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January 21, 2012

There are many ways to dance your way to fitness

Daily Star

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Resolutions. Even if you weren't planning on making one, you may have felt obligated to form one after conversations at New Year's Eve gatherings.

Most of the time, particularly if you are a woman, New Year's resolutions are tied to changing your body in some way, shape or form.

Not many people say I want to feel better this year, but I want to look better.

What if there was an arts activity that could accomplish both?

This year, try dancing to work toward some of your resolutions. These days, dance isn't just reserved for our prima ballerinas or the stars of today's music videos. Popular shows such as "Dancing with the Stars" have helped prove this. Dancing allows you to release creative energy while improving cardiovascular endurance, strength and flexibility. There is a reason dance-infused fitness classes like Zumba are taking the country by storm.

And studies show there are many benefits involved with dancing beyond just the physical. Dancing has been known to increase self-esteem, relieve stress and improve chronic fatigue. Dancing also makes you think. Many forms of dance require memorization of moves or combinations, helping to assist in memory skills and cognitive abilities. Frequent dancing has actually been linked to a reduced risk of dementia.

Now, I know a lot of people might be nervous and perhaps embarrassed to drop into a dance class. Moving in front of others can be scary; I suppose we all get a little stage fright. But the sense of community that surrounds dance classes is almost tangible. Whether it's from seeing yourself moving in sync with others, or from the support others offer in learning new steps, you are likely to feel buoyed by the encouragement. You are also more than likely to make a new friend in a dance class, helping you return week after week. And think about the impressive moves you can unveil at the next wedding you attend!

I was pleased to discover so many adult dance classes offered in the area _ everything from tap and ballet to belly dancing and hip hop.

The Roxbury Arts Group offers adult tap classes, belly dancing or yoga at the barre, a class where the balances of yoga postures are aided by the use of the ballet barre. They even offer a Bollywood dance class, which traditionally uses dance moves made popular by the Hindi-language films that often feature large dance numbers. Classes like these offer the opportunity to learn and experience aspects of another culture in a hands-on way.

The Stanley-Wade Dance Studio in Oneonta offers adult classes in various forms of dance, including tap, jazz, hip hop, ballet and flamenco. Visit for schedule information.

The Oneonta Dance Center offers adult dance classes in tap, jazz, ballet and lyrical.

Or, if you are interested in swing or ballroom dancing, look into the Norwich Dance Club. During January, the club is offering free swing lessons every Friday from 7 to 8 p.m., according to its website. No reservations are necessary. Or you can learn the basics of the rumba, cha-cha, waltz and swing during the club's weekly ballroom dance lessons.

Because of the many benefits offered by dance, most local fitness centers are offering dance classes as part of their group fitness schedules. You can always keep your dancing to the confines of your living room with different DVDs or with games available on Xbox Kinect, Wii or PlayStation 3, like "Dance, Dance Revolution" or "Dance Central."

All in all, dancing can make you feel better by increasing confidence, reducing stress and improving posture … but the art form might also help you keep those New Year's resolutions as well.

Brittany Lesavoy is secretary of ArtsOtsego, the alliance of Otsego County arts organizations, and director of public relations for The Glimmerglass Festival. Column ideas may be sent to 'Around The Arts' columns can be found at