Some days I wonder why I didn’t find deep connection in yoga. Or why barre fitness or ballet burn classes just seemed like a chore. And yet, I can spend an hour at the barre plié-ing, tendu-ing and battement-ing my heart out. I can follow it up with a half hour of adagio and grande allegro. When it is time for a reverence, I find myself wishing there were just a few more minutes of dancing.
It’s science. Really. And we all know it. But despite the science, people treat dancing as an activity they left behind in their youth. Maybe they were too tall or didn’t have the feet. Maybe they couldn’t afford to start when they were young and were told they were too old when they wanted to begin at 18. Sure, professional dancers have a bit of a mystique and us amateurs may never get there, but fame and fortune and a spot in a dance company are not the only reason to shake your groove thang.
Why you should dance
Fitness is the reason most of the adult dancers I know got started. All forms of dance help to increase flexibility, endurance and strength. It takes an incredible amount of strength to complete a pirouette or a leap. Your core is what stabilizes your body as you move – that constant engagement builds your muscles.
2. Improved grace and spatial awareness
When you spend an hour thinking about how to control, engage and release muscles to create a particular step, you are increasing your spatial awareness. Your body moves through space with fluidity and you are much less likely to bump into the counter, again.
3. There are memory and cognitive benefits
Unlike most other fitness activities, ballet (and other dance forms) require your mind to be engaged and in the moment. In spin, yoga and barre classes, your instructor gives an instruction and you do it. You don’t have to remember a sequence and every change is announced. In a dance class, you have to remember the patterns and combinations. If you wait for an instructor to tell you the next step, you are already behind. Research shows this engagement is helpful in protecting against Alzheimer’s. Yay neuroplacisity! (Some studios even offer programs because of these benefits, like the adaptive dance program at Hubbard Street Dance)
4. It makes you happy
Sure, some of it is the endorphin boost that any exercise gives you, but dancing brings even more to the table. Dance has been shown to improve body image and coping ability while reducing self-consciousness. These benefits have been shown to stick around, even if you take a break from dance.
5. You want to dance
Whether you’ve always wanted to dance or you’ve watched one too many seasons of Dancing with the Stars and are hooked, if you want to do it you should go for it. Sure, you may never dance the lead in Giselle or tap your heart out on a Broadway stage, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance. You should dance your heart out. Frequent classes and daily practice if you want to be good. Weekly dance fitness classes if you just want to dance but aren’t worried about obtaining the mastery needed to dance en pointe or hoof it in an improvisational tap class. It doesn’t matter.
So honey, put on your dancing shoes and come out and dance with me.