Thursday, December 26, 2013

Fred Astaire Gives Back, The Wounded Warrior Project

Fred Astaire is an incredible company to be a part of. The array of activities we offer range from social dancing all the way to regional/national competition. As we look back, we realize that these opportunities to dance wouldn’t be possible without the great country we live in. Every day there are soldiers and other military personal that fight to protect our country, and the freedoms it allows us.  Realizing this we have found a way to give back to our veterans. Fred Astaire Illinois has partnered with The Wounded Warrior Project to bring dance into the lives of soldiers who thought they may never dance again. Our team of instructors have been working with Edward Hines V.A Hospital, teaching group classes at their Blind Center, and Spinal Cord Injury/ Disorders Services.

Our staff from left to right: Amy, Samantha, Meghan, Ty, Alan, and Chris

The feedback from the veterans has been overwhelmingly positive! Dancing has seemed out of reach for these veterans after the traumas they have encountered. One woman said “it’s so nice to put this cane down and just dance”.  We have already been asked back for next year and will continue to give back, to those that have already given so much to us. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dancing Your Way to Better Health!

Dancing Your Way to Better Health

Ballroom Dancing May Help Mind, Body, and Spirit
WebMD Feature

Tangos, waltzes, sambas, and foxtrots are gliding across America's TV sets on the hit ballroom dance show, Dancing with the Stars.

Do you tap along with the beat as you watch? Or shimmy during the commercial breaks? This may be one time when health experts won't fret if you follow in the footsteps of prime-time TV. Ballroom dancing could help the mind and body, they say.

Shall We Dance?

You're not likely to practice for hours with a world-class dance partner as on the show. But you also won't face live national TV and the judges' barbs.

Will you get a good workout? What about those two left feet? And how can "twinkle toes" benefit your brain?

WebMD posed those questions to science, dance, and fitness pros. Here's their spin on ballroom dancing's health perks.

Is It Exercise?

The TV show's contestants are often winded after their routines. One dancer from last season said he lost 15 pounds.

How typical is that? It depends on the type of dancing and your skill level, says exercise physiologist Catherine Cram, MS, of Comprehensive Fitness Consulting in Middleton, Wis.

"Once someone gets to the point where they're getting their heart rate up, they're actually getting a terrific workout," says Cram.

Dance is a weight-bearing activity, which builds bones. It's also "wonderful" for your upper body and strength, says Cram.

Would-be dancers should consult their doctors first, especially if they have any health problems, says Cram.

Calorie Check

How many calories will you burn? That depends on your body and how vigorously you dance.

Dance is a "moderate activity," say the USDA's physical activity guidelines. Adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily, according to the guidelines.

It can be easier to stick to that with fun activities, says Cram.

Muscles Worked

New ballroom dancers may feel muscles they didn't know they had. That often happens with a new activity, says Ken Richards, spokesman for USA Dance, the national governing body of DanceSport -- the competitive version of ballroom dancing.

Ballroom dancing often means moving backward, especially for women, says Richards, a professional ballroom dancing veteran.

"If you're dancing the foxtrot, you're taking long, sweeping steps backwards. That's very different than walking forward on a treadmill or taking a jog around the neighborhood," he says.

Ballroom dancing works the backs of the thighs and buttock muscles differently from many other types of exercise, says Richards.

Core Experience

The legs and arms often do the flashy dance moves. But they're sunk without a strong body core.

The "core" muscles -- the abs and back -- are also used in Pilates, says Janice Byer. A lifelong dancer, Byer is group exercise director of The Courthouse Athletic Club in Oakland, Calif. Byer and her husband (whom she met through dancing) are avid swing dancers.

The Dancing Brain

How might ballroom dancing help the brain? Verghese outlines three possibilities:

  • Increased blood flow to the brain from the physical exercise
  • Less stress, depression, and loneliness from dancing's social aspect
  • Mental challenges (memorizing steps, working with your partner)

"Dance, in many ways, is a complex activity. It's not just purely physical," says Verghese.

