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West African Dance in Calgary

Christie Melhorn
In an African dance class, the sound of the drum vibrates through the floor, electrifying your feet and causing your heart to pound in unison with it. I have had the privilege of taking West African Dance classes for the last eight years in Calgary. My passion for the art form ceases to flourish as each class continues to demand more of me while also replenishing me. No matter how busy we become, it is vital that we nurture our minds and bodies. Borrowing from my personal experiences, I’ll tell you about how learning Guinean styles of dance can help you do exactly that. west african dance

Your Cardio Fix

West African dance classes in Calgary usually go on for an hour to an hour and a half. This timeframe offers a generous dose of your daily cardio. In one class, two dances are usually taught. Through-out the class, you bounce between a slow and a fast dance, keeping your body moving dynamically. This flow between moderate and high intensity movement causes your heart rate in a fluid state. According to the Journal of Obesity, this fluctuation burns more fat than when moving at a static pace. Additionally, the flood of endorphins released by this powerful punch of cardio will swing your mood upwards and keep you feeling great after the class [1].

Building a Strong Foundation

In a West African dance class, you will achieve a full-body work-out, however, your lower body will be given special treatment. Like most afrocentric styles of dance, the choreography keeps you low the ground with bent knees bent and your pelvis tilted back. This position is known as “happy booty”. As the music consumes you and you become focused on learning the moves, you barely notice that you are essentially squatting for nearly an hour! After class, your booty may feel more sore than it does “happy” but you will be happy with the proof of a seriously good workout! dancing man

Mindful Exercising

As you are challenged to remember new patterns and shapes of movement, your mind is also given a healthy workout in a West African dance class. As illuminated in an article by the Harvard Neuroscience Institute, dance improves hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, and visual recognition skills [2].

Your long-term memory and decision-making skills are also developed in the process of learning choreography and interconnecting the mind and body. After taking a few classes, you may find that your reflexes are a bit faster and you hesitate less. Also – you may find that you hear rhythms literally everywhere. Sometimes choreography spills into my mind even when my turn signal is on while I’m waiting at a red light. I find that through dance, your life becomes generally more enriched.

Melt off Stress

One of the major benefits of West African dance is that is frankly evaporates stress. Even warming up at the start of class by rolling your spine up and down seems to disentangle bundles of stress latched on to your body. If you are new to dance, I understand that the intimidation factor may cause the class to be a source of stress rather than stress release. I have felt that way before as well but have found that the welcoming environment created by the teachers and fellow dancers quickly neutralizes your nerves. Those jitters settle as you enter a mental and physical space of engagement.

Studio Overview

Studios that offer African Dance in Calgary include:

drum FreeHouse Dance

I have a special affinity for Free House since that is where I began African dance classes. Free House is a humble studio tucked into the neighborhood of Briar Hill and is a short walk away from Lions Park train station. They welcome dancers of all skills levels and are known for their community-oriented atmosphere and attitude. I have always felt very comfortable at Free House.

They are located at 2020 - 12 Ave. NW, Calgary.

Decidedly Jazz Danceworks (DJD)

DJD is a much larger studio. Their new and incredibly impressive location just opened up on 12th Ave and 1st, just down the road from Hotel Arts. The floor-to-ceiling windows and sleek furnishing of the multimillion dollar studio may seem intimidating for less experienced dancers.

Despite the glamour, DJD’s mission to get anyone and everyone to move holds – especially in the realm of African dance that, at its’ core, embraces the power of dance to unite people. In addition, DJD’s African dance classes consistently host drummers to dance to. This helps learn the choreography and develop new listening skills, as African drumming and the timing within it can be quite different from the musical formulas we are accustomed to.

In contrast, the drummers come once every couple of weeks at Free House. I personally enjoy both studios and feel at home taking classes at either or will take classes at both.

Their exact address is 111 12 Ave S.E. Calgary.

dancing woman Pulse

Admittedly, I have never attended a class at Pulse. However, many of my friends in the dance community teach and take classes there. Having taken their class before, I can promise you an uplifting, warm and enjoyable class.

They are located at 2nd floor 110 10 Ave NW, Calgary.


During seasonal sessions, drop in rates range from $18-$28. During promotional periods in between sessions, you can take a sample class for free or pay somewhere in the $2-$5 range. More information regarding costs, location and times can be found by clicking on the studio name in the list above.
Christie Melhorn October 02, 2016

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