by Corianna Lee, Director, Coolidge Performing Arts Center
Television shows such as “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance” have ignited an interest in dance unlike ever before. Intertwined with grace and athleticism, dance also has many physical and mental-health benefits that have been and currently are being studied.
Because of the variety of dance styles, from ballet, tap and hip-hop to social and ballroom dances such as the waltz, tango and swing, dance has something to offer those of all ages and abilities. Some physical benefits include improved balance, posture, strength, flexibility and coordination. According to berkleywellness.com, dance therapy has helped the elderly improve their balance and gait and improve fitness and promote weight loss in a variety of age groups.
In the 2009 European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, patients with Parkinson’s disease showed improved balance and coordination with a dance therapy regimen. The work of somatic dance therapists, such as Martha Eddy, have led to increased studies in dance rehabilitation for cancer patients.
Mental Health Benefits
In addition to the many physical benefits dance has to offer, studies have shown dance to improve cognitive function and mindfulness. Dance offers complex coordination patterns that challenge the brain, no matter the style or form, in addition to the cognitive stimulation from music. Scientific American magazine published a study in 2008 by a Columbia University neuroscientist that determined “synchronizing music and movement — dance, essentially — constitutes a ‘pleasure double play.’ Music stimulates the brain’s reward centers, while dance activates its sensory and motor circuits.” With music and movement, dance can improve mood, fight depression and improve coping mechanisms.
With all the health and brain benefits, more people are strapping on their dance shoes and waltzing down to their local dance studios and recreation centers to take classes. Even high schools are offering classes. To begin enjoying the benefits of dance, search out your local dance venue!