Fitness Finds: dancing for healthier lifestyle

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With the end of the spring semester comes the stress of impending final exams. Mental crunches behind library walls can replace outdoor fitness and fun. However, this weekend provides an acceptable excuse for any student with cultural interests to abandon their textbooks on Sunday afternoon.

On May 5, the city will mark Cinco de Mayo with celebrations of Mexican heritage and cultural pride. The streets of New York City will be decorated with colorful banners, delicious cuisine, toe-tapping tunes and traditional dancing displays. While many consider this holiday the optimal excuse for indulging in tequila drinks and taco-eating contests, the performance arts take center stage to highlight the beauty that Mexico shares with the United States.

If you find vibrant folk dancing more inspirational than steaming food carts, consider taking a Latin-based dance class this weekend for a well-deserved study break in honor of Cinco de Mayo. A Latin dance-inspired workout burns calories, tones your legs and challenges your core, all while putting a smile on your face.

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Salsa

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Learn how to channel your rhythm with salsa, a popular dance with Cuban roots performed all over the world. Class instructors will teach you the basic steps of the dance in both group and partner formats. These dance skills could come in handy at many New York nightclubs, outdoor festivals and even certain restaurants when the music and the mood strikes. Group trial classes at Joel Salsa on 519 Eighth Ave. cost $18.

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Merengue

Consider a merengue class for a fun, new date with your partner. This popular style of Latin dance from the Dominican Republic will challenge you to work together as you feel the tempo of the cheerful music and coordinate your footing. Classes for beginners will teach you foundation steps, as well as leading and following skills to give you confidence to hit the dance floor in no time. DanceSport at 22 W. 34th St. offers introductory, 30-minute private lessons at $20.

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Flamenco

If you’re looking for more history and culture, try flamenco, the expressive solo dance native to 18th-century southern Spain. Attend a session with a group of single friends who enjoy wardrobe changes. Classes led by a professional flamenco dancer will address the technique, rhythm and choreography of the dance, and include the use of castanets, a shawl, a fan and the traditional bata de cola dress. One-hour group classes at Dionisia García’s Flamenco NYC at 224 W. 35th St. cost $25.

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Zumba

If you’re more focused on a fun fitness routine rather than a cultural experience, try a Zumba dance class. Colombian dancer Alberto Perez created this dance-fitness fusion by combining moves from a variety of Latin dances, hip-hop, belly dancing and gym-based workouts. Be ready to sweat as you perform unique choreography to upbeat tunes in one of the most exciting fitness atmospheres in New York City. First-time, two-class packages at one of Z Club NY’s five Manhattan locations cost $30.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 29 print edition. Alena Hall is a contributing columnist. Email her at [email protected]

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1 COMMENT

  1. How come Americans are unable to understand the difference between Spain and Latin America? Do you people in the U.S. carry umbrellas and wear bowler hats and monocles? Sounds silly, doesn’t it… Flamenco is from Spain. Guess where the “Mexican” hat dance is from… Lots of ocean lies between the two continents.

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