Indulging Members' Passion For Dance, New Clubs Thrive

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Indulging Members' Passion For Dance, New Clubs Thrive

The hall is full of the heat emanating from 22 bodies moving in rhythm to a passionate Latin tune. These dancers are taking a lesson at Dance With Me, a Seoul "sports dance" club. Beginners are trying to get the hang of the steps, and the more experienced are polishing their skills.

Ballroom dance has long suffered from a tarnished image in Korea. This is largely due to the fashion among older Koreans to engage in "social dance" or "cabaret" dance classes, which have a tawdry, sometimes seedy, association. Ballroom dance has been renamed "sports dance" to give it a cleaner, healthier image, as it makes a comeback among younger people in Korea.

"What do I think of sports dance? It is totally different from social dance. Sports dance is the most vigorous and exciting thing in the world," says Kim Jong-hwan, 33, who joined Dance With Me three months ago. Mr. Kim has lost 8 kilograms (about 18 pounds) since he joined the club, and is an enthusiastic convert to sports dance.

Dance With Me was opened last September by Kim Sun-jae, the club's organizer, who wanted a sports dance club for people in their 30s. Before opening his own club, he said, he attended other clubs, where most members were in their twenties. But, he explained, he felt uncomfortable around younger people and decided to organize a "club of our own." The club now has 370 members.

Sports dance is rapidly gaining popularity among young Koreans - so much so that it is sometimes accused of causing a chumbaram, (dance "wind" or fever). Chumbaram is an expression used in Korea to describe - or denigrate - the behavior of people considered to be overly interested in dancing. These days, many cafes located in areas popular with youth, such as Apgujeong-dong, Daehakro, or Hongdae, provide dance floors to accommodate this new passion for dance, particularly for Latin dances, such as salsa, rumba and samba. There has also been an increase in the number of Internet sites dedicated to sports dance. In fact, Mr. Kim of Dance With Me joined over the Internet.

Credited with sparking the new dance craze is Latin dancer and singer Ricky Martin. A Japanese film by Masayuki Suo, "Shall We Dance?," about a middle-aged man who finds meaning in his life through ballroom dancing, also fueled interest in ballroom dance here and in Japan. Classes and lessons on sports dance have become some of the most popular programs at educational and sports centers.

Dance With Me offers lessons every Thursday between 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. and members of the club gather on Mondays and Fridays to practice. The dance program costs 45,000 won ($35) a month. For more information, visit the club's Web site at (Korean service only - be sure to include a capital 'd,' as the address is case-sensitive). Those who do not speak Korean can contact Isabel for more information on classes at 011-280-0649.

Another Korean-language Web site,, offers further information on sports dance.

by Kim Sae-joon

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