Are you looking for a new way to add spice to your water fitness program? Try adding dance elements. Aqua Dance captivates the joy of movement and the expression of life through integrating world rhythms and music. The fusion of aquatic fitness with dance-based choreography will give you, as an instructor, a movement base free from the boundaries of geography and gravity, limited only by the possibilities of the human form.

Aqua Dance Details

Format: aquatic fitness

Total Time: approximately 45–60 minutes

Equipment Needed: This class uses EnerQi flow scarves to provide a “drag and flow” dimension. The scarves are made of a wrinkle-free nylon blend that dries quickly and are approximately 2 yards long and 8–10 inches wide.

Music: Select from a wide variety of world music based on the dance style
you choose.

Additional Considerations

  • Know participants’ agility and fitness levels so you can make appropriate movement and music selections. Always give level options.
  • Choose land-based dance moves, slow them down and adjust them to fit into a water-based format. Get in the water and try the movements out personally before teaching.
  • Alternate difficult moves with easier patterns, both in intensity and difficulty.
  • Keep movement patterns simple and flowing. Increase intensity by increasing range of motion (ROM). Remember, in the water, even small changes in hand position, ROM and speed can exponentially change the intensity level.
  • Neutralize movements before transitioning to a new move and before any directional change.
  • Depending on your participants’ ability and fitness levels, perform jumping and leaping moves in a stationary position before doing travel or rebound movements.

Warm-Up (7–10 minutes)

The warm-up incorporates dynamic movements and active stretches for both the upper and lower body, and also utilizes movements for large and small muscle groups. Include full-ROM exercises with a variety of lever lengths on all planes of motion. The warm-up is a good time to integrate spatial awareness, tempo changes and energy use. Provide participants with a rehearsal effect, and work in neutral, rebound or suspended positions. Give participants time to adjust to the buoyancy factor; this will help them stay in the appropriate planes of work.


  • stationary movements (arms and legs): sculling; directional patterns: front, back, side, up, down, circles, spirals, figure eights (working in unison and in opposition);
  • suspended movements (tuck positions), pike positions (extended leg-ups);
  • locomotor movements (walks, runs, hops, jumps, leaps, chassés, rocking horses, traveling jumping jacks).


  • Walk forward 4–8 counts; walk backward 4–8 counts. Repeat in all directions (side, back, side);
  • Sway side to side, arms bent at elbows, scull in unison side to side;
  • Do Charleston: step kick front, step touch back, arms moving in opposition to legs;
  • Do traveling jumping jacks, nonrebound, rebound, suspended;
  • Perform a slow, large step to the side, arms extended on a diagonal (add shake or jazzy hands to add zest);
  • Bring feet together, elbows to side; repeat opposite side.

Repeat a few times before increasing ROM and intensity; add runs instead of walks and then suspension and locomotor skills.

Cardio Dance—Work Phase (20 minutes)

This section elevates heart rate and increases respiration rate. Participants should be able to maintain this level for an extended period of time. Try to fully capture the essence of the culture whose dance you are presenting, rhythmically, musically or through choreographed music. This sample class focuses on African dance, but you can explore many other cultures: American square dancing and Celtic and Latin dancing, for example.

African Dance

This style of dancing is all about letting go and getting grounded. African rhythm and dance touches the soul and provides us with a powerful rhythmical stimulus. Movement possibilities include

  • isolation: hips, shoulders, rib cage; repeat a few times;
  • loose, swinging, rocking horse: front and back or side to side; repeat a few times;
  • travel step to side: slow, fast, nonrebound, rebound;
  • pumping arms and shoulders: raise bent arms at elbows right (R), left (L), R, L; and
  • pushing arms: arms held chest-high to front, hands flexed; return to center four times while allowing the body to let go and release; repeat, traveling to other side.

Suspension Work

  • jumping jack: out and in (neutralize center);
  • add suspension on tuck jump, then add total suspension for the entire jumping jack;
  • cross-country ski (neutralize center): jump R leg forward, jump together or center; repeat L;
  • add suspension on the center jump (tuck jump), then add suspension for the entire cross-country ski movement;
  • repeat series;
  • add slow shimmies while walking in a circle or jump forward four to eight times, then jump backward four to eight times; and
  • tuck jump, reach both legs forward to land, pull water in opposite direction.

Repeat from the beginning.

Focus Phase
(10–15 minutes)

This phase integrates movement and rhythm and is designed to harmonize body, mind and sprit using the EnergyQi flow scarves. Experiment with the scarves in the water before you teach. To ensure safety, fold scarves in half before opening them up to their full length. A folded scarf creates less drag and resistance than a fully opened scarf. Folded scarves give participants a rehearsal effect. This portion of the program allows you to let go, enjoy the rhythmical experience and be present in the moment. Use the principles of flow (liquid fluidity), fluid range of motion and cross-diagonal patterning.

Flow Patterns

  • side to side
  • front and back
  • circles (large, slow; small, fast)
  • spirals
  • figure eights
  • kayak (rowing) movements
  • cylinder (begin small and make the movement progressively larger or vice versa)
  • around the world (travel side step R, extend opposite leg)
  • arm drag (extend R arm slightly behind and run or walk L; repeat opposite direction)

Repeat opposite side.

Group Dynamics

Join scarves in the middle forming an “X” (each participant holds her own scarf). Movement patterns include

  • jumping jacks, in unison with partner;
  • cross-country ski, in opposition with partner;
  • pendulum, side to side, in unison with partner;
  • jumping jacks and suspended tuck jumps;
  • swaying side to side with scarf, in unison with partner;
  • around the world (keeping scarves in the water), in unison with partner; and
  • holding scarves above head and running in a circle.

Scarves can also be joined into groups of four to eight. Movements same as above.

Cool-Down (5 minutes)

Use this time to allow the body, mind and spirit to become calm and relaxed. Once heart and respiration rates have returned to an appropriate level, begin stretching. Think of movements you’ve performed throughout the workout, and give particular care to stretch muscles appropriately. The scarves can be used to help stretch the quadriceps, hamstrings, triceps and latissimus, as well as provide a drag-stretch for the shoulder girdle. Gauge water temperature to determine how long the stretch can be. If the water is warm enough and you have time, feel free to
relax a little longer. If time is short, try combining a lower-body stretch with an upper-body stretch.