Check Your Ego at the Door

Here's some advice for beginners from New York dance therapist Jane Wilson Cathcart, LMSW, ADTR, CMA:

  • Look for a good teacher who emphasizes what you can do, not your limits.
  • Don't be a perfectionist about it.
  • Don't worry about your size. Dance is for everyone.
  • Get into the music, as well as the movement.

"Take in all the good feedback you're getting and give your inner judge a couple of dollars to go to the movies," says Cathcart.

"We are usually our own worst critic," says Cathcart. "Think of how many other times your critical judge has limited you from doing something."

New skills can bring confidence. At parties and social events, dancers may head to the dance floor feeling good about themselves without a martini's encouragement, Richards jokes.

"Lay the pathwork of positivity through it," says Cathcart. "The coolest dance begins with one step. The rest will follow."

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Dancing Makes You Smarter!

Use It or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter
Richard Powers

For centuries, dance manuals and other writings have lauded the health benefits of dancing, usually as physical exercise.  More recently we've seen research on further health benefits of dancing, such as stress reduction and increased serotonin level, with its sense of well-being.

Most recently we've heard of another benefit:  Frequent dancing apparently makes us smarter.

A major study added to the growing evidence that stimulating one's mind by dancing can ward off Alzheimer's disease and other dementia, much as physical exercise can keep the body fit.  Dancing also increases cognitive acuity at all ages.

You may have heard about the New England Journal of Medicine report on the effects of recreational activities on mental acuity in aging.   Here it is in a nutshell.

The 21-year study of senior citizens, 75 and older, was led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, funded by the National Institute on Aging, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.  Their method for objectively measuring mental acuity in aging was to monitor rates of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.

The study wanted to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity.  They discovered that some activities had a significant beneficial effect.  Other activities had none.

They studied cognitive activities such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and playing musical instruments.  And they studied physical activities like playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework.

One of the surprises of the study was that almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia.  There can be cardiovascular benefits of course, but the focus of this study was the mind.

There was one important exception:  the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing.

Reading - 35% reduced risk of dementia

Bicycling and swimming - 0%

Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week - 47%

Playing golf - 0%

Dancing frequently - 76%.   That was the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.
 We immediately ask two questions:

  • Why is dancing better than other activities for improving mental capabilities?

  • Does this mean all kinds of dancing, or is one kind of dancing better than another?

    That's where this particular study falls short.  It doesn't answer these questions as a stand-alone study.  Fortunately, it isn't a stand-alone study.  It's one of many studies, over decades, which have shown that we increase our mental capacity by exercising our cognitive processes.  Intelligence: Use it or lose it.  And it's the other studies which fill in the gaps in this one.  Looking at all of these studies together lets us understand the bigger picture.

    The essence of intelligence is making decisions.  The best advice, when it comes to improving your mental acuity, is to involve yourself in activities which require split-second rapid-fire decision making, as opposed to rote memory (retracing the same well-worn paths), or just working on your physical style.

    One way to do that is to learn something new.  Not just dancing, but anything new.  Don't worry about the probability that you'll never use it in the future.  Take a class to challenge your mind.  It will stimulate the connectivity of your brain by generating the need for new pathways.  Difficult classes are better for you, as they will create a greater need for new neural pathways.

    Then take a dance class, which can be even more effective.  Dancing integrates several brain functions at once — kinesthetic, rational, musical, and emotional — further increasing your neural connectivity.


    Friday, November 8, 2013

    Fitness: Good Moves!

    Good Moves

    BALLROOM DANCING is an elegant sport that works the body and the mind cohesively. You can be attired in a suit or a dress and burn calories at a rapid pace. It is not uncommon that the majority of ballroom dancers find themselves in the best physical shape after consistently enjoying 2-3 lessons per week in a fun, country club setting. Ballroom dancing and swimming are the only 2 sports that use the most muscles at one time. Ballroom dancers find new body awareness and begin to tone at a comfortable pace, while also drinking more water and eating more nutritious foods. Studies show that adults who enjoy ballroom dance lessons will diminish the chance of being diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, as the mind is in a constant learning mode along with the “right/left” directions and movement.

