10 Dance Inspired Workouts + What to Wear to Each

Dance Inspired Workouts

Get your groove on from belly dancing to bhangra, hip-hop to hula.

In honor of last week’s 22nd season premiere of Dancing With The Starsand the upcoming 13th season of So You Think You Can Dance, we’ve {un}covered 10 dance-inspired workouts to get your groove on whether belly dancing Shakira-style, channeling your inner Misty Copeland in ballet-inspired barre or taking dance techniques to new heights climbing silks or dangling from the trapeze. Plus, we’ve paired a few apropos picks to wear to each to keep you feeling fit, stylish and confident wherever the dance floor (or otherwise) takes you.

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The Workout: Barre


This ballet-inspired total body workout aims to enhance flexibility, improve balance and develop long, lean muscles sans bulk through a combination of muscle conditioning, cardio, stretching, and core work pulled from elements of yoga and pilates. Isometric strength training on the barre itself (holding your body still while you contract a specific set of muscles) combines with high reps of small range-of-motion movements to truly put you in tip top gear. (Photo source, above image.)

What to Wear:  Think form-fitting, but still comfy. Your instructor will thank you when he/she doesn’t have to search for you underneath a baggy t-shirt when potentially correcting your body’s position. Wear leggings or capris (skip the shorts) and wear sticky socks with gripper lining to avoid a slip up – literally.

Our Picks: Sweaty Betty Passe Dance Unitard in Charcoal Grey ($165.00), SHASHI Star Regular Toe in Black ($18.00), Ballet Beautiful Stretch-Jersey Leotard in Black ($60.00), Alo Yoga Goddess Legging in Purple Pennant/Stormy Heather ($94.00), Repetto Ladies Wrap Top in Light Grey ($86.00)

[Related: Barre to Boudoir to Beyond: 27 Pieces of Lingerie-Inspired Activewear]


The Workout: Belly Dance

Belly Dancing Workout

We already know that hips don’t lie – now it’s time to make them roll, dip and pivot (yes, pivot). While it may not seem like it at first, the art of belly dance is based on movements that already come naturally to the body. Once you shake out your inner Shakira you’ll be targeting muscles anywhere and everywhere, from your abs, back and glutes to your quads and hamstrings. Expect improved posture, muscle tone, body awareness and even a boost in aiding digestion. (Photo source, above image.)

What to Wear: There’s no strict dress code required to get your shimmy and shake on, but leaning towards the body conscious side vs. super baggy is preferred so your instructor can see how your body is moving. Feel free to go barefoot or slide on a pair of soft jazz shoes, ballet slippers or sticky socks (so you won’t go sliding). While it’s not required, adding a spangly hip scarf will truly complete the look.

Our Picks: Yak & Yeti Harem Yoga Pant in Teal ($29.95), Joe Fresh Space Dye Tank with Built-in Shelf Bra ($19.00), Miss Belly Dance Small Length Chiffon Multi-Row Hip Scarf in Maroon ($12.99), Leo’s Adult Ballet Russe Full Sole Ballet Slippers ($13.65), GapFit Low Impact Reversible Sports Bra in Black ($34.95)


The Workout: Zumba

Zumba Workout

This Latin-inspired cardio dance workout feels more like a party than a visit to the gym. Fast aerobic moves including quick turns, jumps and wide lateral movements paired with contagious, upbeat music from salsa and cumbia to merengue and hip hop is not only an effective calorie and fat burner, but a major mood booster too. Be prepared for a full body workout as you dance your way to just about every one of your muscle groups. (Photo source, above image.)

What to Wear:  You’ll be sweating within the first few songs, so look for attire that can handle the perspiration – and pack a towel. Any comfortable, loose and/or easy-to-move-in gym gear fit the bill, and make sure to have on a solid pair of sneaks for the jumping, turning and otherwise grooving you’ll be doing across the dance floor.  

