A great form of exercise, dancing opportunities are a virtual smorgasbord in southern Oregon — from belly dancing and ballet to square dancing and even climbing a pole.

A great form of exercise, dancing opportunities are a virtual smorgasbord in southern Oregon — from belly dancing and ballet to square dancing and even climbing a pole.

Options abound for sneaking in a good workout disguised as artistic expression and finding a type of dance to learn is as simple as driving through a local town or perusing a phone book.

The Classics
A crowd pleaser for young and old alike, ballroom dancing encompasses a host of styles from traditional waltzing and Latin dance to swing and salsa.

Dance instructor June Kranenburg, a teacher at the Evergreen Ballroom along Highway 62, near Central Point and Medford, says schools offering various styles come with the advantage of test-driving multiple "flavors" of dance. For potential students with minimal experience, slower styles and group settings are a good first step, Kranenburg says.

"When they're first starting out I'd recommend they start with a group class, because a group class would give them some variety, and go for the main basic dances — the fox trot, waltzes, East Coast swing," she notes.

Eventually, intermediate dancers can move on to salsa and faster-paced dance styles like West Coast Swing, Tango, Salsa and night club dance.

Shake, Shake, Shake
Branching out from tradition to near exotic, belly dancing is gaining in popularity, with schools available in Medford and Ashland. A solid aerobic workout with the bonus of fun scarves and jewelry to wear while dancing, belly dancing, says Ayesha's Oasis Bellydancing owner Ayesha Kamm, is manageable for students of every shape and size.

"It's great fun and exercise for all ages. It seems like most people think you have to be young and fit but we have students of all ages and all sizes," Kamm says. "Everybody really enjoys it. There's sort of an inner beauty kind of thing."

Requirements to belly dance are simple — comfortable workout clothes and socks or bare feet. Bellydancing, Kamm says, can take up to three or four weeks for students to grasp basic moves but offers varying levels of skill, with some students even opting to perform in shows.

Back to the Ballet?
More formal, and often a childhood memory, ballet is a great option for adults, offering a low-impact workout and a range of styles and skill levels to achieve with basic footwear requirements and a willingness to commit.

"There are quite a lot of adults that are very interested. A lot of times, they studied as children or in college and want to get back to it," says Ballet Workshop director Katherine Eck.

Pole Dancing?!?
Finally, a decidedly non-traditional "ladies only" dance, pole dancing is a high intensity aerobic and strength focused workout cropping up in big cities and a handful of spots around the Rogue Valley.

Dawn Rittiman, owner of The Poledance Experience in Medford, says pole dancing is not for the faint of heart but can be tackled by anyone in reasonable shape with some determination.

"Basically anybody can do it because you gradually build up body strength," Rittiman says. "It's a great way to lose weight because you're lifting your own body weight."

Whichever type of dance you choose, area teachers urge would-be students to stick things out long enough to grasp some basic techniques.

"What I say about learning to dance as an adult, and I'm sure it's true whether its ballet or anything else, is that it takes the body and mind about six months to adapt to a new technique or new way of movement," says Diane Hyrst, artistic director for Ballet Rogue at the Medford Dance Center.

Hyrst adds, "If they stick with it, they can learn."