Dance Revolution

Photo by ZumbawithDiane

Whenever fitness is brought up in conversation, it is usually met with great enthusiasm, or people cringe at the idea. Growing up, field hockey was one of my favorites with its focus on skill, teamwork, and strategy. I admit that I find treadmills, five-mile runs, and weightlifting very off-putting. The social aspect of  a team is far more appealing to me than a solitary run.

However, I’ve always been fascinated by dance, which you could do alone in your PJ’s and no one would (need to) know. Recently, I’ve discovered an exercise routine that exposes you to different world music genres with the fun of dancing: Zumba. Its hour-long routine creates a cultural experience with salsa, merengue, hip hop, belly dancing, pop music, and many predominantly Latin musical elements.

Zumba was accidentally created in the 1990s. Its Colombian founder, Alberto Beto Perez, left music for his “traditional” aerobics class at home, and instead choreographed a routine with salsa and merengue, which he carried in his backpack.

SALSA – Origins in Cuba with strong influences from African culture. For an in-depth history, you can read more here.

MERENGUE – Country of origin: Dominican Republic. Also popular in Haiti. The folklore goes that the dance originated with chained slaves who had  to a drag or hop on one leg while cutting sugar to drum beats.

CUMBIA – Started in Colombia (popular in Panama as well), but highly influenced by African culture. In Africa, the Guinean ‘cumbe’ (dance) was a courtship dance.

FLAMENCO – Andalusia, Spain. Characterized by passion/romance, gypsy influences, colorful ensembles, and a flair for drama, as its roots formed in theater.

SAMBA – Founded in Brazil with strong ties to African culture. Very popular in Rio de Janeiro, as you can often hear it during Carnival and soccer.

REGGAETON – Rooted in Puerto Rico and Panama. Mixes hip hop, Latin music (salsa) and Jamaican pop style (dancehall).
To get a taste of the music, iTunes has free previews of popular Zumba songs: http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/zumba-fitness/id268002889

What dance styles do you enjoy? What can music teach about a culture? How does it create a (sub)culture?

2 thoughts on “Dance Revolution

  1. I have tried fitness but a regular gym routine does not work for me… I find it boring and don’t see results fast enough. Plus, you need lots of self discipline (which I seem to lack). I keep paying membership fees at my local gym and feel quite stupid wasting all this money and not exercising there on regular basis. Loving dancing I might try Zumba! Thanks for the idea!

    Nice website! It was great to read all about various styles of dancing.

    As to my favorite dance style….Well, I might be a dinosaur visitor on your blog, but disco dancing was once my thing. I am sure that there is a generation out there who danced to the tunes of Donna Summer, BeeGees, and the sound track of Saturday Night Fever. Simple, happy, upbeat music! We are in hiding now because “it’s not done anymore”! I wish there were places where you could dance to the disco tunes again in public ( and not in your PJs)!

    1. Hi Tancerka! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for the compliment! Zumba incorporates a large variety of music styles and keeps building on popular music, too.

      There’s nothing wrong with disco! Dancers young and old can attest to their love of the Beegees and Donna Summer. When Beegee Robin Gibb and Donna Summer passed away, many mourned them and remembered their music fondly. Dancing is about whatever music style YOU love, and nothing to be ashamed of.

      As far as gym memberships go, I’ve also fallen into the trap of paying for them and not having the “self discipline” to go as much as I should. The Zumba classes I take are offered at a gym that bypasses membership and other fees. Instead, you pay for individual classes or opt for a 10-class package towards Zumba, abs-focused routines, or bootcamp. It’s a brilliant idea for those who cannot commit to going to the gym four days a week, and places exercise in your ‘power’ in a fun way! Keep on dancing, Tancerka!

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