I began dancing at age nine. By thirteen, I was dancing 6 hours a day in several rigorous programs, including the Dance department at High School of Performing Arts. Like many of my peers, I went on to work as a dancer and later as an actor. I’m grateful for years of training as a dancer. I found myself much more in touch with my body (AND emotions) than many of my non-arts-focused teen counterparts.
To this day, I dance. While not professionally, I dance more importantly, as a form of self-healing, awareness, and expression. Alone in my house, I turn on music and dance my fool head off. Don’t you notice how young children can do it without shame? They are FREE!
When I was a girl, I wanted to be an anthropologist. I was determined to uncover how my native ancestors coaxed the rain out of the sky, how they seduced the most conservative of men, and how they healed one another, using DANCE. Now, you may think that these tales are just myths or legends, but I genuinely believe each one of us has a power within us that cannot be measured, and I believe that dancing is just one, fun way, to harness that power.
Dance is great for helping people of all ages, and physical abilities get and stay in shape. There’s even chair dancing for people with physical limitations. Check out some of the other benefits to adding dance to a wellness journey.
Let’s Dance to Health
Dancing can be magical and transforming. It can breathe new life into a tired soul; make a spirit soar; unleash locked-away creativity; unite generations and cultures; inspire new romances or rekindle old ones; trigger long-forgotten memories; and turn sadness into joy, if only during the dance.
On a more physical level, dancing can give you a great mind-body workout. Researchers are learning that regular physical activity in general can help keep your body, including your brain, healthy as you age. Exercise increases the level of brain chemicals that encourage nerve cells to grow. And dancing that requires you to remember dance steps and sequences boosts brain power by improving memory skills.
a 2003 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that ballroom dancing at least twice a week made people less likely to develop dementia. Research also has shown that some people with Alzheimer’s disease are able to recall forgotten memories when they dance to music they used to know.
Whether it’s ballet or ballroom, clogging or jazz, dance is great for helping people of all ages and physical abilities get and stay in shape. There’s even chair dancing for people with physical limitations. A 150-pound adult can burn about 150 calories doing 30 minutes of moderate social dancing.
- strengthen bones and muscles without hurting your joints
- tone your entire body
- improve your posture and balance, which can prevent falls
- increase your stamina and flexibility
- reduce stress and tension
- build confidence
- provide opportunities to meet people, and
- ward off illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis, and depression
If you don’t know what kind of dance you might like, the best thing to do is experiment. If you used to dance and are getting back into it, you can pick up where you left off. Some adults decide to resume ballet classes after years of having had them as children.
Here are some forms of dance you might want to explore:
- Square dancing
- Swing (traditional or West Coast, which is more technical)
- Line dancing, which can be done to country, rock, pop, or salsa music
- Folk dancing, which can reconnect you to your ethnic roots or introduce you to a whole new culture
- Belly dancing
- Clogging (double-time stomping and tap steps)
- Contra (square dance moves in lines with men and women switching places)
Doing Your Own Thing
If you’re afraid you have two left feet or are short on time, you can do your own thing just by turning on some music and dancing around the house. Or turn a night on the town into a dance party by finding a hot spot with a good friend.