Our Picks: MICHI Cayman Crop Hoodie in Black Croc ($155.00), Vimmia Maverick Bra in Pixel ($84.00), Lucy Lets Jet Pant in Black ($89.00), Nesh V-Neck Tee in White ($98.00), Body Angel Activewear Cargo Leggings in Royal Blue ($90.00)

[Related: Shop For a Cause: 7 Active Wear Brands That Give Back, Year Round]


The Workout: Aerial Silks

Aerial Silks Workout

Not just for Cirque du Soleil performers, silks will bring out your inner acrobat and aerial dancer with a rewarding total body workout strengthening your upper body, core, balance and flexibility. Classes involve climbing, twisting, spinning, dropping, hanging and otherwise supporting yourself on two long ribbons of fabric suspended from the ceiling – requiring a considerable amount of strength and coordination to hold up your body weight. While beginner moves will start at a mere 12 inches off the ground, advanced moves will take you upwards of 20 feet high. (Photo source, above image.)

What to Wear:  Look for footless tights or leggings as shoes and socks aren’t allowed on silks, and make sure they cover the backs of your knees. (Otherwise, hello silk burn.) Wear a top that’s fitted or one you can tuck in to prevent it from falling over your face while inevitably dangling upside down, and belts and jewelry are a no-no – unless you want to shred the silk you’re climbing on.

Our Picks: Splits59 Brigitte Supplex Support Bra in Black/Mercer/Solar ($58.00), GRACEDBYGRIT Delicious Tank in Yellow ($46.00), Jala Clothing Dancer Capri in Black ($84.00), Chill by Will Passion Top in White ($79.00), Lululemon Beyond Boundaries Onesie in Black ($118.00)


The Workout: Nia


Nia offers a low-impact, high energy workout blending dance-cardio, martial arts and healing arts (including yoga) to get you fit in body, mind, emotion, and spirit. Get ready to utilize whole-body, expressive and grounded movements – no repetitive jogging or lifting here. Hailed as “to exercise what holistic medicine is to healthcare,” Nia not only aims to leave you feeling energized, mentally clear and emotionally balanced, but may even improve conditions such as asthma and depression as well.  (Photo source, above image.)

What to Wear: Low-impact, relaxed workout attire is welcome, meaning feel free to wear your coziest of yoga duds. And no need for socks and shoes once in class – Nia is typically practiced barefoot.

Our Picks: Beyond Yoga Shimmer Keyhole Bra in Black Silver Foil ($73.00), Old Navy High Rise Compression Crops in Ultraviolet ($29.94), Forever 21 Active Mesh-Paneled Pullover in White ($15.90), Fabletics Naaru Short in Heather Grey ($9.97), Lolë Women Fira Tank Top in Black ($39.00)


The Workout: Bollywood & Bhangra

Bollywood Dance Workout

Fast paced, energetic and explosive Bollywood & Bhangra workouts stem from their originating dance, music and film cultures out of Mumbai and the Punjabi region in northwestern India, respectively. These high-impact dance cardio workouts are powerful calorie burners (up to 500 an hour) as you jump, lunge and shimmy your way through bhangra skips, side-to-side glides, overhead arm pulses, muscle isolations and further total-body movements. Expect increased body awareness, muscle memory, circulation and coordination, among other benefits. (Photo source, above image.)

What to Wear: Any comfortable active wear fits the bill here, from form-fitting sports bras and leggings to baggy t-shirts and relaxed sweats. Although you can dance barefoot, some classes may instruct you to wear sneaks or ballet slippers to better support your tootsies. 

Our Picks: Spiritual Gangster Soul Searcher Coachella Tank in Popsicle ($48.00), Terez Zip Pocket Sweatpants in Black ($106.00), Pure Lime Seamless Bra in Green ($24.50), Monreal Striped Airstream Tank ($210.00), Lucas Hugh Colour Bolt Sport Leggings in Violet ($260.00)

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The Workout: Trapeze

Trapeze Workouts

Remember that episode of Sex and the City when Carrie faced her fear of heights by soaring on the trapeze? Get ready for your own high-flying moment with this cross-training workout that will not only engage your upper body and core, but your lower back, glutes and thighs as well. Plus, dangling from the air trying to be as graceful as possible will also teach you a thing or three about timing, body control and air awareness. (Photo source, above image.)

