweat while cutting a rug, so it must be a pretty good workout.

Eddie's dancing prowess was one of the things I found so attractive. On an early date, he confessed one of his deepest, darkest secrets in an effort to impress me: "I was the swing dancing champion of my sophomore class." My ears perked up. "Oh, really?"

Eddie claims he's regretted those words ever since. The goofy grin suggests otherwise. He's a smart guy, and he has learned what every man should know: Most women will forgive just about anything if you only take them dancing.

Find the Dance for You
Learning to dance is like learning foreign languages. Once you master one, the others come easily. Eddie and I started with the West Coast Swing; then we learned a few others to keep things interesting. Here's our take on the ones we tried.

1. West Coast Swing
This classy dance goes hand in hand with the dashing, romantic music of the Big Band era.
Where to use it:At wedding receptions
Great practice song: "In the Mood," by the Glenn Miller Orchestra

2. Hustle
Born in the seventies, this disco-style version of the swing is fast, smooth, and filled with elaborate turns. We liked it because you can dance it to just about any popular song.
Where to use it:In nightclubs
Great practice song: "Hot Stuff," by Donna Summer 

3. Two-Step
Boot scootin' couples waltz in a giant circle around the dance floor with slow, intermittent spins. It's so easy that we picked it up just by watching others.
Where to use it:Anywhere they play country music
Great practice song: "Don't Rock the Jukebox," by Alan Jackson

4. Shag
The state dance of South Carolina is as fun as it looks in the movie Shag. This subtle dance is a little harder to learn, with fancy footwork and a tricky pivot, but the cool factor makes it well worth the effort.
Where to use it:On crowded dance floors, especially in Myrtle Beach
Great practice song: "Sixty Minute Man," by The Dominoes

5. Cajun Two-Step
Inspired by the saucy tunes of the bayou country of Louisiana, this dance is slow and easy to learn. The up-down, up-down movement may feel awkward at first, but it makes this fun dance different.
Where to use it:At a Cajun dance hall or a crawfish festival
Great practice song: "Jambalaya," by the Cajun Playboys

Your Turn
While swing dancing looks impressive, it's surprisingly easy once you learn a few basic steps. If you can hear the beat and do a simple rock-step, you're well on your way. Add a few different turns, wear a twirly skirt, and you'll turn heads with moves that look a whole lot trickier than they really are.

You can find classes for adult beginners at community centers or local dance schools. Most of them don't require you to bring a partner. Pairs typically rotate every few minutes, so no one gets stuck with a lousy dancer, and no one hogs the good ones. (This also prevents couples from fussing about who's leading whom.) Private lessons are fantastic, but some dance studios require lengthy contracts and expensive fees.

To find a place to learn how to dance (or improve your moves), scan the events section of your alternative weekly newspaper and ask around about local dance clubs. Or, visit the USA Dance Web site at www.usabda.org to find links to clubs in most major cities.

"Let's Dance" is from the April 2006 issue of Southern Living.