Adult dance classes are the new alternative to ho-hum gym workouts.
INSTEAD OF REPS, pounds and circuits, deciding to try an old-school exercise option might involve getting to know words like pliés, chassé and arabesques. Adult dance classes have become the artistic, freeing alternative to the StairMaster or treadmill. The appeal of using both your brain and your body to follow steps and routines has caught on, aided by TV shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With the Stars. Local studios teach a wide range of styles to fit different tastes and activity levels. Research shows dance is a potent source of “good mood chemicals,” aka endorphins, released naturally through movement and sweat, but on a simpler note, “Everyone is welcome to come to dance classes,” says Alan Scofield, a teacher at RoCo Dance and Fitness and College of Marin.
Who takes adult dance classes? There’s a genre for every personality. Annie Parr, director of RoCo Dance and Fitness and a dancer, choreographer and teacher, says, “Those who take dance are people who have enjoyed dance class on and off throughout their lives, those who have always wanted to take dance classes but never did until now, and those who are looking for more stimulation mentally and physically in their daily lives and workout.” Alicia Cardoza, dance teacher at the Performing Arts Academy of Marin, agrees: “All different types of adults take dance classes but most are not involved in dance professionally like myself; they are hardworking adults with tech or finance jobs, college grads and moms who all share the passion, hard work and athleticism that dance has.”
Where to dance in Marin County? Marin has enough movement studios to fill an entire dance card. RoCo’s two locations, Fairfax and Mill Valley, feature unique options like cardio beat, Latin dance fusion and hip-hop. At Happy Feet Dance School in Mill Valley, adults can get their tap on. San Rafael’s Dance Arts Studios holds classes in salsa, ballroom and Argentine tango. “For adult ballet classes I go to Marin Dance Theatre in San Rafael,” says Cardoza, who studied classical ballet starting at age 3. Also in San Rafael, Aerial Dance Marin teaches students up to age 70 the ropes of aerial dance on trapezes and silks. Local community centers host Zumba and Jazzercise groups. And in San Francisco, Dance Mission Theater and City Dance Studios teach dance with an urban vibe.
How often are classes taken? “People generally take from one to four classes a week,” Parr of RoCo says, either focusing on “a particular class or teacher, or they enjoy a handful of different types ... Once someone finds a class they enjoy, the more frequently they take it and the more they get out of it in enjoyment and skill. Most buy cards for 10 to 20 classes that can be used within six months.” Scofield reports that adult students attend an average of three times a week; sessions usually last an hour and a half.
What makes a great dance teacher? While there is no most popular type of class, there are popular dance teachers who have devoted followers. “A good dance teacher cares about his/her students, regardless of why they’re taking class or their dance experience,” says Grace Kraaijvanger, founder of The Hivery and a seasoned ballet dancer. “I love it when teachers take the time to give corrections and make suggestions for improvement in adult students.” Great teachers also know where injuryinducing habits are formed and how to retrain away from them so you can keep dancing safely. Parr adds, “Our teachers have huge personalities that inject a lot of passion, purpose and beauty into the room.”
Why do adults take classes? Of course reasons vary wildly, but some women and men find it easier to get exercising through aerobic dance classes like hip-hop or Zumba because it’s exercise in disguise — “all forms of movement are dance,” Alan notes. Adults also take classes to step outside day-to-day stress and busyness and reconnect with their physical selves. “I love being with other adults in these classes because here in the Bay Area especially,” Cardoza says, “there is no judgment and it’s noncompetitive, and if you find the right class, those peers become your friends who cheer you on.” Scofield adds, “Adults take classes to educate and sculpt their body while sharpening the mind, to learn how to express one’s soul in movement, and to gain a health that glows as they sweat.”
RoCo Dance and Fitness, Mill Valley, Fairfax, rocodance.com
The Performing Arts Academy of Marin, Mill Valley, paamarts.com
Happy Feet Dance School, Mill Valley, happyfeetmillvalley.com
College of Marin, Kentfield, pa.marin.edu/dance
Dance Arts Studios, San Rafael, dancearts studios.com
Aerial Dance Marin, San Rafael, aerialdancemarin.com
Marin Dance Theatre, San Rafael, mdt.org
Dance Mission Theater, San Francisco, dancemission.com
City Dance Studios, San Francisco, citydance.org