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African Dance for Physical Fitness

written by: CatNorth • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 7/19/2010

Discover African dance as a way to maintain cardio fitness and keep interested in exercise. Learn about the aerobic dance explosion and how African dance fits in. Examine African dance origins and influences and find out about a few types of African dance exercise programs.

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    Introduction

    Since the first aerobic dance workouts emerged in the late 1970s, various kinds of innovative aerobic dance routines have continued to burgeon. Meanwhile, to add to the popularity of dance exercise, television reality dance shows are encouraging people to boogie and experiment with dance genres from hip-hop to ballroom dancing. Many are discovering the same enjoyment, empowerment, and benefits of dancing that perhaps their grandparents or great-grandparents knew in a bygone era. At the same time, new dancers are experiencing the joy of shaking parts of their bodies they've never shaken before to world beats encouraging raw movement, such as that found in African dance. Experience African dance for physical fitness and get in touch with your unbridled dancing spirit.

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    Dance Exercise Explosion

    Amidst a dance exercise explosion are the favored group exercise classes, such as Jazzercise® and Zumba®. Now add more international flavors of dance aerobics to the list, such as Bollywood dance, an aerobics workout based on traditional Indian dancing and choreography seen in Bollywood movies, and African dance, which includes various forms of traditional African tribal dancing. New styles of aerobic dancing, especially based on traditional dancing from countries around the world, seem to pop up in gyms and on the exercise and fitness market almost as fast as new video games and other software come out. Various types of African dance have gained recent notoriety even though choreography from Africa has actually been around as an aerobics dance form since the 1980s in America. It’s even included in much of the Zumba® choreography.

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    African Dance Background

    Like Zumba’s origins, many of the modern African dance workouts offered via group exercise classes and on DVD for home use have their roots in traditional African dance but are also inherently Latin-influenced. After European colonization of the New World and the African slave trade, a new form of African dance eventually evolved out of Latin America and the Caribbean Islands. Nevertheless, some African dance choreography is fresh out of Africa with newcomers sharing and teaching dance routines based on traditional tribal dances of their native countries. So, when it comes to African dance, many varieties and flavors exist and are officially and unofficially offered as dance exercise in 2010.

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    African Dances

    Just as there are many forms of traditional tribal dance found in Africa, there are many types of African dance exercise routines offered in America. Only a few are listed here, but as it is with all forms of dance, you typically get a calorie-burning and total cardio workout while enjoying rhythmical movement to encouraging sounds and beats. Find some local African dance classes referred to as Afrobics or African Aerobics. Many types of African dance offered for exercise are brand name workout routines and/or are based on certain traditional tribal dances that originated from specific cultures and regions in Africa, or they emerged out of South America or the Caribbean.

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    Kukuwa Dance Workout

    The Latin-influenced Kukuwa Dance Workout®, or KDW® workout, combines traditional African dance with salsa and merengue. Dance to “African soukous and Caribbean soca rhythms” while aerobically exercising your entire body, according to Kukuwa Dance Workout, and burn up to 970 calories per hour.

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    Tribal-Fit and Mek Una Dance

    Maobong Oku’s Mek Una Dance provides a mild rhythmic aerobics warm up that leads to a high energy cardio workout. Also, Oku’s Tribal-Fit provides a low impact but high energy routine that “allows everyone to exercise at their own level and capacity while burning calories,” according to MaobongOku.com. Both are based on traditional dances of the “Efik and Ibibio tribes of the southeastern region of Nigeria,” says Oku on her website.

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    Capoeira

    Capoeira takes dance to a new level with challenging martial arts-style choreography derived from an African moving art form for fighting and fending off enemies. With a number of moves similar to those seen in kickboxing and American break-dancing, Capoeira is a traditional choreography of Brazil. “Originating in Africa, Capoeira was brought to Brazil by captured slaves from Angola,” according to Capoeira History. Desiring to continue their traditional self-defense training despite being forced to live in an environment of oppression, slaves began to disguise their Capoeira training as a form of dance and song. Later outlawed in Brazil due to gang violence, Capoeira is now practiced worldwide as a respected and competitive sport and dance amalgamation. Capoeira involves strength, aerobic and acrobatic training, and skills.

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    Tips

    From low impact to acrobatic, pick a type of African dance for physical fitness that you’ll enjoy and stick with and that will help you maintain total health and well-being.

    As always, discuss new exercise programs with your healthcare provider before starting one.

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    Resources

    beYOU.tv: Log On, Work Out, Connect

    http://www.beyou.tv/

    5minLife Videopedia: How to Dance the Nago African Healing Dance

    http://www.5min.com/Video/How-to-Dance-the-Nago-African-Healing-Dance-32267355

    YouTube: Capoeira

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdZXp0Tq6Jk

    YouTube: Memphis Drum and Dance: Afrobics Class

    http://grou.ps/memphisdrumanddance/videos/1013743