What to Wear:  Unless you’re a pro, you’re bound to fall into the safety net at least once – so it’s a good idea to keep your knees, shoulders and toes covered to eliminate the possibility of net-burn. The safety harness you’ll be wearing over your shirt means you don’t have to worry about your top flipping over your head mid-air, but nonetheless better to keep it on the slightly snug side vs. the super baggy side. Tights, yoga pants or even joggers work well, and bring a pair of socks. Oh – and remember to have your hair tied up and out of the way while it’s getting some serious wind action.

Our Picks: Koral Lattice Versatility Bra ($125.00), Lanston Fitted Muscle Tee in Grey ($71.00), Teeki Fairy Bath Yoga Leggings ($72.00), GRACEBYGRIT Tech Top in Grey Colorblock ($64.00), Stance Move Low Socks in Turquoise ($12.00)


The Workout: Hula

Hawaiian Hula Workout

Originating from the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands, traditional hula dancing has evolved into its own modern-day fitness trend yielding increased body awareness, balance and self-confidence. Set to funky remixes of traditional Polynesian drum beats, this low impact workout increases muscle strength and definition by engaging the abs, glutes, quads, and arms. Easy to follow and fun to try, hula fitness will leave you feeling strong and sexy…not to mention ready for a trip to Maui. (Photo source, above image.)

What to Wear: Feel free to don either figure hugging or loose pieces, so long as they move with you for pre and post-class stretching. No specific footwear needed as most classes are held barefoot, and if you really want to go the extra mile – tie a pa’u skirt or lava lava (sarong) around your waist for a traditional look.

Our Picks: Mara Hoffman Racerback Tank Top ($128.00) and Cropped Legging ($28.00) in Peacefield Navy, The Upside Be You Issy Tank ($99.00), Alexis Mera Cortelyou Jogger Pant in Rio Palm Print ($94.00), Lava Hut Single Pa’u Hawaiian Hula Skirt in Lehua Yellow ($49.00), L*Space Pareo ($89.00)

[Related: Designer Dossier: {un}covering Alexis Mera]


The Workout: Pole

Pole Dancing Workout

Get ready to bring out your inner femme fatale: pole workouts blend strength, endurance, flexibility and serious core activation through a series of twisting, twirling and climbing maneuvers not only leaving you seriously toned, but feeling pretty darn sexy as well. Counting benefits like elevated balance, coordination and self confidence, this total body + mind workout has us saying pass the pole. (Photo source, above image.)

What to Wear:  Unlike silks where it’s recommended to cover the backs of your knees, many pole studios recommend shorts to get a better grip. (Although be forewarned: pole burn is real here as well.) In general any comfortable workout attire will do, from yoga pants, capris and joggers to sports bras, tees and tanks. Just make sure whatever top you’re donning isn’t too baggy that it’ll fall over your head when you flip upside down. Anything goes as far as footwear, from sneaks to socks to barefoot to yes – a pair of killer heels.

Our Picks: Blue Life Fit Perforated Contrast Bra in Ultramarine ($88.00), Onzie Warrier Muscle Tank in Black ($44.00), Karma Athletics Erica Short in Black ($48.00), Lanston Mesh Combo Legging in Navy ($143.00), Monreal Booty Boost Shorts in Neon Pink ($135.00)


The Workout: Hip Hop

Hip Hop Workouts

Get ready to pop, lock and drop it: this street adapted workout combines hard-hitting dance moves with muscle strengthening, body isolations, and further total-body aerobic activity to have your heart pumping in no time. Once you master individual moves, get ready to get your swagger on when you put them to the test in a fully choreographed dance routine. (Photo source, above image.)

What to Wear: You want to move with ease, so wear attire on the relaxed/baggy end. Think simple sweats with an oversized tee, or don a pair of harem pants with a tank. Sneakers are a must, and the more worn in, the better.

Our Picks: good hYOUman Move Move Move The Aguilera Tank ($38.00), Alala Swell Crop Tank in Electric Stone ($75.00), MICHI Imperial Harem Pant in Black ($175.00), Monrow Bleach Out Sweats in Vintage Black ($135.00), Phat Buddha East River Vest in Black ($122.00)