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Cuba: Moving to the Beat
While many Americans adore music but abhor dancing, Cubans see the two as inseparable. "It's a part of the culture to respond physically to rhythm," says Yvonne Daniel, a dance anthropologist and professor emerita of dance and Afro-American studies at Smith College in Massachusetts. She knows Cuban toddlers who can bang out an accompaniment to the rumba and dance instructors around the world who give special lessons on "Cuban motion," the swaying of the hips that is key to Latin dances. Cubans don't just dance at weddings; they shimmy around their homes, in school (where dance is often part of the curriculum), at clubs, and just about anywhere else they hear music playing. If novice contestants on "Dancing with the Stars" can shed impressive amounts of weight during a short stint (40 pounds for Kelly Osbourne; 100 for Kirstie Alley), that means dance-crazy Cubans are constantly burning calories. The easiest way to get your hips in on the action is to try Zumba, but rumba or salsa lessons, where you dance in street clothes (not Spandex) with a partner, may make you feel more confident about swiveling out on the floor whenever you hear music.