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Dance Contempra

Leaving it All on the Floor

Satin-clad feet pirouetting under the shade of an ethereal tutu come to mind when most people think of ballet. Ballet is a beautiful art form. But it’s also an excellent addition to fitness regimens. Paola (pronounced Powla) Jenkins, owner of Peachtree City’s Dance Contempra dance studio, considers dance both an art and a sport. “There are days that I come in and I just want to sweat it out,” she said. “On those days I teach differently than on days when I’m trying to get the kids to tap into their emotions.” Born to Italian parents who immigrated to Argentina and later to Georgia, Jenkins learned the benefits of dance at an early age from her grandmother, a professional tango dancer in Argentina. “My first memory was dancing with my grandmother,” she said. “It was in my blood. I was born a dancer.” After studying dance at Georgia State University, Jenkins opened Dance Contempra, named after her favorite brand of pointe shoes. At the time, it was the only dance studio on the south side of Atlanta offering contemporary ballet as the popularity of classical ballet was waning. “We fuse things together with classical ballet to give it a fresh approach to draw in people who might think ballet is not for them,” she said. As Dance Contempra marks its 18th year, Jenkins is still passionate about the benefits of dance for children and adults. For children, who can start as soon as they’re potty trained, Jenkins said dance builds confidence. “It lets you really know where your body placement is,” she said. Jenkins also said dance helps kids do better in school.“Dancing makes them able to concentrate when they need to sit down,” she said. “It really does help focus.” She added that a commitment to dance improves the ability to juggle tasks as adults. “Dance parallels so many life skills that you need,” she said. For adults, Dance Contempra offers open level, easy-to-follow classes—no dance experience, special equipment or shoes needed. “It’s just you and the floor and your body,” she said, “pure ballet technique.”

As exercise, Jenkins compares dance to high-intensity interval training and said a typical dance class can burn about 500 calories. “It’s comparable to football,” she said. “It’s just as strenuous.” Dance not only exercises the body; it exercises the mind through the recall required to put steps together in choreography. “It makes dance one of the best exercises you can do,” Jenkins said. “It gives you stretch, the mental food you need to exercise your brain, the coordination, the balance, the poise. “If you look at a dancer, dancers don’t age normally,” she said. The same grandmother who taught Jenkins to dance is living proof. You’d never think she was 92,” Jenkins said. “She’s still dancing.” Jenkins said it’s never too late to start using dance to improve health. “I had one woman who was over 70 who saw a lot of gains in fitness,” she said. “I don’t think there’s an age limit.” An added benefit of dance is stress relief and help for those with anxiety. “You have the ability to lose yourself and find yourself in dance,” Jenkins said. “We have a saying here that if you’re having a bad day, you come in and leave it all on the floor.”