    We all have trials and tribulations in our lives, whether it is illness, death, or just plain living in a rut. We sometimes reach out for what we think is going to “quick fix” the situation, for example, a vacation, drinking, and so on. This may appear to be just the thing we needed, but in the long-term, the Zen of mind and body together, along with a support team filled with encouragement, is the true ingredients for coping with day-to-day life. A good dance studio provides that mix.
                On a typical day at a studio, hard-working clients walk in with life worn on their sleeves, but they dance out with a better outlook at how to face their issues-good or bad. Life is short and the path to fun along the way is what is truly important. At our studios, we are well aware that this is not the client’s career, so we are there to inspire and strive for them to enjoy each lesson with the achievement of “full improvement, body and mind” as the ultimate goal.

    Class, elegance, romance, and sport- these are the words that describe ballroom dancing and qualities that we need in our lives. There is a harmony that is apparent when an individual captures the feeling of dance. For couples, from newly married to empty nesters, make the time, 2-3 times per week, to enjoy one another in a musical, learning atmosphere. While only 40 minutes or so per session, this is precious time together. Many of our clients are single, so their purpose is different, but the end result will be the same-harmony in life, mental and physical fitness, a newfound of confidence in social situations, and a feeling of accomplishment.
                As entertaining as the show “Dancing with the Stars” is to watch, with two seasons each year, it is not the reality of dance studios. Yes, there are beautiful ball gowns for women, and hot Latin pants for men, but our clients have lives and do not have eight hours per day to set aside for complete dedication to dancing.
                It is a fact that taking a couple lessons per week does begin to change your lifestyle in a positive way. Like the DWTS show audience, children of all ages are enamored when they watch their own parents or grandparents dance harmoniously together, whether at a party, on the beach, or in the kitchen. It is romance engulfed in health and fun!

    We are all born in a particular year and inevitably we will die in a particular year, so we must live the “dash” in between those years! Today we refer to it as our bucket list. It is time to scratch ballroom dancing off that list and enjoy the many benefits that lessons offer, above and beyond the individual dance steps. It is truly the dance journey that makes for a full and enriched life.
                So whether it is Tango, Cha Cha, or Fox Trot that you are learning, the real gains are a newfound network, enriched family time, new friends, and a year-round health schedule.
                Music is around us, and it’s time to dance! 
    Call your local studio today to cross ballroom dancing off your bucket list!

    Tuesday, October 22, 2013

    Exercise: Ballroom Dancing Style

    In this day and and age when the majority of people are health and fitness minded, we have a very special form of exercise  available: Ballroom Dancing! I don't know about the rest of you, but I tend to get bored of doing the same circuit at the gym and have to mix it up every few days. Ballroom dancing is a PERFECT way to add another work out into your day! Ballroom dancing is one of the few sports that work your WHOLE ENTIRE BODY! Yup. You read that right. Ballroom Dancing works every single muscle in your body! Who doesn't want that kind of work out? Not only are you dancing, having fun, looking graceful, but you are exercising all at the same time. Stop in or call your local Fred Astaire Dance Studio TODAY to try this new form of exercising!

    Friday, September 13, 2013

    Fall is right around the corner and all 5 of our Fred Astaire Dance Studios has something exciting going on in the next few months! With the weather changing and getting cooler, now is the PERFECT time to walk into your local studio and DANCE! It is time to try something new and exciting, so lets make that new thing BALLROOM DANCING!! 

    We have a couple competitions coming up in the next few months where we would love to see you all at!

    September 27th and 28th, we will be at the Crowne Plaza in Rosemont for Dancesport Challenge!
    October 29th thru November 3rd, we will be at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek in Orlando, Florida for National Dance Championships!
    We are so excited to see all of our students and professionals perform!
    If you are not competing we want to see you all there supporting your studio!!

    Tuesday, August 27, 2013


    As September is up on us in a few days we are all gearing up for our September Competition! DanceSport Challenge is on September 27th and 28th at the Crowne Plaza O'Hare. We are very EXCITED for this years theme: "Bollywood" All of our students and teachers are hard at work making their routines perfect! This is a competition that you DO NOT want to miss! Contact your local studio for information on how you can be at the next Fred Astaire Illinois Competition!

