Danza Contemporanéa de Cuba. Photo by Quinn Wharton

Yup, Dance Is The Best Workout. Science Says So.

We already know that dancing is basically the greatest thing you could do for yourself. (Even if, ahem, your feet end up without toenails during sandal season.)

But it's always great when science proves us right.


A small study out of the University of Brighton in the UK shows that dancing burns about 600 calories per hour, which is about the same or more than going for a swim or a run for the same amount of time. Of course, an hour of grand allegro is going to push your body much harder than an hour of your grandfather's two-step. But researchers say that even tamer styles of dance can burn about the same number of calories as cycling.

Pennsylvania Ballet's Adrianna de Svastich. Photo by Jim Lafferty.

Nick Smeeton, a coauthor of the report, told Time magazine that all the changes of directions, accelerating and decelerating, and stopping and starting challenges your body in a way that a straightforward run around the park never will. You can't just coast by on momentum when you're dancing. And more of the little support muscles get activated—and strengthened—because your body moves in so many different ways.

But let's not forget that dance is worth much more than calorie burn and muscle building. Research has also shown that it improves mood, lowers stress, boosts energy, curbs anxiety, slows cognitive decline, increases confidence—we could go on and on.

Let's just say, dance for the win!

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Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West

How Do Choreographers Bring Something Fresh to Music We've Heard Over and Over?

In 2007, Oregon Ballet Theatre asked Nicolo Fonte to choreograph a ballet to Maurice Ravel's Boléro. "I said, 'No way. I'm not going near it,' " recalls Fonte. "I don't want to compete with the Béjart version, ice skaters or the movie 10. No, no, no!"

But Fonte's husband encouraged him to "just listen and get a visceral reaction." He did. And Bolero turned into one of Fonte's most requested and successful ballets.

Not all dance renditions of similar warhorse scores have worked out so well. Yet the irresistible siren song of pieces like Stravinsky's The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, as well as the perennial Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, seem too magnetic for choreographers to ignore.

And there are reasons for their popularity. Some were commissioned specifically for dance: Rite and Firebird for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; Boléro for dance diva Ida Rubinstein's post–Ballets Russes troupe. Hypnotic rhythms (Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel) and danceable melodies (Bizet's Carmen) make a case for physical eye candy. Audience familiarity can also help box office receipts. Still, many choreographers have been sabotaged by the formidable nature and Muzak-y overuse of these iconic compositions.

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