If the finals of Strictly Come Dancing are making your feet itch, grab your passport as well as your dancing shoes. There are plenty of places around the world where learning a local routine can enhance your stay, provide insights into local culture – and help you meet new friends wherever you are.
Tango in Buenos Aires
When it emerged in the mid-19th century among the working-class communities along the River Plate in Montevideo and Buenos Aires, Argentina, the tango was shocking: a man and a woman, holding each other closely! Today it’s celebrated as one of the most dramatic dances – and one of the most tricky (and fun) to master. Head to El Caminto in Buenos Aires’ La Boca district, and you can hardly move for sharply dressed tango dancers posing for photos. But if you want to get to grips with the moves yourself, head to a milonga – a traditional dancehall – to practice your quebrada, rueda and scissors in the company of experts and other beginners. Recommended milongas include La Catedral, La Virtua and Maldita.
Like that? Try this… Learn bachata and merengue, two typical dances of the Dominican Republic, in capital Santo Domingo.
Bollywood dancing in Mumbai
The best Bollywood movies feature showstopping ‘item numbers’ – mass song-and-dance spectacles involving intricately choreographed moves by dozens of performers. Get to grips with the wolf and petal hands, hip shifts, jumps and stamps on a course in Mumbai, India. Several companies offer lessons ranging from an hour and a half to several days.
Like that? Try this… Begin belly-dancing (göbek atmak) in Istanbul, Turkey.
Flamenco in Seville
The finger-snapping, handclapping, guitar-strumming art of flamenco emerged in Andalucia some centuries ago – perhaps influenced by the Romani community or, even farther back, during the Islamic rule of Al-Andalus. Today, it’s a stylish melange of music and dance – and the best place to learn to twirl your skirt and stamp your feet is Seville, that historic port city on the beautiful Guadalquivir river. Taller Flamenco, one of the city’s most respected flamenco schools, offers week-long courses covering song, music and of course dance.
Like that? Try this… Launch into the swirling, convulsive tarantella in the Salento region of Puglia, southern Italy – during August the folk music of Salento is celebrated in La Notte della Taranta folk festival.
Samba in Brazil
Brazilians celebrate the last few days before Lent each year in the most explosive, colourful, rhythmic way possible: Carnaval. In Brazil‘s cities such as Salvador and Recife, folk dress up in feathered finery to dance the Afro-Brazilian samba – and the parades reach their most dramatic expression in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Several samba schools in both cities welcome newcomers – rent a costume, prepare to rehearse hard, and get ready to join the world’s most vibrant street party!
Like that? Try this… Get in a spin with capoeira classes in Salvador – this dance-come-game-come-martial art is a vigorous workout.
Waltz in Vienna
Dancers have been 1-2-3-1-2-3-ing in graceful whirls since probably the 12th century. Some say it was first danced in Paris in 1178, but today the epicentre is Vienna, where the Fasching (ball season) kicks off at the end of December, with more than 400 balls held in January and February. There’s the elegant New Year’s Eve Ball at the Imperial Palace in Vienna; the Jägerball (Hunters’ Ball), graced with dirndl-clad ladies and men sporting traditional Alpine jackets; and the enigmatic Rudolfina Redoute masked ball. If you manage to snag a ticket to one of these elegant affairs, spend at least an hour learning the basics of the waltz to reduce the chances of trampling toes – Elmayer Dance School offers group and private lessons.
Like that? Try this… For another elegant, formal experience, don a kimono and learn the art of the fan dance in Kyoto, Japan.
Salsa in Cuba
The Cuban rhythms of son, cha cha cha, mambo and more blended to create this sensuous dance style – so Havana’s the ideal place to really get in tune with the music. Take lessons at a local school (La Casa del Son is popular, offering both individual and group sessions) before heading to a bar or club – try La Casa de la Musica or Jardines del 1830. If you’re travelling solo, it’s worth considering hiring a ‘taxi dancer’ to steer you around the floor on your first outing.
Like that? Try this… Santiago de Cali in Colombia rivals Cuba as the capital of salsa, with more than 200 salsa schools and several festivals dedicated to the style.
Play mas in Trinidad
Like Brazil’s Carnaval, the Trinidad version explodes just before the start of Lent – and also like the South American episode, it’s an extravaganza of music, parties and parades starting weeks before the main event with fêtes (parties) across the island. To immerse yourself in the mayhem, join a mas band – buy a costume, gather with like-minded (and clad) party-goers and shake your booty! Soca music dominates but listen out for the more soulful traditional calypso while you’re on its home island. Watch out for some regular characters – the well-dressed Pierrot and devil Jab Jab, for example, and plan well ahead: even a year isn’t too far in advance.
Like that? Try this… Barbados’s weeks-long Crop Over festival sees the island throbbing to soca and calypso sounds.