Most obvious are the physical benefits of dance. People come in to my studio and say, “I hate exercising, but I want to lose weight.” While dance can be an excellent way to work exercise into your regular routine, many people don’t realize the mental impact. I have long touted the mental benefits of partnership dance, and I recently ran across an article by Richard Powers, on the Stanford website, who actually studied this topic. I encourage you to look it up.
Partnership dance increases your mental acuity in ways that you don’t necessarily realize. You are engaged in a constant communication with another person, while maintaining balance, and staying highly aware of your surroundings. That was a mouthful of a sentence, so let’s break it down a little bit further.
In our Facebook, Google it, selfie generation of “I have it on my computer” or “If you want to talk to me, text it to my smart phone,” we lose out on social interaction. Many people don’t know how to interact with another person. It’s getting more and more foreign to interact with other people simply to interact with them and without a hidden agenda. This spurs the inward spiral; sending our thoughts into a whirlwind of depression and anxiety that is devastating to our minds. Even if you’re not shy, it can be a tricky thing to converse randomly with others for no given reason. Social dances give people the permission to walk up and have a full conversation with another person, sometimes without even speaking. The offering of a hand, the interpretation of a lead, the reaction to a follower’s movement, is a whole conversation that makes our brain light up.
Balance is one of the biggest things you can ever engage when you want to give your brain a boost. The act of challenging your balance will force, let me restate that, “FORCE!”, your brain to engage both hemispheres. It gets the mind to cross fire because if our balance is truly challenged, we have to make constant corrections in our posture on both sides of our bodies, very quickly. This shoots those electrical pulses back and forth across the brain firing right side to left side, and opens up a door to whole brain interaction.
Again, the partnership aspect is key to this. As we practice, our bodies become more and more efficient at getting us through repetitive activities with ease. Partners (who almost never repeat exactly what they did 3 seconds ago) constantly challenge our balance. This is because we are not only learning how to balance on our own two feet, but learning it while maintaining a balance with another person. If you’re leading, you are constantly trying to change your partner’s balance as you guide them in a controlled manner; then, you have to adjust your balance to compensate to where they actually move. If you are the follow, you are constantly being moved from your current balance point, to a new one. You have to decide how to best react so you can move smoothly to where you are being lead.
Now throw in the challenge of a crowded dance floor, and boom–you are navigating an obstacle course where anything could happen. You just increased your reaction time and decision making skills without even knowing it.
How do you best take advantage of this highly beneficial activity? Here are some tips:
– Learn from a professional. Professional dance instruction gives you the technique that helps build the body control and natural movement that enables you to get the most physical and social benefits when you dance with a partner. It also provides you new patterns and techniques to master, so you are constantly learning new ways to balance your body on a path.
– Dance with many different partners. Over time, if we dance with only one partner, our body will eventually get used to how they react to movement; thus, lessening the challenge and diminishing the benefit.
– Dance often. Like any skill, repetition is needed in order to create a long lasting effect. One night of dancing will frustrate your mind, but multiple times a week provides our mind with something to work on; our mind knows it will do it again, and prepare (unconsciously) for the next time.
I could ramble on for days about this topic because it’s something that I enjoy. I will leave you with these ideas and let you do some research yourself. Or, even better, come take a lesson at our Bloomington studio; I would be happy to start you on your journey when you are ready.
This post was written by Charlie Drenth, Instructor and Co-Owner of DE Studios. For more information about this topic or to unlock the many potential benefits of ballroom dance for yourself, contact DE Studios at (952) 392-9631 or check out their website at www.de-studios.com