Ethnic dance classes on Long Island
You can get a good workout traveling around the world without leaving Long Island by dabbling in folk dances from Israel, kicking it Bollywood-style, swaying to the beat of African drums or stepping to Scottish country music until you can almost smell the heather.
Alison Smith, of Harlem, journeys to Valley Stream to experience the energy of West African dance.
"The rush and music just pick you up, and you feel alive," says Smith, 47, who has been dancing at Layla's Dance and Drum studio for more than two years. "You come here, hear the music and see the other dancers, and you just have to dance."
Mimi Petkoff, a financial planner who lives in Huntington, leans toward Turkish folk dance.
"I like the elegance and gracefulness of it," says Petkoff, who says she prefers folk dancing because most dances don't require a partner. "In ballroom dancing, it can be awkward if you go by yourself because maybe no one will ask you to dance."
That's not a problem with these classes, most of which are group dance sessions that also welcome beginners.
Masala Bhangra workout
WHEN | WHERE 12:30-1:30 p.m. and 7-8 p.m. Tuesdays, Island RaQs Studios, 4 New Hyde Park Rd., second floor, Franklin Square
INFO 516-234-2424, islandraqs.com
ADMISSION $20 a class or $90 for five classes
SWEAT FACTOR Wet T-shirt
Masala Bhangra, created by Sarina Jain of Manhattan, combines moves from Bollywood and men's Indian country dancing.
Instructor Stephenie Skaferowsky, who was trained by Jain, says the class is akin to practicing for an Indian wedding celebration. Beginners will find the tutorial pace of the high-energy class easy to follow as moves are demonstrated often and have simple explanatory names like "snake," "celebrate" and "toss a ball."
Scottish country dancing
INFO 631-271-5740, 516-295-2327
SWEAT FACTOR Slightly moist T-shirt
"This is not the Highland dance that many think of, but more the ballroom dancing of Scotland," says instructor Ann Smith, 70, an English native living in Huntington Station. While dancing is done with partners, this is not a "dance with the one who brung you" affair. Couples only dance one or two dances together and are encouraged to dance with others in the group, making it ideal for those who come solo.
West African dance
WHEN | WHERE 3:30-5 p.m. and 5-6:30 p.m. Sundays, Layla's Dance and Drum, 137 Rockaway Ave., Valley Stream
INFO 646-539-8934, facebook.com/laylasdance
ADMISSION $15 per 90-minute class or $18 for both; $70 a month unlimited
SWEAT FACTOR Soaking wet T-shirt
Instructor Lamine Thiam, 41, of Manhattan, not only demonstrates each movement, he explains the tradition and history behind them. "You have to feel the moves with your head because your are part of the movement," says Thiam.
Dancers perform each step multiple times before stringing them together into a routine, making it easier for beginners.
ALSO TRY African dance at 3-D Dance Studios in Deer Park, (1:30-2:15 p.m. Saturdays, 770-06 Grand Blvd., 631-595-2618, daphnesdivinedance.com, $12 a class) where you'll learn both African and Afro-Caribbean moves.
International and Israeli Folk Dancing
WHEN | WHERE 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesdays at R.J.O. Intermediate School, 99 Old Dock Rd., Kings Park; also 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesdays (mid-June to mid-September) at Harborfields Public Library, 31 Broadway, Greenlawn
SWEAT FACTOR Dry T-shirt
Whether you're leaning toward Israeli, Greek, Russian, Bulgarian or good old American country and Western dancing, you'll be right at home in this eclectic class. Linda Kay, who has taught the class for 23 years, calls out the steps while simultaneously demonstrating them. Twenty to 30 dancers regularly encircle her. Beginners are welcome and usually are sandwiched between experienced dancers to help them learn the steps.