Yes, You Can Dance With Arthritis

Dancing with the Stars’ Louis Van Amstel tells how to have fun on the dance floor—minus the pain.

Linda Childers
Photo Credit: ©(ABC/CRAIG SJODIN)

Emmy-nominated choreographer Louis Van Amstel has a lot of fancy footwork on tap: He’s teamed with singer and actress Sabrina Bryan for the fall 2012 season—and first all-star version—of Dancing with the Stars (DWTS), which features previous champs and fan favorites from the past 14 seasons for a winner-take-all showdown.

And while Louis speaks fondly of his eight previous DWTS partners—including actress Kelly Osbourne, who lost 20 pounds during her stint on the show—he’s especially proud of one of his latest students: “My mom!” he says. “She suffers from osteoarthritis (OA) in her knee and recently started taking my dance classes.”

The most gratifying part, reveals Louis, is how much better his mom says she feels afterward. “Dancing is the perfect exercise—you get a full-body workout, can lose excess weight, improve your muscle tone and joint mobility, increase endurance and strengthen your bones,” notes the 40-year-old dancer.

And if you’re thinking all that twisting and turning would only aggravate your joints, Louis says that won’t be the case if you pace yourself and are mindful of proper techniques. “Many people who take my classes are baby boomers who have some form of arthritis. Most of them can work around mild symptoms, but if a particular dance move causes pain, I show them how to modify it—or how to slow it down,” says Louis, who has also shown competitive dancers how to wow the judges on So You Think You Can Dance. “If students feel uncomfortable doing a step such as the cha-cha because it’s causing knee pain, I’d rather see them only do two out of the seven dance moves and just work on keeping the rhythm.”

We asked Louis to share a few simple adjustments that can help you sidestep joint pain and merengue to your heart’s content. Just be sure to check with your healthcare provider before hitting the dance floor.

October 2012