Dancing is “great for your body and great for your brain,” according to Salt Lake dancer Fiona Marcelino.
“There are obvious physical health benefits to dancing, but there are also mental and emotional benefits — decreased depression, increased cognitive acuity which helps ward off Alzheimer’s and dementia,” she said in an email interview with the Deseret News.
Although she had been a dancer for most of her life, Marcelino “stepped away from it” when she started college. However, when she graduated from college, she realized just how much she missed dancing and began looking for companies that offered adult dance classes.
Like Marcelino, there are other adults in Utah who have either gotten too busy to enjoy dancing like they used to or have never danced before and want the experience. There are a variety of dance studios throughout the Salt Lake area that offer adult community dance classes to a wide range of students.
Maria Ivanova, who opened DF Dance Studio in Salt Lake City and teaches salsa and Argentine tango, said her studio offers many styles of beginner classes that “anyone can join — no partner or previous experience required."
“The grand majority of our students wonder why they didn’t start sooner since they find so much fun and satisfaction in belonging to a dance community,” Ivanova said. “Dance is such an important human experience, and there’s just nothing better than moving your body in time to music.”
According to Rosie Banchero, an instructor at Repertory Dance Theatre's Dance Center on Broadway, dance is “essential” to happiness, and even casual movement “allows yourself to connect with both the physical and mental capacities of the world.”
“After taking (my African dance class), many of my students say they never expected the class to impact them as much as it has,” Banchero said. “It's difficult as an adult to find time to connect socially, let alone create physical activity and exercise time. Dance is unique in the sense that it allows you exercise as well as a social commonality.”
Marcelino, who is a regular student at RDT's classes, said the African dance class is “a lot of fun” and has “piqued (her) interest in cultural dancing.” Additionally, she attends ballet and modern dance classes to build technique.
“Most classes have a wide range of students who have never danced before to students who have been dancing for years," Marcelino said. "All of the teachers are really great at adapting their classes to fit multiple levels of learning and creating a really supportive environment.”
Joni Wilson, dance specialist at the University of Utah’s Tanner Dance, sees dance as "an art form combined with athleticism."
“Through dance, you learn more about yourself,” Wilson said. “Some people are better at it than others, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow your interests.”
Wilson said people who have desk jobs during the day come to Tanner Dance to discover “who they are as a dancer.” With beginning, intermediate and advanced students together in the same class, there is a “blending of abilities as well as focuses” among the students.
“This adult class is for anyone,” Wilson said. “It can be for someone who’s very athletic, young, energetic and ready to do anything they want, or it could be someone who is taking the class at 70 years old and says, ‘tonight my feet hurt, so I’m going to go easier.’ What you get out of it is what you put in.”
Chara Huckins-Malaret, an instructor at Tanner Dance, loves to help her students accomplish their goals and conquer their fears. One of her beginning students felt discouraged because “her idea of perfection was that of a professional dancer,” she said.
“When she couldn’t pick it up from the beginning and was struggling, I asked what her job was and if she picked it up on the very first day,” Huckins-Malaret said. “She replied, ‘no,’ and I said, ‘that’s how dance is.’ She felt empowered and ended up performing. I was so proud of her.”
DF Dance Studio specializes in social dancing, which includes tango, salsa, bachata, waltz and country swing dancing. Beginning group courses and private lessons are available. According to the studio’s website at dfdancestudio.com, joining a progressive session is recommended for “optimal learning experience.” More information about enrollment can be found at dfdancestudio.com.
RDT's Dance Center on Broadway specializes in a variety of dance styles, including ballet, African, Bollywood, flamenco, modern, hip-hop and contemporary. All classes, with the exception of flamenco, are considered “drop-in” classes. A 10-class punch card can be purchased for $100. Each class is $12 per person, or $5 with a valid student ID.
RDT will also offer an open house Jan. 7, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., for "the public to sample our entire slate of classes," according to a news release. Open house participants can attend any or all of the classes during the day for only $10 all day, or for free with the purchase of a 10-class punch card. More information can be found at rdtutah.org.
Tanner Dance’s adult classes include modern and creative dance, which are designed to “build a strong core, strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, agility, control and grace,” according to the website. The classes are divided into fall and spring sessions, but students can purchase a punch pass or drop in on a single class, according to Wilson. Pricing and more information can be found at tannerdance.utah.edu.
“Come dance and explore,” Wilson said. “There’s nothing to be uncomfortable about because you will get better, stronger and more flexible as you practice, just like any athlete does.”