Five, six, seven, eight!

One of the Tullahoma Parks and Recreation’s newest fitness options is offering patrons a chance to put on their dancing shoes and step into a kick-line while bettering their overall health.

According to instructor Chelsea Knutson, her ShowDance fitness class is an “energetic” way for people to use their muscles in a different way.

“ShowDance is … designed to strengthen muscles we don’t use on a regular basis,” Knutson said. “I do this class so all those who attend will gain better balance, posture and mobility and learn dance moves they can take with them to other dance venues.”

According to Aquatics Director Sheila Rico, who also coordinates the fitness classes, Knutson’s class was one the center was looking for after losing its Zumba personnel.

“We were offering Zumba several times a week, but we lost our Zumba instructor,” Rico said. “We were looking for some dance fitness instructors, and [Knutson] came to us.”

Knutson has only been teaching the class for a few weeks, but she’s no stranger to dancing. She received her training from the National Dance Clubs in Murfreesboro, a full-service dance studio and dance club. The group teaches dance lessons in myriad styles, including ballroom, Latin, swing and general social dancing through one-on-one lessons, group sessions and private practice parties. The group has been in operation since 1984, according to the NDC website.

Though she received her official ballroom dance training five years ago, Knutson said she’s always been dancing in one form or another.

“I have been dancing different styles of dance my whole life,” she said.

Knutson pairs her moves with popular music, from classic love songs like Etta James’ “At Last” to energetic grooves like Elvis Presley’s “Devil in Disguise” and even spicier songs, teaching her patrons each individual step before combining everything and dancing it out in a fun way.

“Everybody really likes it,” Rico said of Knutson’s class. “She’s a good teacher. It’s a class you can just walk into that day and be able to follow her directions and be able to participate very easily.”

Rico praised Knutson’s “clear instructions” as one of the foundational aspects of it, saying that because of her clear guidance, Knutson is able to work with anyone – even people who have never danced before.

“It’s not a class that you have to build upon,” Rico said.


Diverse styles

Knutson said she enjoys teaching people different forms of dance that they can take to other aspects of their lives, but she also enjoys the health benefits the class can bring.

 “There are different sides of everyone, and it is really fun to express a different aspect of yourself with each dance move,” Knutson said.

Some of the dances Knutson can teach include the waltz, the foxtrot and the samba. Each of those dances bring out a certain quality in her dancers, be it grace (waltz), sass (foxtrot) or some saucy hip movements (samba), she said.

All the music she uses is paired with a specific dance, allowing her students to expand their repertoire of dance moves. Knutson said she particularly enjoys seeing people who didn’t believe they could dance at all excel in her class.

“This class really proves they can,” she said. “I really like expanding their idea of who they think they are and help them add beautiful facets to themselves.”

One of Knutson’s personal favorites to teach is the waltz, she said.

“It is so beautiful and elegant,” she said. “I feel like Cinderella when I dance it.”


Health benefits

According to Knutson, her dance fitness class not only increases people’s libraries dance moves – it can also better their overall health and fitness.

“Learning ballroom choreography will not only improve your physical well-being; it will improve your mental health as well,” she said.

Dancing uses the mind as well as the body, Knutson said, which can have positive impacts on brain health and possibly reduce the risk of dementia in some people.

According to WebMD, a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that frequent dancers had a “reduced risk” of dementia compared to those who “rarely or never danced.” Of 11 different physical activities considered in the study, only dancing was tied to a lower dementia risk.

In general, dancing increases blood flow to the brain due to physical exercise, but it also presents “mental challenges” in the form of memorizing steps and working with a partner.

Practicing these skills also leads to less stress, depression and loneliness, since ballroom dancing requires a partner, according to WebMD.


Fun for all

Besides the physical and mental health benefits, Knutson said ballroom dance is just plain fun. With her style of teaching, people of all ages are encouraged to stop by and try out the class.

“I have always said my goal is to teach the world to dance because of all the benefits people gain if they do,” Knutson said. “So come and bring your mom and dad, your aunts and uncles, your neighbors and your teenagers.”

Knutson’s class takes place from 8 to 9 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday at D.W. Wilson Community Center. The center is located at 501 N. Collins St. For class pricing, contact 931-455-1121.

Erin McCullough may be reached at