Your easy guide to getting into dancing

Patsy Westcott

Dance is one of the most popular ways to get fit among over-50s. From classes to kit, ballroom to samba, take the floor with our simple advice.



Ballroom and Latin dance

What is it?

Includes traditional ballroom dances of waltz, tango, Viennese waltz, slow foxtrot and quickstep and Latin styles such as such as cha cha, samba, rumba, paso doble and jive. 

Solo-friendly?

Yes. Some ballroom teachers rotate leaders and followers if you don’t have your own partner. Others have a pool of dancers who come along to classes to make up any shortfall.

Get the kit

‘The most important thing is to be comfortable, so loose fitting clothes and definitely no trainers because they don't slide on dance floors,’ advises ballroom expert and Saga Holidays dance host Nick Miles. 

If the ballroom bug bites you, you’ll probably want to invest in proper shoes with leather or suede soles. Check out sites such as www.towerballroomdance.co.uk and www.dancewearworlddirect.co.uk for a selection.

Cost?

From £5-10 a session for drop in classes, depending on where you live.

Fitness factor

You don’t have to be massively fit for slower dances, such as the waltz and slow foxtrot. A bit more stamina is required for demanding dances such as Viennese waltz, quickstep and Latin. But, says Nick Miles, 'A motto springs to mind. “If you can walk in, you will dance out”’

Find a class

Check local newspapers, websites and dance studios or visit www.dancesport.uk.com/studios

Related: Ballroom dancing guide

Related: Read more about the health benefits of dancing

Argentine Tango

What is it?

Not to be confused with the more stylised ballroom variety, the Argentina Tango is the original tango from Buenos Aires and is more improvisational in style.

Solo-friendly? 

Yes – teachers usually rotate partners.

Get the kit

Loose, comfortable clothing and shoes (with a small heel for women) that don’t stick to the floor (again, no trainers). As you get more advanced, you’ll probably want to invest in pair of proper tango shoes. Dancesport UK has a selection www.dancesport.uk.com/shoes

Cost 

From around £5 for a drop in class.

Fitness factor

You need a degree of fitness. However you will get fitter simply by doing it.

Find a class

Google ‘Argentine Tango’ and the name of your nearest town or city. Check out local dance studies and adult education venues or check out this one-day course tango.uk.com/toolkit.htm. For a list of milongas (tango dance events) visit www.elonce.co.uk

Salsa

What is it?

Fast, furious and fun, there are many varieties but the two main styles in the UK are the earthier Cuban and showier cross-body styles.

Solo-friendly? 

Very. Teachers rotate partners in classes and it’s perfectly acceptable to go to a salsa club alone.

Get the kit

Choose cool, comfy clothes you can move in. You will get hot! Later, you’ll want to invest in proper shoes. Visit www.movedancewear.com for a selection.

Cost

From around £5 for a drop-in class. Classes are often followed by a club night where you get to practice – expect to pay a couple of pounds more.

Fitness factor

You need a reasonable level of fitness but you’ll soon increase stamina by doing it.

Find a class

Salsa is literally everywhere these days so check out local dance studios, clubs and fitness centres or Google ‘salsa’ and your nearest town. Check out www.dancenearyou.co.uk for other venues.

Ballet and contemporary dance

What is it?

Originating in 16th- and 17th-century France and today one of the most popular forms of dance among over-50s – aka ‘silver swans’ – there are many different forms from traditional classical ballet to more contemporary styles.

Solo-friendly? 

Yes – you don’t need a partner for this.

Get the kit

Ask the teacher what the dress code is, as this can vary. However leggings or shorts, a close-fitting t-shirt and socks should see you through the first class or two. After that you’ll need a proper pair of ballet shoes. Check out www.dancedirect.com/uk for a selection.

Cost

From around £7 a class or more, depending on where you live.

Fitness factor

Not a huge amount needed to start with and you will get stronger as you go on.

Find a class

If you live in London, check out Sadler’s Wells which has its own post-60 dance troupe, The Company of Elders, www.sadlerswells.com, the Central School of Ballet centralschoolofballet.co.uk or English National Ballet, which offers Dance for Parkinson’s and Dance for Dementia www.ballet.org.uk/learning/health-and-wellbeing/. Outside the capital, check out local dance schools and community dance organisations.

Lindy Hop (jitterbug)

What is it?

An American dance that incorporates the Charleston and originated in the Harlem district of New York in the 1930s. 

Solo-friendly?

Yes, teachers usually rotate partners in classes.

Get the kit

Wear clothes you can move in easily and shoes that won’t stick to the floor. If you get keen, invest in proper dance shoes and 1930s or 40s dress for socials. Visit www.swingdancestore.co.uk or swingdanceuk.com/store for a selection.

Cost

From around £5 a class depending on where you live.

Fitness factor

A basic level of fitness is needed, but you’ll get fitter the more you do.

Find a class

If you live in London, visit swingdanceuk.com for classes, social dances and more. Elsewhere, visit www.lindycircle.com/lindy_hop_uk or Google ‘Lindy Hop’ and your nearest town.

Please note

Check with your doctor before exercising if it is a while since you have done regular exercise or if you have a heart disease, arthritis, asthma, diabetes or other health conditions.

For more on the health benefits of dance, see our Fit for Life article in the December issue of Saga Magazine.

Check out Saga’s dancing holidays selection at travel.saga.co.uk/hotel-and-touring-holidays/special-interest-holidays/dancing.aspx

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.