Best places to get dance fever
Today, pageants, competitions, and foundations in Hawaii preserve the indigenous art form of hula. (Emily Riddell/LPI)
Leave the wallflowers behind and learn from the professionals in these hometowns of high-energy dances.
Flamenco: Andalucía, Spain
Few parts of Europe are as romantic as Andalucía, with its mountains and whitewashed villages, and the Spanish region is also home to one of the most beguiling dances. Flamenco conjures up images of olive-skinned beauties swirling to a percussively played guitar, clicking castanets and clapping. In cities such as Seville, Cádiz and Granada, you can learn how to flick your ruffled dress like a proud senorita or stomp your feet like a Córdoban hat-wearing hunk. The schools cater to all levels of interest – from flamenco fanatics to travellers who are equally interested in sampling the local jamón (ham).
Do not miss Granada's famous Moorish fortress, the Alhambra. Seville's Feria de Abril (spring fair) begins two weeks after Semana Santa (Easter holy week).
Tango: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Argentina is justifiably beloved for its mix of old-world melancholy and Latin passion, and the national dance form is certainly no exception. Tango originated in the working-class neighbourhoods of the Argentinean capital, which is a great place to learn some dance steps. With Buenos Aires' porteños (residents) cruising along the city's avenues during the day, most classes take place in the evening. Follow the accordion music to a milonga (tango venue or event) to learn moves including the giro (turn) and ocho (figure eight traced with the feet). There are usually dozens on offer, catering to the throngs of dance-loving milongueros.
Buenos Aires' Tango Festival and World Cup takes place in August; the City Dance Championship is in May.
Breakdance: New York, United States
In the more than 30 years since New York's b-boys broke out the first hip hop moves, breakdance has entered the mainstream and courses have started. Many classes are geared towards locals rather than tourists, although the NYC Hip Hop Dance Company welcomes walk-ins at its weekly lessons near Times Square. It takes a lot of practice and press-ups to master the key manoeuvres – toprock, downrock, power moves, freezes and suicides – but what a city to study the art of breaking. Nightly inspiration is found in the clubs, where you might see legs and arms flying in a breakdance battle.
Explore New York's hip hop history with a Hush tour or lunch at Queens' Hollis Famous Burgers and Hip Hop Museum (20103 Hollis Avenue).
Capoeira: Bahia, Brazil
Capoeira has spread around the world from northeast Brazil, where African slaves developed the fusion of dance and martial arts, but Bahia remains its heartland. Workshops, run by capoeira mestres (masters) in state capital Salvador da Bahia, are just one way the city is keeping its Afro-Brazilian heritage alive. Capoeira circles form on the plazas at night, and the action intensifies during festivals, when the colonial buildings act as a backdrop for frenzied drum circles. If the martial arts aspect sounds off-putting, do not worry. The sparring is generally playful and little physical contact is involved.
Salvador da Bahia (often shortened to plain old Bahia) is connected to Rio de Janeiro, some 1,300km southwest, by bus and plane.
Hula: Hawaii, United States
As if anyone needed another reason to go to Hawaii, the home of atolls, coral reefs, beaches and sunworshippers, it is also the birthplace of hula. Popular culture is full of saccharine images of island princesses swaying beneath the palms, but hula began as an accompaniment to chants containing oral history. At a halau hula (school), a kumu hula (teacher) will instruct you in the Polynesian dance form's various moves, which symbolise aspects of Hawaiian life such as ocean voyages and volcanic eruptions. Though many male visitors may be reluctant to wear a loincloth, hula is also performed by men.