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Dance Workouts: A Brief History

Dance-based exercise regimens, which have twirled in and out for decades, are back in style. A look at how the original low-impact craze has come full circle.

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1920s
Self Improv
Swiss composer Émile Jaques-Dalcroze develops Dalcroze eurythmics, a barefoot improvised dance meant to enhance flexibility. It’s embraced by European high society.

1959
Ballet Burn
Former professional dancer Lotte Berk opens a studio in London and, later, New York. Acolytes in leg warmers and ballet slippers line up in the hopes of “lifting their seats” with pliés and pelvic tilts.

1977
Hustle Muscle
Disco fever sets off a revival of partner dancing. Nightclubs are the new gyms.

1980
See Jane Jazzercise
A generation of women learn how to grapevine, and other syncopated moves, from the original “go for the burn” aerobics titan.

1987
Up, Down. Up, Down.
A simple plastic bench on stackable risers made by Reebok becomes a cardio sensation. Instructors invent complex “step” choreography to disguise the drudgery of climbing stairs.

1993
Hip-Hop Sculpt
Wannabe fly girls and aspiring Knicks halftime dancers pass their lunch hours pounding out “the running man” move.

1996
Blame It on Rio
Practitioners of Capoeira, a Brazilian hybrid dance and martial art, work their glutes and deter assailants, all in full-body spandex.

2005
Grind Away Calories!
Gymgoers try to pretend they’re not embarrassed by bumping, grinding, and pole dancing.


Winter 2007
Hoop It Up
To streamline hips in time for spring’s miniskirts, hula-hoop classes, using a three-pound, water-filled hoop, have arrived at the Gym (11 E. 26th St., nr. Fifth Ave., fourth fl.; 212-889-3003).


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