How to Get Fit With African Dance

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KUKUWA African Dance Class

KUKUWA Class
New York Health & Racquet Club

KUKUWA®, a new group fitness classed offered at New York Health & Racquet Club, is an energetic and educational exploration of Africa through authentic African dance. 

The class offers a fusion of African dance styles, enabling you to virtually travel the continent while exploring music and dance culture, all without your passport. The workout is composed of body isolations, from your head all the way down to your feet, allowing you to move every muscle while achieving a total body workout.

While every class is different (and you really do need to try it yourself to get a feel for the experience), you can click through the slideshow to check out exclusive directions for performing general KUKUWA® movements. Practice the movements on your own and string them together to create your own, home-based African dance class. It won't be quite as cool as the real thing, but it'll at least give you a taste of the experience.

For additional information on KUKUWA® and over 600 New York Health & Racquet Club weekly classes, visit NYHRC.com.

About the Author and KUKUWA Instructor, Cassandra Nuamah

Cassandra Nuamah, aka "Coach Cass" is a certified trainer and wellness coach. After losing 50 pounds and transforming her lifestyle, her mission is to help individuals, groups and organizations live happier and healthier lives. Cassandra has given a variety of wellness seminars, group fitness classes and workshops on the topics of healthy living, positive thinking, de-stressing, time management and fit body strategy to organizations and groups all over the world. She teaches an African Dance Workout called Kukuwa® African Dance Workout (kukuwafitness.com) created by her mother, Kukuwa. Cassandra and her mother organize yearly Wellness and Cultural excursions to different countries in Africa, so people can experience the continent. They also travel the world certifying instructors in Kukuwa® African Dance Workout and making the fit and healthy lifestyle contagious, African style.

To receive weekly wellness tips and motivation from Cassandra, and more information on her next group wellness and cultural African group trip, sign up on her site at wellnesswithcoachcass.comYou can also follow her on social media at @coachcassfit on Instagram, @cass321on Twitter, and facebook.com/wellnesswithcoachcass on Facebook where she posts daily motivation and workouts. She's also on YouTube as: Cassandra Nuamah

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African Dance Leg and Foot Movements

KUKUWA Legs and Feet
New York Health & Racquet Club

There are several movements of the legs and feet that are central to KUKUWA®, and each dance has its own unique actions. Below are a few of the basic leg and foot movements found in KUKUWA®.

Kwa Wo Ho

  • Begin by moving the right foot forward, then bring the left foot next to it.
  • Turn all the way around to the left by pivoting your feet.
  • Do the same in the opposite direction, and pivot your feet all the way around until you’re back to facing the front of the room.

Heel to Boombsey

  • Bend your leg until your heel touches your glute (boombsey).

Baby Steps

  • Place one foot in front of the other while bending at the waist and slowly walking forward.

Single-Single-Double-Double

  • Move your feet one, two, then double step on your each foot again.

One-Two-Three-Step

  • Step back with your right leg, then immediately step forward on the same foot.
  • Simultaneously step on the left leg, then immediately step forward on the same foot.

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African Dance Arm Movements

KUKUWA Arms
New York Health & Racquet Club

The arms are a huge part of African storytelling and help differentiate one movement from another. The hands may be positioned above the head, either clasped or unclasped. They may also be positioned to the side, above the knees, by the ankles, around the waist, behind the head, on the shoulders, in front of the chest, or bent toward each other. 

Try performing each of the foot and leg movements with each of the arm positions to get a feel for the way arm engagement changes each step.

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African Dance Head and Neck Movements

KUKUWA Head and Neck
New York Health & Racquet Club

The head and neck are very important to African dance. Unlike Western dances that keep the head still, many African dances involve forward and backward head movements. This is done simultaneously with other parts of the body. The head always follows the direction of the arms in the African dance. If the dance movement involves arms moving to the right, then the head will move in the same direction. By the end of the class, every participant realizes the authenticity and therapeutic nature of engaging the head and neck through dance.

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African Dance Torso and Pelvis Movement

African Dance Torso Movements
Getty Images/Granger Wootz

This combination contributes to the aesthetics of African dance. The torso and pelvis are moved forward and back, side-to-side, and even in a circular motion. In many dances you find that, within a second, the torso and pelvis will have moved three times in rapid succession. This adds up to great core strength!

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