2017-11-01 / Health & Fitness

Jazz up your health and start dancing

Ann Marina

Line dancers at a recent class at Highland Woods taught by Louise Root, fourth from left. Vicki Piper is first on left. Line dancers at a recent class at Highland Woods taught by Louise Root, fourth from left. Vicki Piper is first on left. Vicki Piper discovered line dancing about 10 years ago, when she lived in Massachusetts and enjoyed ballroom dancing with her husband, Roger. Their teacher brought in some line dance routines for variety, and she was hooked.

“I love the rhythm, and how it challenges your balance and coordination. Each dance is choreographed to a certain song,” Piper said.

Perhaps you’ve heard of old country classics like “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” or “Achy Breaky Heart”? These days, line dance has progressed far beyond its former country music limitations.

“We dance the mambo, samba, and cha-cha. Sometimes there’s a triple step or coaster step. It all depends on the song,” Piper explained.

Dancing can improve your muscle tone, strength, endurance, and overall fitness, according to Polly de Mille, an exercise physiologist at New York City’s Hospital for Special Surgery.

“I think for me, the social aspect is the most relevant,” Piper said.

She gets her dancing fix at five or six weekly groups, and sometimes attends weekend workshops in other cities, led by eight to 10 choreographers. “You need to have the passion to stay on your feet that long,” she said.

For maintaining brain fitness, dancing creates more connections between neurons, according to Majid Fotuhi, assistant professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University. Fotuhi demonstrated the tango with his wife on a PBS TV special, “Fight Alzheimer’s Early.”

“Nearly the entire brain becomes active when you dance,” he said. “You’re using balance, coordination, spatial orientation and memory all at once. It makes the brain much richer and denser.”

Louise Root started teaching line dance at Bonita Springs Recreation Center about 10 years ago. “There are about 50,000 different dances, each containing a routine of steps,” she said. “Long-time dancers know the lingo of these steps, so they can quickly learn a new routine.”

“If you’re just starting out, look for a basic beginners’ class,” Root said. “Most people pick it up fast enough.”

Dolly Scott, owner of Dolly’s Produce Patch in Bonita Springs, began ballroom dancing 12 years ago at age 70, while mending spinal injuries incurred in a fall.

“My 83-year-old friend Eva got me started. She said, ‘You work too much. We’re going dancing tonight, and you’re picking me up.’ Every day I thank Eva for getting me into the world of dance,” Scott said.

She has won world championships in the Silver category for Latin, Smooth, and Rhythm dance with her primary partner, Strahinja Lackovic. He is an instructor at the Naples Fred Astaire Studio, which he co-owns with Irina Fedosova. The studio offers ballroom and Latin dance instruction.

For more information, contact the Bonita Springs Recreation Center at 239-992-2556, or Naples Fred Astaire Studio at 239-592-7737.

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