    Friday, August 9, 2013

    Broadway Ballroom is tomorrow!!!!

    Broadway Ballroom is in 24 hours!!!! We still have a few tickets left so call RIGHT NOW to purchase them-847-310-8300!!! 

    Broadway Ballroom is on August 10th at 7:00 pm at the North Shore Center of Performing Arts in Skokie! 

    For those of you who might not know, Broadway Ballroom is a performance done by all 5 Fred Astaire Illinois Dance Studios! Our talented students will be dancing to songs from popular Broadway Musicals. We will be featuring songs from these musicals:

    "The Phantom of the Opera"
    "Million Dollar Quartet"
    "Rock of Ages"
    "9 to 5"
    "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas"
    "Damn Yankees"
    "Smokey Joe's Cafe"
    "Priscilla-Queen of the Desert"
    "A Chorus Line"

    There will also be a professional show danced to music from "Jersey Boys"

    You DO NOT want to miss this amazing show! 
    Tickets are ONLY $25.
    Call your local studio today with questions or 847-310-8300 to purchase your tickets! 
    We can not wait to see everyone there!  

    Thursday, July 18, 2013

    Broadway Ballroom-August 10th!

    Broadway Ballroom tickets are selling FAST! Get yours today!

    Broadway Ballroom is on August 10th at 7:00 pm at the North Shore Center of Performing Arts in Skokie! 

    For those of you who might not know, Broadway Ballroom is a performance done by all 5 Fred Astaire Illinois Dance Studios! Our talented students will be dancing to songs from popular Broadway Musicals. We will be featuring songs from these musicals:

    "The Phantom of the Opera"
    "Million Dollar Quartet"
    "Rock of Ages"
    "9 to 5"
    "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas"
    "Damn Yankees"
    "Smokey Joe's Cafe"
    "Priscilla-Queen of the Desert"
    "A Chorus Line"

    There will also be a professional show danced to music from "Jersey Boys"

    You DO NOT want to miss this amazing show! 
    Tickets are ONLY $25.
    Call your local studio today with questions or 847-310-8300 to purchase your tickets! 
    We can not wait to see everyone there!  

    Tuesday, July 9, 2013

    You CAN dance!!

    This came across my desk from an employee and I thought I would share this with you all. I lost track how many times I have heard people say "I can't dance"  (I will admit that I was guilty of this as well)
    Everybody can dance! Call or visit your local Fred Astaire Dance Studio TODAY, and prove to yourself that you CAN dance!!

    "Many of us go through life with a subconscious list of things we can't do or won't do.  As the phrase "I can't dance" has an all too common occurrence in the American vernacular, I'd guess that dancing is on most peoples' subconscious can't/won't list.  With that being said, I can personally attest to hearing many people revoke that statement after a little time with our instructors at Fred Astaire.

    My response to people that call the studio and say "I have two left feet" is usually "Great!  I have two right feet, so we'll work just fine together".... upon further inspection, this doesn't really make a lick of sense, but it usually gets my point across.  Many people have resigned themselves to the idea that they will be eternal wall flowers and have no hope of ever really dancing.  "Can't dance" and "won't dance" are not physical conditions; they are just unfortunate mind sets.

    Not everyone is a natural born dancer, but that is fine!  On your very first lesson at Fred Astaire, you teacher will most likely start by having you take forward steps, backward steps, and side steps. The very simple truth is, if you can do that, you can dance.  The whole process of learning to dance is just retraining your body to do familiar tasks in a more stylized manner.  The forward steps in smooth and standard dances are incredibly similar to normal walking steps... You just may push more off your standing leg and use a bit more of things like rise and fall. 

    If you don't pick up the techniques right away, don't be too hard on yourself.  Ballroom dance is one of those hobbies that you will never be perfect at.  I know that may sound like bad news, but it isn't!  There is no need to expect perfection from yourself because there is no such thing as perfect in ballroom dancing.  Since it is an art form, the characterizations and rules are like liquid.  Constantly changing and moving.

