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Waltzing towards Wellness

By Supriya Venigalla, MD, MPH

This week, Walk Georgia’s focus is on a fun activity that will keep you smiling even while you sweat — dancing.

Josh_Fletcher

Josh Fletcher, Academic Advisor at University of Illinois at Chicago

An art form that is based on a rhythmic sequence of movements, dance is practiced all over the world. Different cultures have their own versions – tango, salsa, ballet, waltz, odissi, and so many more.

We had the pleasure to speak to two dancers about their love for dancing – Josh Fletcher, a former instructor at DanceFX in Athens, Ga., and Geetanjali Vailoor, a recent graduate of the University of Georgia, and a barista at Georgia Java.

“Dancing has always been my vehicle to clear my mind, explore creativity that words often can’t describe. All emotions – sadness, excitement, frustration, anxiety – can be felt, processed, and reflected through it, “ says Fletcher, who is now an academic advisor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Fletcher still dances in his spare time.

The positive mental effect of dancing is something 23-year old Vailoor agrees with.

“I dance everyday, just listening to music. I enjoy doing it because it brings me so much joy. And it’s such an easy way to be active!” Vailoor says.

Well-versed in ballroom dance, salsa, waltz, bhangra, bellydancing, jazz, and contemporary, she doesn’t believe you have to be trained from birth to get started.

Vailoor has worked with communities in Athens where she taught people of all ages, and organized performances around town. “It taught them to be body positive and embrace the idea that you may not have grown up with dance, but you can still feel good about yourself,” Vailoor says.

Different types of dance forms provide different health benefits. Ballet helps with flexibility, strength and posture, while jazz is aerobic and upbeat. No matter the type of dance you do, it is still important to warm up first! This helps prevent injury.

Fletcher has a routine, which he tries to incorporate into his dance. He loves to work a nice slow stretch before dancing. “As I progress through the movements, I also try and bring in some strength building activities like crunches, push-ups, and planks,” Fletcher says.

Vailoor does a few crunches as well. “I get really bored with working out – running in a straight line doesn’t appeal to me at all,” she says. She does crunches as well, along with toe touches and oblique stretches.

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Geetu Vailoor, recent UGA graduate and barista at Georgia Java

This shows that dancing can be mixed with a traditional workout routine as a fun, healthy way to work up a sweat!

Dance also builds a sense of community. Vailoor’s first Bollywood class was at Hendershot’s Coffee as part of the Slingshot Festival in Athens. “I was so glad to see that people really enjoyed it, and I felt a sense of community even with those who had never seen a dance like that before.”

The bellydancing barista, and the academic advisor who loves jazz, say the best way to start off is to just do it.

“The world of dance is diverse, and anyone can find a style that suits them. It doesn’t matter if you think you have poor technique. It’s all about the energy and excitement. You’re never too old to learn to dance!” Fletcher says.

And don’t forget to track all your dancing in Walk Georgia to earn points, unlock counties, and “walk” across Georgia!