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EST. May 2000 (AD)

 
 

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Get in Shape with Ballroom Dancing

By Mike Boone

There are many accepted ways to work up a sweat but there's only one that allows you to do it while wearing high heels. Ballroom dancing takes many forms and therefore it is easy to accomplish an entire workout by utilizing only a few of the most basic steps.

The Waltz

The gentleman steps forward with the left foot then asks the lady for a dance. She turns slightly and answers, "No!" He shifts his weight; steps back with his right foot and closes his feet to the starting position as he makes his way back to the stag line. He sits down and tries to look cool. This part alone can induce a participant to easily sweat off four or five pounds.

The lady will do the same thing except she begins with the second step and winks at the bartender who just happens to look exactly like Mel Gibson.

If you are a heavyweight you can still be light on your feet. Only be sure to use extra caution so as not to topple over during all the weight shifting. As a heavy couple it will be your responsibility to try alternating your feet to avoid becoming entangled with one another thus reducing the risk of injury to other dancers should you fall in tandem.

Overall, this is a pretty safe dance step for a couple of reasons. First, the box step was designed in such a way that you never really move from the exact spot you began from. Secondly, the only time the waltz is actually performed nowadays is when the father of the bride dances with his daughter at her wedding reception. (If she remembered to invite him, that is.) That's only provided someone shows up with an accordion, as the only available prerecorded waltzes can be found on rare turn of the century vitrollas written by and for dead people.

The Swing

Now that you're warmed up you are ready to move on to a medium/fast tempo. The swing requires additional coordination as it incorporates slow steps, quick steps, rock steps and solo movements by the lady. Finding a partner who can excel at the solo movements holds the key to distinguishing one's self while performing this dance - particularly if you happen to suck at the slow steps, quick steps and rock steps.

The swing gets its name from the fact that the gentleman swings his partner by whirling her under his arm. You signal when you are about to execute a turn by gently raising your left arm on the first slow step and shouting, "Here we go!" Follow through on the turn by pushing the lady through with your right hand
giving
both of you an opportunity to resynchronize your steps. Failure to readjust timing risks accidentally pushing on your partner's breast where you could find yourself bunny hopping on your head right out the front door.

The Cha Cha

As its name implies, this one is a very complex, high-energy dance step employing advanced footwork. Start with our left foot forward and transfer your weight back onto the right foot. (This is where the real fun comes in.) Take three small steps to the left and say, "Cha, cha, cha." (Fun, right?) Now do the entire thing in reverse, starting with your right foot and ending with a backwards "Cha, cha, cha." Don't ask me why, just do it

The Cha Cha can be particularly challenging, as you will most likely be the only couple on the dance floor with guts enough to try it - notably if you happen to be in a cowboy bar at the time and especially if it has no dance floor (or music).

In cases like this you might get away with it if instead of, "Cha, cha, cha," you said, "Achy breaky" or something like that. However, I doubt it. Even if you tried wearing cowboy boots and a ten-gallon hat, line dancing rarely requires a backwards arabesque. Alternatively, maybe they do. I don't know.

Maybe you should just order a sarsaparilla and leave quietly before somebody hits you.

Turkey Shuffle

All forms of ballroom dancing require the participants to maintain a very stiff, rigid spine. If done correctly it should look as if you desperately need to go to the bathroom and each movement is producing unspeakable agony in your kidneys.

The only exception to this I can think of is Slam Dancing but I consider Slam Dancing undignified so we'll stick with something more regal like the Funky Monkey. It looks nothing like the name suggests. Oh, sure, the gentleman slings the lady over his shoulder and jumps up and down making "Eeek!" noises but he does it all in a very majestic manner.

The footwork is a series of improvised stomps and kicks. When done correctly, hand movements are meant to enhance the overall aristocratic appearance of the dance. These can take the form of scratching your bum, slapping yourself on the side of the head or pounding on your bared chest - and the gentleman's steps are equally as colorful.

You might want to try a charming American version of this dance step called The Flaming Leap of Death." Shifting your weight onto your right foot, jump up onto a table and begin swinging from the chandelier as the maitre d? pokes at you with blazing hot shish kebab skewers. This fanciful variation is made even more dramatic if the lady jumps onto the headwaiter's back while keeping to the rhythm of the marimba.

This step gives you a pretty decent workout and now you should be thinking about a good, cool down routine.

The Fox Trot

This popular cool down is done in four-four time. Set your metronome to largo, between forty and sixty. Trying to look your most elegant, clasp hands, taking care to have the thumbs meet at eye level with the woman's gaze. This enables her to wipe sweat from her nose without drawing undue attention to her nostrils.

After a few choruses of "Mame," your upper limbs will begin to twitch as the tendons in your forearms calcify. Three minutes in this position is the equivalent of bench-pressing eight hundred pounds.

Even middle-aged debutantes are considered quite formidable arm wrestlers midway through the cotillion season. If you work at it, you too could have the arms of an aging marmoset.

Turn off the music and return to your seats. Lovely job, well done.

© 2004 Mike Boone


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Boone graduated from the Visual Language Interpreter Training program and published an article, Interpreting: The Development of the Profession, in an alternative communication magazine. He realized that writing was his own preferred form of communication. He went on to have humor pieces published in the likes of Rampike magazine and the Knucklehead Press. You can locate his screenplay parody in the March 1, 2004 issue of the online Ezine, Fools Motley. In 1998 he won first prize in the comedy category of the American Songwriting Competition. He's just finished his first book, Mike Boone's Guide to Dieting, a send up of diet/fitness books.