From the Strictly set to you: one SCD choreographer wants to teach you the many benefits of dancing

Plus a little about the different Stricly Come Dancing routines you've seen this season.

(Image credit: BBC, Ray Burmiston)

Plus a little about the different Stricly Come Dancing routines you've seen this season.

The Strictly Come Dancing final mere hours away and excitement about who will snatch the crown mounting, but in sad news today, presenter AJ Odudu and dance partner Kai Widdrington have confirmed that they’ve had to pull out of the final.

Now, former Bake Off winner John Whaite and dance partner Johannes Radebe are going head-to-head with Eastenders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis and dance partner Giovanni Pernice.

Naturally, the show has piqued our interest about just how many benefits of dancing there are - both physical and mental - and further, the types of Strictly Come Dancing dances showcased on the show. So, we enlisted the help of SCD choreographer and DanceWest tutor Samantha Quay and DanceWest founder Rosie Whitney-Fish for a quick everything-you-need-to-know guide.

What are the physical benefits of dancing?

As Whitney-Fish shares, Pina Bausch once said, "Dance, Dance, otherwise we are lost." "It’s easy to say that as it's everything," she goes on.

For her, dance is simply expressing yourself physically. "It’s showing the world who you are through movement," she adds.

There are a whole plethora of benefits of dancing - as the expert explains, dance is a head-to-toe workout. The physical benefits of dance include:

  • Improved balance and coordination
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Greater muscle tone and strength
  • Better flexibility.

"Each and every one of the styles we’ve seen on Strictly Come Dancing this season offer these amazing fitness benefits of dance," shares Whitney-Fish. "It’s been inspiring to hear the celebrities talking about how much their health has benefitted from discovering dance, even in a relatively short space of time."

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What are the mental benefits of dancing?

Aside from the obvious - that dance training will boost your cardiovascular fitness - dancing also offers a whole ream of mental health benefits, too. As Whitney-Fish explains, dance is a complete mood booster. "Over the holidays, I will certainly be dancing in my kitchen," she shares.

By taking part in dance, you…

  • Reduce stress and depression
  • Improve memory
  • Boost self-esteem and confidence
  • Provide people with an opportunity to socialise, meet like-minded people and be part of a network
  • Express yourself and be creative
  • Impact both dementia and Parkinson's.

Know this: the last few years have been hard thanks to the ongoing pandemic and, as Whitney-Fish points out, it can be reassuring to know that you have a toolkit at hand to help us manage stress, low mood, and anxiety without any specialist equipment or advanced skills.

"Wherever you are, even five minutes of dance can have an instant impact on altering your mood and outlook," she shares.

Do note, though: dance does not replace professional medical help and will not act as a quick fix for mental health issues, rather, can shift a low mood.

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Strictly Come Dancing dances

Keen to read a little more about the types of dances performed on the show? Then you're in the right place.

Whitney-Fish reckons that it’s been fantastic to see such a range of dance types on Strictly Come Dancing over the last few months. Styles include:

1. Viennese Waltz

According to Whitney-Fish, the original form of waltz was first performed at the Italian courts and is today remembered as Viennese Waltz.

"It differs from the much more famous English Slow Waltz by having much faster 180 beats per minute. It is also the first dance that introduced a closed hold between performers," she shares. "We saw Rose Ayling-Ellis win lots of viewers hearts when she did a beautiful Viennese Waltz with Giovanni Pernice earlier this season."

2. Tango

Originally created in the Argentinean region of Rio de la Plata, this dance is today known by many of its variations - the Argentine tango, Uruguayan tango, Finnish Tango, and two types of Ballroom tangos - standard and American, shares the expert.

"AJ Odudu & Kai Widdrington and John and Johannes showed some real passion with their Argentine Tangoes," she shares.

3. Salsa

"This Latin dance is one of the most popular dances in Latin America, North America, Europe, and Australia," shares the pro.

Why? In short, because it's in a very sensual format, requires energetic movement, and uses innovative choreography influenced by the Mambo, Changuyi, and Rumba.

4. Contemporary

Contemporary is an expressive style that combines lots of different genres, shares Whitney-Fish. "The contemporary choreography on Strictly Come Dancing this season was just poignant and beautiful," she adds.

5. Flamenco

"As a Flamenco teacher on Strictly Come Dancing, I showed the Strictly celebrities some flamenco dance movements and stylistic features of flamenco to give their pasa dobles a more Spanish flavour," shares Quay.

"We were working mainly on classic elements like flamenco posture, soft swirling hands, strong arm alignments, and clapping techniques. They did brilliantly."

5 tips for someone who wants to start dancing themselves

Follow Whitney-Fish's simple steps if you're keen to give dancing a go yourself - and, as Quay says, remember to start from the heart.

1. Don’t worry

About what the other people might be thinking - everyone else in the class will be worrying about themselves, shares the pro.

"Ignore everyone and take part in the class for you," she recommends.

2. Practice regularly

Commit to a class but top tip: try and record the choreography so that you can practice at home. Whitney-Fish says to listen, watch, practice, and repeat.

3. Watch dance

At the theatre, at the cinema, or even online. "There are some amazing resources and classes out there, so be hungry and ready to feel inspired," shares Whitney-Fish.

4. Dance with people better than you

Try this: surround yourself with better dancers. "It will rub off," she shares.

5. Take part

In diverse and different dance styles and classes. "Every dancer is different, and teachers and choreographers are always looking for people to make the dance relevant to them," explains Whitney-Fish. "Do bring your flavour to the class, and remember make the dance your own."

6. Don’t take it seriously

And finally, remember to have fun. "Teachers are always looking out for the people that are having fun," she concludes. "It’s all about giving it a go, making the dance relevant for you and your body, and not just being a carbon copy of the person next to you."

Ally Head
Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, eight-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She regularly hosts panels and presents for things like the MC Sustainability Awards, has an Optimum Nutrition qualification, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw, with health page views up 98% year on year, too. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.