Flair: Shakira. When dancing Cha Cha, your hips can’t lie.
History: As a Latin dance, this is another multicultural one. The step combines slow mambos (a Cuban form) and a quicker cha-cha-cha (with possible roots in Indigenous ritual dances). Either way (or perhaps more likely, incorporating both), this Cuban dance peaked in popularity in the US in 1959.
My Rating: This is one of my favorites – I like that it can be played at any ballroom studio to a song like Hooked on a Feeling, but also at Latin studios to a more authentic beat like Volver a Verte. And yes, I love the flamboyance in style. A little over-the-top, perhaps, but with a rhythm like that, why not?
Flair: You have to get on the dance floor and firmly believe, “Oh my word I am just so amazing.” And I am literally quoting my teacher in saying that.
History: This is an ancient dance form from the Middle East. While today it carries sensual connotations, its original cultural context was a dance of feminine community, celebration, and ritual. Of course, like most dances, it has been morphed by historical and cultural shifts. As it spread in popularity, it even gained ties to the feminist movement in the 1960’s. Belly Dance requires isolated movements and a lot of core balance, control, and strength, which may explain correlations studies have shown between Belly Dancing and positive body image (though I suspect engaging in most dance forms would have a similar effect).
My Rating: This has become my go-to for health, balance, and strength. The technique really helps develop good posture and the movements are very precise and graceful, giving it a lot of depth. It’s beautiful in and of itself, but focusing on subtle movements here really improves all my other dances as well.
Flair: Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers dancing to Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald. It’s classy and smooth, as though some American sass was added to the grand European Waltz.
History: Smooth as the Waltz but danced in 4/4 time, the foxtrot was born in the 1920’s to slow big band music (speed it up, and you’ll get a Quickstep.) It is deceptively simple, with a walking basic but crisp variations in the footwork.
My Rating: This is one of those dances where it’s fun to just kind of freestyle it. I’m not a competitive dancer; I don’t know the perfect steps and stylisms for this. But if joining someone who also just wants to have fun, we can pretend.
Flair: Very dramatic and very serious. Maybe more serious than I can handle. And every dance (and the song it is paired with) tells a story.
History: An authentically Spanish dance first seen in the 1700’s, it requires the guitarist, the singer, and a professional clapper every bit as much as the dancer herself. Usually performed solo, it’s a folkoric dance, stemming from gypsy culture in Southern Spain. They likely incorporated elements from places like Egypt and Iran into their own dance culture (Medieval Spain was a notably diverse place).
My Rating: The swirling ruffled skirts, the sharp accent of the arms, wrists, and head held high all magnify the energetic stomping of the feet. I’ve only been able to attend one class, but from it I caught a glimpse of a rich culture which continues to be shaped by today’s Flamenco experts.
Flair: Girl’s Night! Time to have fun with the gang.
History: Bollywood can refer to the dance, and also the Indian film industry, which often portray extended song and dance. And in these movies, classical Indian forms (like Bharatnatyam) and folk dances (like Bhangra) have morphed into the Bollywood we have today. So it is a blend of the many dances within Desi culture, along with some Western influences (including Jazz, Hip Hop, and Latin.)
My Rating: So I haven’t actually taken Bollywood classes. Instead, I’ve joined friends in wedding preparations. I’ve learned that Pakistani weddings are multi-day affairs, including a mehendi for the bride and all her girls. So – over Zoom – that’s what we’ve been doing. Whether it’s a high-energy jam like Makhna or a delightfully feminine Manwa Laage, we are having a virtual ball.