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Dance Lessons

Dance lessons are fun and beneficial in many ways. They provide exercise and social interaction, as well as the opportunity to develop confidence and poise.

Dance trends

Popular dance styles for which instruction is available include:

• Traditional forms such as ballet, belly dancing and tap.

• Ballroom styles such as cha-cha, fox trot, swing, tango and waltz.

• Latin styles including rumba and salsa.

• Country styles including line dance and swing.

• Others, such as freestyle, hip-hop and Jazz.

Dance benefits

As with any physical exercise, dancing provides a number of physical and emotional benefits. The activity works your entire body, and when performed continuously it can provide an excellent aerobic workout, and improve your stamina and muscle tone. Moving to music is fun and feels good, which in turn boosts your mood and self-esteem.

Dancing can bestow the gifts of poise, confidence and perseverance, which last a lifetime and affect everything you do. You also will learn and improve your physical coordination.

Dancing is a great activity for children, as they have a natural need for movement, creativity and physical self-expression. Dance also helps children learn respect for others, social skills and increased cognitive function.

Choosing instructors

Before you choose a dance teacher:

• Be clear about what you want. Why are you looking for lessons? Do you need to prepare for a wedding or special event? Do you want to give dance lessons as a gift for someone? Are you looking for a dance school for your child?

• Know your goals. Do you want an instructor who has a more casual, just-for-fun approach, or do you want to become competitive?

• If you're looking for a serious school, focus on the training, qualifications and certifications of the instructors. How long has the school been open? Are the school and teachers members of an artistic organization? Talk to current and past students. Find out whether the teachers focus on developing all their students, not just a select few. Consider also how Angie's List can help. Members have access to local consumer reviews on dance instructors and service providers in more than 550 other categories.

• Be aware of safety issues. Ask staff if the studio is equipped with a sprung floor covered with marley, which helps dancers avoid joint pain, shin splints and stress fractures.

• If you want to learn to dance just for fun, check whether local nightclubs offer lessons. In these settings, you'll pay only for the lessons you take, and there is usually no obligation to sign up for more classes. These lessons often take place early in the evening before the dance floor opens to the public. This way, you can take to the floor later and get immediate practice.

• If you're preparing for a special event, consider hiring an instructor who can choreograph a routine just for the event. Private instruction is especially appropriate when you don't have the luxury of time.

• Be clear about costs. The costs of dancing can add up quickly. When you look into a school, ask what other costs will be involved besides  lesson fees. Will there be costs for the facility, costumes, recitals or dues? A good cost option can be punch cards, in which you prepay for a set number of lessons. That way, you only pay for the lessons you actually take.

Competitive dancing

Becoming a competitive dancer requires a commitment of time and money. Many competitors take classes at least four days a week and are expected to practice for several hours outside of class. If you want to compete in ballroom or couples events, you'll need a steady partner. You don't necessarily need to be best friends or in a relationship with your partner, but he or she should be someone with whom you feel comfortable and share dancing chemistry.

Learning a wide variety of dancing styles and techniques is important for the competitive dancer. Combined studies will make you a better, more well-rounded performer.

When you join the competitive arena of dancing, you're entering the world of sports and athletics. Like any athlete, you need to be in good shape and maintain healthy habits. You also need to invest in a wardrobe and costumes.