    So, I would suggest to stop wasting your time saying things like "I can't dance."  You're more than welcome to say "I don't know how to dance....yet"  and then you can call your nearest Fred Astaire Dance Studio and set up your first lesson so you can finally proclaim "I CAN DANCE!""

    Wednesday, July 3, 2013

    Newcomer Mini Match!

    In a month it will be time for our Newcomer Mini Match competition!! On August 2nd at 7:30pm, come and support your local Fred Astaire Dance Studio.
    Mini Match is a competition held at the South Barrington studio and all the Illinois studios participate. This competition is for new students who have never competed before! Every studio has a special color they wear. This year the colors are:
    Buffalo Grove-Red
    Burr Ridge-Blue
    West Loop-Purple
    South Barrington- White

    We will have a special guest judge: Mr Jack Davy! 
    Come out and support your Fred Astaire Dance Studio and  cheer on all the new students as they go out on the dance floor and show off their moves. 
    Contact your local studio for more details! We hope to see everyone there!

    Thursday, June 27, 2013

    "Rules" Of Ballroom Dancing

    This blog entree was written by a Fred Astaire Dance Studio employee and we HAD to share with everybody her humor and take on dancing!
    "I attended a friend's wedding over the weekend, and there was quite a bit of dancing at the reception.  This friend is a lieutenant in the United States Air Force, and therefore doesn't have a whole lot of friends who have received formal ballroom dance training.  So, I was delighted to see that there were a handful of guests who had clearly taken some sort of swing or hustle group classes and could manage their way around a social dance.  Watching them dance the night away got me thinking about the "rules" and "regulations" of social dancing that have crept into our ballroom dance community and threatened to steal the fun away from the dance itself.
     One of the "rules" I have heard so many novice and advanced dancers obsess over is the idea that every song only has one dance that is appropriate to use.  In some cases, sure that is true.  If you're at a party, and a Paso Doble starts playing, then you really have no choice then to throw on your cape and stamp your feet.  However, there are plenty of songs out there that have several different dances that could be used.  Let's take, for example, Michael Buble's new song, "Haven't Met You Yet".   You could dance a Foxtrot, an East Coast Swing, a West Coast Swing, or even a Rumba.  How about "Boom Boom Pow" by Black Eyed Peas?  It would be appropriate to dance a Cha Cha, Hustle, or (if your feeling a little dramatic) a Tango!

    When you strip away all the rules, technical restrictions, and the numbers on the men's backs, Ballroom Dance is simply an art form.  For many of us dance is a necessary medium we use to outwardly express an inner feeling.  So, when we are dancing for social reasons, how dare we place so many limitations on ourselves?  If a song comes pumping through the speakers and you feel like dancing a Cha Cha..... Then by all means CHA CHA MY FRIEND!!!

    My point is simply this: We all learned how to dance for different reasons, but I’m guessing the majority of people didn’t learn so they could add more stress in their life or find another list of rules to memorize.  So the next time you take to the floor, take a deep breath and relax.  Focus on the joy, the motion, the music, and the art of Ballroom Dancing.  The moments we do that are the moments that make life worth living."

    Tuesday, June 25, 2013

    Chicago Blackhawks!

    Fred Astaire Illinois could not be any happier for the Chicago Blackhawks! Lord Stanley is home again!!  

    Monday, June 24, 2013

    Health Benefits of Ballroom Dancing!!

    Dancing can give you a great body/mind workout!
    Dancing can help with many things such as:
    • Strengthening bones and muscles without causing joints any pain
    • Since you use your WHOLE body to dance, you tone every part of your body
    • Dancing improves your posture
    • Increases flexibility
    • Dancing increases stamina
    • Reduces stress
    • Builds confidence
    • Dancing also can help prevent illness like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and depression. 
    Call your local Fred Astaire Dance Studio TODAY and sign up for lessons!

    Wednesday, June 19, 2013

    Why Ballroom Dance: Because it makes you SMARTER!

