Boxing legend Muhammad Ali had a very specific footwork technique that almost emulated a choreographed dance. His expression “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” became iconic because he looked like he was floating as he moved around the ring, and was still able to pack some serious force towards his opponents. Spectators, announcers, and trainers began to comment that watching his boxing footwork was similar to watching a ballerina dance on stage.
Subsequently, trainers and boxers around the world took note of this and many have even added styles of dance to their training to improve their timing, balance, and coordination.
What is Dancing in Boxing?
Dancing in boxing is simply how you keep your feet moving when you are not actively striking. Some boxers bounce, sidestep, or alternate their weight from one foot to the other. Keeping your feet moving allows you the freedom to quickly evade punches from your opponent and swiftly transition to throwing punches and attacking.
Just like many sports, in boxing, a boxer develops a strategy for how to move about the ring depending on their opponent. For instance, if your opponent tends to be a slugger and moves heavily around the ring, you might benefit from dancing around a bit more to tire them out. “Dancing” in the ring can also be used as an intimidation factor. In later rounds, when both fighters are beginning to show signs of fatigue, a boxer relies on their agile footwork and quick movements to show they are ready to keep the match lively. Often, this can look like a form of “dancing”.
Classic Dance Training for Boxers
Dance and boxing have quite a bit more in common. Both require focus, precision, strength, balance, and flexibility. Plus, they’re both great cardio workouts. A popular dance style that is often associated with boxing is ballet. Many boxing gyms and professional boxers have added ballet classes and other forms of dance training to their workouts. According to FightCamp Trainer Flo Master, another form of dance that can be extremely helpful for learning boxing footwork is house dancing, or house dance.
If you’ve started boxing and are looking to incorporate other training techniques, dance might be a great way to mix up your routine while improving your skills – especially your footwork.
Types of Dance to Add to Your Boxing Routine
While you won’t be putting on a full dance performance while boxing, some skills can carry over and improve your boxing technique. Here are a few dance styles that are worth checking out.
Ballet dancing is known to be light, airy, and controlled. Ballet dancers practice for hours to perfect the tiniest movements that can help them seemingly defy gravity while making their movements look effortless. To do this, they incorporate stretching and bodyweight exercises.
Why Ballet Is Useful For Boxing: With the focus on flexibility, body movements and placements, and the art of being light on your feet, ballet training can be very helpful for boxers.
How To Add Ballet To Your Boxing Training: If you would like to add ballet to your boxing routine, there are many in-person classes in most cities, as well as a ton of free resources online. Many people are surprised at how strenuous of a workout a beginner ballet class can be!
Contemporary dance is a mixture of several dance styles, including ballet, jazz, lyrical, modern, and even acrobatics. Flexibility and stamina are key because the music and styles tend to be faster than in traditional ballet.
Why Contemporary Dance Is Useful For Boxing: Contemporary dance training can help boxers improve their cardio, flexibility, and precision.
How To Add Contemporary Dance To Your Boxing Training: There are many contemporary dance class options for both youth and adults. In-person classes are available at many dance studios, and there are videos online that you can check out.
House dance is a freestyle form of street dance that is fast-paced and often improvised to house music. The main components of house dance are "jacking", "footwork", and "lofting". Jacking refers to the "groove" and body roll movements seen in housing. House dance footwork has its roots in Afro, Latin, and jazz styles of dance. Finally, lofting is the fluidity of movement that you see in house dancing.
Why House Dance Is Useful For Boxing: With such a strong emphasis on footwork and quick movements, house dance can help boxers find their rhythm and flow, and establish better footwork precision. Additionally, the improvised basis of house dance helps to train boxers to stay alert and improve their reaction time and movements. House dance training can teach boxers how to better respond to incoming punches and strikes from opponents.
How to Add House Dance To Your Boxing Training: There are several videos online and tutorials that can teach you the basics of house dance. Also, many dance studios that offer hip hop classes offer house dance classes as well. Since house dance is more of an improvised style, one of the best ways to learn is to watch house dancers and develop your own feel for the music.
Tai Chi is not a dance form but an ancient martial arts practice that originated in China. It is a non-combative technique that promotes mediation and stress relief. If you have ever seen a Tai Chi practice, you might have thought it was a dance class or even some form of yoga. The slow flowing movements and deliberate patterns in Tai Chi can help improve your focus when boxing. Tai Chi can also be a very approachable transition to add to your at-home boxing training routine.
Why Tai Chi Is Useful For Boxing: Because boxing can be stressful on both the mind and body, incorporating Tai Chi can help you stay physically and mentally balanced while improving your body’s overall coordination.
How To Add Tai Chi To Your Boxing Training: Tai Chi videos can be found online, and there are also in-person group classes and sessions available. It is encouraged that the practice of Tai Chi is performed outdoors.
Boxers Who Danced
Professional boxers all have coordinated footwork, but some stand out from the rest. The following boxing champs all have and had specific boxing dance styles, some even took formal dance training, and it has paid off in their footwork performance.
In interviews, Ali has been known to describe his footwork as a dance. While it’s not officially known if Ali took formal dance training and classes, he definitely had natural rhythm in the ring. Just as dancers are often described as “elegant”, Ali’s boxing style was smooth and graceful, especially compared to other fighters of his time. He created his famous "Ali Shuffle", a series of boxing footwork steps, that he used to evade his opponents and move around the boxing ring.
Harry Garside who won the bronze medal in the men’s lightweight championship at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is also a ballet dancer. He has said his mission is to break stereotypes when it comes to what is considered “masculine”. When he first started dancing, he claimed it was solely for boxing, but after gaining more press from his Olympic win, Garside said he really just wanted to learn ballet to learn the art of the dance. With a bronze medal in hand, it seems Garside's ballet-boxing training combination paid off.
Professional boxer Vasiliy Lomachenko claims his dancing and boxing skills are a coordinated effort that he has been perfecting since childhood. Born in Ukraine, Lomachenko took traditional Hopak classes where quick feet and high jumps are a staple. With his friends, he also learned the dance form breaking, which added spins and acrobatics to his skillset. His 17-2 professional record proves that adding dancing to your boxing routine can help you as a fighter in the ring.
Adding Dance to Your Boxing Routine
Dance might seem foreign to many boxers, but incorporating dance into your boxing training can really help you build on your footwork, as well as be a nice change from combat training. A dance session can easily be done in your home or in a group class. With dance you can improve your rhythm, stamina, and develop more overall control of your body movements.
Looking to change up your routine? Try one of the many complimentary stretching and fitness routines available on FightCamp’s YouTube Channel and check out our boxing equipment packages and accessories pages to start your at-home boxing training today!