You may have heard that dancing is good for your brain, and we know that it is good for your body, but did you know that engaging in dance can actually make you a better person? How is that possible? You might be asking, “What if I cannot dance?” I’m here to tell you that it is possible for everyone, even if you have two left feet.
First, it is important to define or re-define dance. According to Wikipedia, “Dance is a performing art form consisting of purposefully selected sequences of human movement. This movement has aesthetic and symbolic value, and is acknowledged as dance by performers and observers within a particular culture.” I encourage you to put that definition aside and focus on dance as an “inherent form of expression.” Put on some music, and you will quickly see that you have a natural tendency to move to it. Dance, since the beginning of time, has been a physical outlet for celebration, grief, prayer and so much more.
Second, acknowledge that movement is a core component of dance that we do all the time; otherwise, we wouldn’t be living. Movement is in everything we do from the blood moving through our veins to the air we breathe into our lungs. Movement as the core component of dance is in all of us; therefore, dance is possible for everyone.
Now that we have established that dance and movement at its core is accessible to all, let’s focus on how it can make you a better person.
Dance builds empathy.
Meeting someone in their own movement or even embracing your own authentic way of moving in the world expands your awareness. You can literally learn to walk in someone’s shoes as they would do it, which gives you a new perspective and a chance at understanding and empathically connecting to someone else and his/her experiences.
Dance fosters happiness and boosts mood.
Chemically, dance changes the brain. It can decrease anxiety and enhance your mood. When you are in a better mood and feeling happy, you are more likely to help others. Furthermore, you may be more likely to engage in conversation and look for opportunities to reach out to those in need.
Dance makes us smarter.
Dance has been shown to increase cognitive acuity. This allows for faster processing, a greater ability to solve problems, and can even improve or maintain memory.
Dance improves flexibility (of body and mind).
When we see dance on TV or social media, it is often associated with physical flexibility. While this can be a component of dance, consider that dance enhances neural connections in the brain, which makes our brain more pliable, malleable – essentially makes our brain more flexible. You can think on your feet, be in the moment and take on more challenges without becoming too overwhelmed.
Dance enhances our social skills.
Participating in social dance increases social skills. You can improve your eye contact, make new friends and expand your social networks (and I don’t mean Facebook).
These are just a few ways dance can make you a better person. And being a better person helps make the world a better place. Perhaps all the world needs now is for everyone to embrace the dancer! All you need is love? How about, all you need is dance!
By Erica Hornthal, LCPC, BC-DMT of Dance Informa.