    One of the MANY benefits of ballroom dancing is that it makes you smarter and mentally stronger! 
    A study that was published in the  New England Journal of Medicine shows that stimulating your mind by dancing can prevent Alzheimer's disease and other dementia. Dancing increases cognitive acuity (the ability to think clearly, the ability to reason, and remember) in people of all ages! The study showed that some activities have a higher beneficial rate than others in making your mind
    Reading lowered the risk of dementia by 35%.
    Doing Crossword puzzles 4 times a week lowered the risk by 47%.
    Bicycling, swimming, and golfing played no part in lowering the risk of dementia.
     Dancing lowered the risk of dementia by 76%!! 

    The best way to make your mind stronger is to involve yourself in activities like Ballroom Dancing, which force you to make rapid fire decisions and split second choices.

    Dancing with different partners builds up your cognitive acuity. Dancing with new people forces you to tailor your dancing. Your body and mind have to adjust to your new partner each time, making your mind stronger by thinking!

    The more often you Ballroom Dance the stronger your mind becomes. Frequency is key when strengthening your mind. The sooner you start building up your cognitive acuity, the stronger your mind will become. So start Ballroom Dancing TODAY to live a healthy lifestyle!!

    Tuesday, June 18, 2013

    Why Ballroom Dance??

    There are SO many reasons to Ballroom Dance and I wanted to spend this week talking about the AWESOME health, physical, and mental benefits. 

    Ballroom Dancing is a GREAT way to exercise  without stepping a foot into the gym! Between all the turns, steps, and the movements on the dance floor you burn hundreds of calories! Not only will you be exercising and burning calories but you will also be working on your endurance, flexibility, mental health and strength. 

    Flexibility is SO important while Ballroom Dancing as you want to be able to move and perform intricate dance steps without injuring yourself.

    Ballroom Dancing will work on your endurance, letting your body dance longer  and work harder. With every twist and turn that you do, you are conditioning your body to do those steps with greater ease next time.  

    Having strength is key to Ballroom Dancing and you develop more of it as you keep on dancing. By performing dance moves, spins, and strutting you are making your muscles stronger and gaining body strength.

    Ballroom dancing is done in a group of people which has positive affects on your mental health. Ballroom Dancing classes are THE place to build up your confidence and allows you to establish social ties which gives you a more positive and healthy outlook on life.

    Thursday, June 13, 2013

    DITCH the Treadmill and try ZUMBA!

    Zumba classes feature exotic rhythms set to high-energy Latin and international beats! Before you know it, you are getting fit and your energy levels are soaring! There is no fitness class like a Zumba Fitness-party.  
    1. Loose 800-1000 calories in an hour
    2. Fit in a fun workout into a busy schedule
    3. Burn fat
    4. Maintain a healthy weight
    5. Increase flexibility
    6. Strengthen your heart and lungs
    7. Tone muscles
    8. Gain confidence on the dance floor
    9. Reduce stress/clear your mind
    10. Explore your creative side through dance
     Call your local Fred Astaire Dance Studio TODAY to find  ZUMBA class fits into your schedule!

    Happy Father's Day!!

    Give the gift of health this Father's Day to your dads, grandfathers, uncles, or anyone who is  father figure to you by purchasing a Fred Astaire Gift Certificate!!

    Wednesday, June 12, 2013

    Fred Astaire Website!

    Good afternoon all!! Make sure you check out the Fred Astaire Illinois website! You will be able to get to know our studios better, see EXCLUSIVE offers, find out about our competitions, and look to see what people are saying about Fred Astaire Dance Studios!

    Tuesday, June 11, 2013

    Hi everybody!

    Hey! A blog for Fred Astaire Illinois is something new that we are doing and are very excited about it! This is a new way for us to meet some new people and stay connected with our friends so we are giving blogging a whirl! Fred Astaire Dance Studios have been around for over 65 years. We in Illinois, pride ourselves in the best of ballroom dance instruction.Your local Fred Astaire studio is an expert in full filling all of your dancing needs. We teach social dancing, health and fitness, with a competitive flair. Join us for your healthy lifestyle. While we are figuring things out please "Like" our Facebook page so that you stay up to date on everything.