Books/DVDs: Dance as Fitness

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain

by John J. Ratey, MD, with Eric Hagerman

Little, Brown and Company

In a nutshell: A valuable tool for educators looking to establish a dance or fitness program in an academic setting.

To illuminate the crucial link between exercise and brain function, Dr. John Ratey, associate professor at Harvard Medical School, brings together 10 chapters of research and case studies in this well-researched book. He specifically recommends activities (like dance) that challenge the cardiovascular system and improve cognitive function: “Studies of dancers, for example, show that moving to an irregular rhythm versus a regular one improves brain plasticity.” He also notes that the social aspect of partner dancing adds an additional beneficial challenge, as exercise can alleviate anxiety, stress and depression. But what will most hit home with dance educators is Ratey’s documentation of the incredible academic achievements of students in Naperville, Illinois, and Titusville, Pennsylvania, after innovative and extensive physical education programs were implemented into their school districts.

—Caitlin Sims

 

Zumbatomic: Get the Flow

by Zumba Fitness, LLC

In a nutshell: A complete Latin-rhythms workout for children ages 5 to 11.

The latest addition to the acclaimed Zumba fitness programs, the Zumbatomic DVD Collection, was created to help combat the growing obesity epidemic among children. This three-DVD box set is packed with 90 minutes of calorie-burning traditional Latin and contemporary style fitness and dance exercises, like hip hop, reggaeton, salsa, mambo, Bhangra, belly dancing, samba and merengue. Instructor Gina Grant integrates character-based story lines into each workout to encourage coordination, discipline, confidence and teamwork. This collection also comes with an upbeat soundtrack CD and read-a-long comic book.

—Jenny Thompson

 

HOPSDance With Tyce Diorio and Krista Saab: Volume 1

by Michèle Assaf

Tezoro Productions and HOPSports, Inc.

In a nutshell: A fun, high-energy instructional dance DVD for young students.

In this 60-minute program, Tyce Diorio and Krista Saab introduce beginners to the fundamentals of several dance styles, including 1950s theater dance, hip hop, Latin and jazz. The energetic instructors make following along easy by demonstrating each combination and across-the-floor exercise on HOPSports mats. (While these mats are not necessary to learn the choreography, they will provide structure and help children develop spatial awareness.) The DVD’s well-paced progression enables young dancers to gain confidence before moving on to the performance-level section. To further promote creativity, teachers can ask students to create their own dances with the learned movements. This DVD will have kids up and moving, no matter their experience level.

—JT

Teacher Voices
Getty Images

I often teach ballet over Zoom in the evenings, shortly after sunset. Without the natural light coming from my living room window, I drag a table lamp next to my portable barre so that the computer's camera can see me clearly enough. I prop the laptop on a chair taken from the kitchen and then spend the next few hours running back and forth between the computer screen of Zoom tiles and my makeshift dance floor.

Much of this setup is the result of my attempts to recreate the most important aspects of an in-person dance studio: I have a barre, a floor and as much space as I can reasonably give myself within a small apartment. I do not, however, have a mirror, and neither do most of my students.

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Music
Allie Burke, courtesy Lo Cascio

If you'd hear it on the radio, you won't hear it in Anthony Lo Cascio's tap classes.

"If I play a song that my kids know, I'm kind of disappointed in myself," he says. "I either want to be on the cutting edge or playing the classics."

He finds that most of today's trendy tracks lack the depth needed for tap, and that there's a disconnect between kids and popular music. "They have trouble finding the beat compared to older genres," he says.

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Teachers Trending
Courtesy Lovely Leaps

After the birth of her daughter in 2018, engineer Lisa McCabe had reservations about returning to the workforce full-time. And while she wanted to stay home with the new baby, she wasn't ready to stop contributing financially to her family (after all, she'd had a successful career designing cables for government drones). So, when she got a call that September from an area preschool to lead its dance program, she saw an opportunity.

The invitation to teach wasn't completely out of the blue. McCabe had grown up dancing in Southern California and had a great reputation from serving as her church's dance teacher and team coach the previous three years (stopping only to take a break as a new mother). She agreed to teach ballet and jazz at the preschool on Fridays and from there created an age-appropriate class based on her own training in the Cecchetti and RAD methods. It was a success: In three months, class enrollment went from six to 24 students, and just one year later, McCabe's blossoming Lovely Leaps brand had contracts with eight preschools and three additional teachers.

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