July 1, 2021
There are about as many different styles of dance as there are cultures across the world. Each of these styles bring out special features of the human spirit: our ability to express ourselves through movement, physical strength, mobility, and flexibility and communications. As a result, dance has a special ability to connect people to one another, and to connect the dancer to themselves in holistic ways. These all work together to help us understand the health benefits of dance. Let’s explore some of these with a little more depth.
Dancing has always been a part of human culture; some anthropological researchers suggest that our prehistoric ancestors 1.5 million years ago likely used dance as a form of social bonding and communication. It’s built into the fabric of who we are as humans. When you dance or watch someone else dancing, you feel connected: audience to performer, watcher to participant. Certainly, most of us know this, even if we can’t find the words to express it.
Dance is able to connect people across boundaries of culture, race, language, age and time. The universal language of body movements connect us and draw us in. The feats of physical strength and flexibility leave us in awe. The graceful movements tell a story more than mere words could convey.
When we connect to others through dance, we can’t help but empathize or to step into their reality even for just a moment. This social connection is significantly healthy in a world that at times seems very divisive and isolating.
Have you ever watched a dancer’s movements and felt tears well up in your eyes? Have you seen the expressions of joy, pain, elation, anguish, anger and love on performer’s faces? At the end of a performance, have you stood and clapped or cheered? All these emotions are an inseparable part of what dance brings to our lives.
Though it is easy to stay focused on the physicality of dance steps and moves, they often express deep emotions as well. Whether the dance draws us out of ourselves and helps us feel what someone else is feeling, or gives us a mirror to peer into our own depths, emotions are a key element to dance.
Many traditional and modern dances are accompanied by music. This gives a deeper element of expressing emotions, as the dance moves, rhythms, steps and gestures help interpret and bring shape and story to the music as well.
Dancing can be a very physically demanding activity, no matter what style or tradition it comes from. Professional dancers are often very fit and athletic, and the demands they put on their body require a lifetime commitment to healthy nutrition, strength, flexibility, and conditioning.
Dancers of all ages and abilities find the physical elements of dancing to be very good for their body and brain health. We all know (and physicians regularly tell us) that hobbies that involve moving our bodies are a very healthy choice, especially if other parts of our lives are more sedentary.
Regular dance lessons can build strength, flexibility, balance, and co-ordination. These are all very important for people of any age. Many dancers who begin dancing later in life note that they weren’t aware of how poor their mobility or balance were until they started to notice significant improvement.
Many studies have shown that physical activity is an important part of brain health also. Improved cardio-vascular fitness, additional blood flow to the brain, and higher oxygen levels during physical activity all help our brains function better. Moreover, dance specifically helps to build brain-to-muscle connections, enhancing your ability to control both large- and fine-motor skills.
Remembering steps, movements, gestures, and rhythms is an important part of all dance, no matter the style or tradition. Our memory behaves something like a muscle: the more we use it, the better it gets; therefore dance can drastically improve your memory. There are many studies that show the positive impacts of dance on memory in people of all ages. Dance therapy has even been shown to help improve memory in patients with many different types of memory- and brain-related injuries and impairments.
We humans are complex beings and our health is intimately connected to our physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being. When we dance, we are touching on all these parts of our lives. In other words, dance benefits all aspects of your health.
In conclusion, there are not many places you can find the same level of all-encompassing health benefits from a single activity. Dance classes will build your social connections with other dancers. Performing or watching performances can build connections across cultures and showcase beautiful diversity from around the world. When you are struggling to express your emotions, dance can be your outlet or a mirror to help you see within yourself. And finally, there are all the physical and mental benefits of moving your body, exercising your brain and testing your memory.
Hopefully this post has shown you some of the many emotional, mental, and physical health benefits of dance. If you would like to get started (or resume) your dance experience, here are a few tips we’d like to share.
We would be more than happy to answer any questions you have, dream with you about your dance ambitions, or discuss any dance-related topics.