For many of us, dance is our favorite kind of exercise. Music and movement come together like lovers. Dance is fun and fitness. That’s especially important for those of us with autoimmune conditions. Social dance (raves, EDM) was big business from Ibiza to Las Vegas before the pandemic. So, how can we dance for fitness or fun during the COVID-19 lockdown?
Clubs and studios are deemed non-essential (bummer) right now. Nevertheless, heavy breathing with a bunch of strangers is probably not epidemiologically prudent right now. And you can’t get to the studio for dance fitness, either. Of course, if you are home alone you can just put on a playlist and dance like nobody’s watching. But, if you want to make it social, virtual dance parties, often with live DJs, are now a thing. So you can take your dance for fitness or fun online!
An idiosyncratic selection of online dance resources
I was surprised that belly dance plus autoimmune produced so few hits. Searching on individual diseases turned up more. But few teachers seem to have seen an opportunity to produce belly dance lessons specifically for autoimmune patients (hint, hint). But there were some inspiring personal autoimmune stories about belly dancers. And these days, there’s no shortage of beginning belly dance videos. And while it’s fun, belly dance is hard to beat for fitness, too, especially during COVID-19, because it doesn’t have to take up much space.
- How Cat Stappas, a belly dancer with MS, keeps on dancing despite her autoimmune condition. Finding My Shimmy
- A podcast about belly dancer and teacher Malema (Maria Aya), who has coped with lupus and more health problems and is now back teaching dance as therapy.
- Here is a news story with video about another MS patient, Ana Conners, member of the Gypsy Moon dance company, using belly dance to help stay strong and active.
- On YouTube, Howcast Dance offers a whole playlist of dance instruction videos. Not just belly dance, but hip hop, hula, line-dancing, moon-walking and more. To get you started, here are two of their beginning belly dance videos.
- First is a basic hip lifts video from Irina Akulenko, whose head-slide instruction we featured in our head & neck exercise post.
- Next, a very simple breakdown of foundational belly dance moves. Alas, the dancer isn’t credited.
- In another YouTube video, Leila explains beginning moves in a nice setting with a good soundtrack.
I remember when belly dance music was hard to find. I collected LPs in the 1970s. In the ‘80s-90s, CDs became available at Rakkasah or other belly dance conventions. Today (thanks Shakira!) belly dance music is easy to find. Spotify playlists, MixCloud Arabic and belly dance, Belly dance and Oriental shows, and YouTube. Most of the old stuff has been reissued or pirated.
Here’s Ellen’s favorite cover of Misirlou, a song that is hundreds of years old and fresh in every generation.
Disco & House
Disco did not die. The fad of the late 1970s shot through New York and across the USA like a passing comet. But Italo disco kept on boogieing right through the 1990s. From Chicago, Disco plus Funk turned into House, a dance music style that has spread around the world and is still going strong. While the discotheques are crumbling ruins, House has carried the torch and merged with other dance styles (see below). What’s more, you don’t need a disco to dance for fitness or fun during the COVID-19 lockdown.
It’s a little known fact that the basic House beat is the same as Belly Dance chiftitelli!Ellen’s own observation
- To get you in the mood, here’s the greatest disco song of all time, one of the earliest uses of the Moog synthesizer and a glimpse into the future of dance music.
- Disco Funk basics from Nathan Short in Oz.
- Low-rez but humorous, choreographer Ray Kasprzak teaches you easy disco moves and his Three Rules of Cool.
- Apparently (who knew?) the greatest Disco dance teacher of all time was a Finn, Arthur Åke Blomqvist. Here’s a vintage video of him teaching Italo style. Notice his footwork (and the gym shoes!).
- Basic House dance steps and moves from the HowCast channel on YouTube.
Club: EDM, PsyTrance, Rave, Techno
These genres have roots in the 1960s acid tests and the ‘70s psychedelic dance scene. Subsequently supercharged by the emergence of digital music, the Rave dance phenomena swept the world from the mid-80s through the ‘90s. Since then, Electronic Dance Music (EDM) has expanded from NY & SF to Ibiza and Las Vegas, with huge dance caverns (and poolside raves). While quintessentially a group activity (Ecstasy-fueled or not), there’s no reason not to learn the moves or perfect your style while in isolation.
- Basic Club dance steps taught by Monica Matys.
- Here’s Chi @clubdanceking’s utterly fundamental approach to rave dance moves. He offers a paid course, too.
- Shuffle steps are fundamental to Hip-Hip, House and techno EDM dance styles. Pigmie shows you, from his garage, a full slo-mo breakdown of the steps that make up the running man shuffle.
- Becoming Tia has a simple but comprehensive beginners shuffle lesson. She even links to a Spotify playlist so you can practice.
- Here’s a gallery of real dancers doing club and EDM moves. Dig the lighted shoes!
- JC Hangtime shows you how to shuffle, broken down to its components.
- Monika Matys offers a whole series of basic dance tutorials. This one focuses on the fundamentals: rhythm & coordination
Yes, pole dancing for health and autoimmune relief! If you happen to have a pole at home, here’s a Healthline article about pole dancing to manage chronic pain.
Other dance styles
Obviously, there’s an ocean of dance music out there. For instances, funk, hip-hop, swing, ballet, classical music, jazz, psy-trance, even old time rock’n’roll. So, just crank up your search engine on any of those terms and dip your toes in it!
There are even dance games!
- If you are the right age, you may remember dance arcade games. Here is a historical review of the world of dance games.
- The most popular dance game is Just Dance, in multiple editions. To explain, the gimmick is to watch the cartoon dancer and imitate the moves yourself.
- Players even record and post their perfect Just Dance moves. For example, here’s Little Siha nailing Rah Rah Rah Rasputin in a beard! She has more of these as well as live streams. Love her party at home background.
Remote dance parties for fun & fitness in COVID-19
New York City
- NYC DJs have responded to their local severe epidemic and lockdown by going online with live-streamed dance parties.
- Here’s DJ Nice’s hugely popular Instagram live dance parties.
- And Lady Gaga’s former back-up dancer Mark Kanemura.
- In Los Angeles, DJS have stepped up, too.
- Here’s five remote dance parties in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Apartment Therapy also features some virtual dance parties, which are a big Instagram thing, as you might expect.
Do-it-yourself dance parties
With friends online or a big social media reach, you can organize your own private dance parties on Facebook, Instagram Live, House Party, Zoom or other platforms.
Many DJ mixes are available on Spotify, MixCloud or SoundCloud in a bewildering variety of genres and subgenres. Choose your faves and then look at the tags to see if you want to branch out to different styles.
If you find additional resources to share, put ‘em in the comments.
Happy dancing for fitness and fun, not just during COVID-19 but for the rest of your life.
By Ellen M Martin, Bonnie Feldman, DDS, MBA