Monday, March 26, 2012

Dance To Good Health

Want to cut down on stress? Need to lose weight? Could use a little cheer and a firm touch as you enter the last decades of your life? Try ballroom dancing. "It's a great cardiopulmonary activity," dance teacher June Rawls says with the zeal of a missionary, "and it's also a good way to socialise. The physical is very important, but so is the mental, and when you come here for an hour, you leave the world behind."

Bijoux Dance Centre is a 186 sq m mirror-lined dance hall in Miami, USA, tucked among commercial warehouses that have more to do with heavy equipment than intricate dance moves. Yet every Tuesday at 8 pm, about 20 middle-age and older Miamians gather there to waltz, fox trot and rumba. Or at least they try to. Rawls, 65 has been offering a ballroom dance class for the 55-and-older set since the beginning of the year. When she retired as a teacher, she decided her next career would be promoting her hobby and passion. As a lifetime ballroom dancer herself, she's a firm believer in the gospel of movement, particularly for her generation of baby boomers.

Speak to Rawls for any length of time and she will gladly enumerate the benefits. She'll even cite a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2003 that found dancing (as well as playing board games and musical instruments) might reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. Ballroom dancing has become fashionable again in part thanks to the popularity of ABC's Dancing With The Stars. Dance studios from the Arthur Murray mainstays to a University of Miami club, report a hike in interest....... (McClatchy-Tribune Information Services)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Keeping Tradition Alive

Right foot out to the front and back to position. Left foot out to the back and back to position. Hands moving rhythmically from the elbows and wrists, while maintaining a small bent at the knees. Those are the simple moves of a joget dance. Dance instructor Azura Abal Abas, 43, from Havana Estudio in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur was demonstrating the steps to to a class of sarong-clad beginners who were trying to learn the joget. A few succeeded and many did not because the moves were not as easy as they appeared to be. "It may seem easy but when you do it, you realise it's challenging because we are so used to Western type of dances and tend to shift weight while taking a step and in the process create a hip movement or a shoulder movement," she said.

"Culture has a lot to do with our traditional dances. When we do joget, there are certain cultural aspects to follow like the women dancers' part is more demure with understated expressions," said Azura, who is better known as Ala, adding that the joget was influenced by a Portuguese cultural dance. " The bended knee is also an adat (custom) in the Malay culture as we bend our bodies forward when we walk past older people. Politeness is a virtue in our culture and this attitude is adapted into the dance. "It is details like these that make our cultural dances unique to us. You can see the difference in the way we sway our bodies - the lenggang and liuk" said Ala, who is currently lecturing on a dance subject at Universiti Malaya.

Joget is not the only traditional Malay dance that Ala is teaching at the school. In fact, the newly introduced Malay dance class at the school incorporates a combination of dances including joget, inang and zapin. Inang is a type of dance which has a faster beat compared to the joget, and Ala said it was a dance common among women where a scarf was usually worn. Meanwhile, Zapin is an Arab-influenced dance, which is popular in weddings and berkhatan (circumcision) ceremonies. The school's principal and owner Sharie Dekorte said most dance schools offered various classes on hip hop and other types of modern dances and by introducing the Malay dance class, she hoped to keep the tradition alive. (The Star)

Monday, March 5, 2012

D'Angelo & Amanda Wins Live To Dance

For the past two Thursday evenings, I stayed home to watch the finale of Live To Dance 2011, an American dance reality show on 8TV. Six finalists performed in the finale and the winner was chosen by telephone votes plus the decision of the judges. The angelic-looking couple of D'Angelo Castro, 10, and Amanda Carbajales, 11, was adjudged champions. D'Angelo and Amanda who danced an Argentine Tango in the first round and a Conga in the second round were in their element, and their performance was mesmerizing.

The pair walked home with the cash prize of $500,000. That's a lot of money for two kids who are still in elementary school. D'Angelo told the audience he wanted to go to Disneyland for a holiday. On a more serious note, D'Angelo said that he and Amanda practiced dancing 4 or 5 hours a day, six days a week! Amanda exclaimed that she intends to use the prize money to open a dance studio when she grows up. With their drive and passion, these adorable kids look set to become future world ballroom dance champions.

I do not know about the ratings of Live To Dance on 8TV but I know that another American TV show, American Idol is very popular here in Malaysia. Past winners of the show like Kris Allen (Season 8) and Lee Dewyze (Season 9) have even come to this country to give showcase concerts. It would be great if 8TV can bring in D'Angelo and Amanda to perform in Malaysia, either as guest artistes at a dance competition or maybe at a shopping mall. Hopefully, this will encourage more of our kids to take up ballroom dancing.