Above: Valentin “Val” Chmerkovskiy, a business partner with Tony Dovolani and Maksim “Maks” Chmerkovskiy at Dance With Me, leads a dance class.
Gliding across a dance floor with a partner is a romantic, elegant physical art form. It’s also a joyful way to waltz away calories, says Tony Dovolani, the longtime Dancing with the Stars pro (currently on hiatus after twenty-one seasons) and former Stamford resident who now calls Weston home. “The best part [about] dancing is that’s it’s a workout that doesn’t feel like a workout,” says Dovolani, a partner in the Dance With Me ballroom studios with locations in Stamford, New York City, New Jersey and Long Island. “You’re just having fun and next thing you know, you’re sweating and your body is getting fit.”
Besides being a great aerobic workout, medical experts also sing ballrooms’ praises for its ability to keep body—and mind—nimble with age. “And with all those benefits, it’s a lot more fun than going to the gym,” says Christine Georgopulo, co-owner of the Arthur Murray Grande Ballroom in Greenwich.
Dovolani, Georgopulo and Dance With Me instructor Alex Samusevich helped us break down how ballroom moves offer head-to-toe fitness.
To zap inches off your legs and midsection…
DO THE WALTZ. “It looks slow but there’s a whole lot of workout going on,” says Georgopulo. Indeed, the grand dame of ballroom dances is an all-over body toner thanks to the constant rise-and-fall leg action involved in basic waltz steps. Those constant up-and-down movements transform legs, thighs, buttocks and the core. Not convinced? Samusevich says look no further than the taut bods of professional waltz competitors, who are “considered some of the fittest in the ballroom world.”
To sculpt your upper body…
DO THE PASO DOBLE. The dramatic, sweeping flourishes of the dance, which mimics bullfighting gestures, is a great upper-body toner because “your arms are constantly in motion,” says Samusevich. If the Paso isn’t your thing, “just about any form of ballroom is going to have a tremendous impact on the arms, and your back is going to be ripped because of the strength involved in being in hold and maintaining posture,” says Georgopulo.
To get a cardio kick…
DO THE CHA-CHA, SAMBA OR SALSA. An hour of vigorous ballroom dance can obliterate close to 500 calories, says Georgopulo. “I just had a husband and wife lose (twenty-five pounds combined), and the only change they made to their lifestyle was two classes a week,” says Georgopulo. Another benefit: These dances are great hip and buttocks toners. Also, try the Jive, the ultimate endurance test that will get the heart racing with its fast-paced foot action and swift, flicking kicks. “With your knees to your chest and your feet to your butt, all that leg action is working your core, too,” says Samusevich.
To work out your brain…
DO ANY OF THE ABOVE. Ballroom dancing, according to a landmark 2012 study out of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, can delay the symptoms and progression of Alzheimer ’s disease and dementia better than proven brain workouts such as crossword puzzles. “The way to make your brain stronger and healthier is by making new connections, and ballroom choreography is the perfect way to do that,” says Samusevich.
No partner? No problem
You don’t need a significant other to hit the dance floor with you to enjoy ballrooms’ benefits. As many as 70 percent of Dance With Me students dance exclusively with pro instructors, says Dovolani, who teaches occasional classes in Stamford. Most local ballroom studios host regular “group” dance sessions. Students can dance off calories with other amateur dancers and instructors in a fit and fun setting.
Photographs courtesy of Dance With Me