Six of the best: Dancing holidays
As 'Strictly' returns to our television screens, Chantal Cooke discovers there's a world of rug-cutting to be had out there
Sunday 18 September 2011
1. Wendake, Canada
Sacred dances have been performed for centuries by the Huron-Wendat community in Quebec. They are used to give thanks for the harvest and to celebrate the first and thirteenth Moon. The "friendship dance" is the most fun, and was designed to foster links between nations. It's a sedate hokey-cokey set to a slow drum beat, in which you take turns in the centre. Just move back and forth and throw in a few claps. Experience Holidays (0845 230 2131; experienceholidays.co.uk) offers four nights from £874 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights and a day at Wendake with the Huron peoples.
2. Fes, Morocco
It's more about the trance than the dance with the Sufis in Morocco. Traditionally, Sufi Dervishes whirl around, their huge skirts creating a spinning-top effect. This repetition and their focus on God often leads them into a trance. However, for most people it simply means getting terribly dizzy. So, watch the professionals, then join in when the drumming and stamping starts. As the music builds, you'll lose your inhibitions. At the annual Fes Festival in June, Sufi Nights take place in the early hours, so it's advisable to get some rest or dose up on strong Moroccan coffee. Discover Morocco (020-7371 2030; discover-morocco.com) has seven nights from £425 per person, based on two sharing and including return flights and B&B at a luxury riad. Tickets to the Fes Festival, giving access to all events, cost £190 per person.
3. Samburu National Park, Kenya
In an unusual example of tribal solidarity, Samburu and Turkana people live together in a small village within the Samburu National Park. As a visitor, you can join in with the dances of both tribes. Here, elaborate ostrich feather headdresses and heavy beaded necklaces make what is essentially just jumping (for the men) and wobbling your shoulders (for the women) into a stunning display of colour and culture. It's easy to participate; no routines to learn, no fancy steps, just jump as high as you can. But women be warned – those necklaces can weigh up to two kilos (41/2lbs). Kuoni (01306 747008; kuoni.co.uk) offers four nights at Samburu Intrepids from £2,101 per person, based on two sharing, including international and domestic flights and full-board. The village visit is an optional extra at $25 (£16) per person. The fee goes direct to the village school.
4. Vienna, Austria
Dripping with elegance and sophistication, the Vienna Ball Season, which runs from New Year's Eve to early March, is a step back in time. It helps if you know the basics of the waltz, foxtrot, and quick step, but women can get away with being light on their feet and allowing a strong male lead to twirl them around. Full evening dress is essential and for young ladies attending their first ball, it's traditional to wear white. Don't worry if you have two left feet – you can opt for a masked ball and hide your embarrassment behind feathers and sequins. Two nights' B&B at the Hotel Aldstadt (00 43 1 522 6666; hotel-altstadt-vienna.com) costs €329 (£284) per person, including tickets to a ball. British Airways (0871 909 2303; ba.com) offers return flights to Vienna from £117.
5. Chitwan National Park, Nepal
Join the Tharu people of southern Nepal to dance around a bonfire. They favour the use of large sticks, which are twirled around like a cheerleader's baton. As long as you have the strength to hold your stick and bash your partner's, it's a simple routine to learn. Expect to be sorely tested by one dance that resembles the low kicks of the Cossacks. For this you'll need super-strong thighs. A 13-day Himalayan adventure with Families Worldwide (0845 051 4567; familiesworldwide.com), includes the Tharu Stick Dance in Chitwan National Park. Prices start at £1,899 per adult, including return flights, transportation, 10 nights' accommodation and most meals.
6. Various venues, UK
Dancing is a great way to connect with people at home as well as abroad. Join one of the UK's 150-plus Ceroc clubs – fusing salsa, hip-hop, ballroom, tango and jive – and it won't be long before you're flinging yourself around like a pro. Each session starts with a three-move beginners' lesson. The basics are very easy to remember. Etiquette dictates that you don't refuse a dance if you are asked. Ceroc is popular in Australia, New Zealand and in many European countries, so your skills can be put to good use on foreign holidays, too. Check out the nearest Ceroc club (020-8969 4401; ceroc.com). There's a one-off £2 membership fee, but then you can continue on a pay-as-you-go basis with session prices ranging from £6 to £8 per person, depending on location.
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