Why Dance?

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Dancing, is probably one of the most common things that us, human beings, do. The moment you hear an upbeat song playing

Imagine yourself sitting in a cinema, watching

in the background, the urge to just move

a musical movie. When they started to play

your body, comes out. It could just be small

the music, and the actors started to move

movements by your hand or shoulders, or

along with the rhythm. It was a joyful scene,

tapping your feet along the beats. Rhythmic

with a joyful music playing along. Without you

bodily movement, is something very instinctive

noticing, you started to bop your head and

for human beings.

silently tap your feet along the rhythm. There were times you had the urge to just jump out

Dancing is defined as to move rhythmically to

from your seat and dance in front of everyone.

music, typically following a set sequence of

This magical moment– I’d say, is the beauty

steps, according to the Oxford Dictionary. It is

of dancing.

a series of steps and movements that match the speed and rhythm of a piece of music, with the purpose of expressing an emotion as they release energy and simply enjoying the delight of the movement. Dancing is also considered as a form of art, consisting of human movements that have been purposefully selected.





Human being probably even danced before there was a word for it. It has always been with us before a written language was discovered. As they did not have a language to communicate to each other, it is believed that performance methods was used. Body movement was used for them to bond with each other, and communicate, especially during tough times. As it is have been used for such purposes, dance have become one of our natures from the earliest existence of human beings. Ritual and spiritual performance celebration dances, ceremony, entertainment and social events from the past have all been accompanied by dances.

Despite not leaving any identifiable physical artifacts about the history of dancing in the olden days, it is not plausible to pinpoint when did dance become a part of human culture. The oldest physical proof of dancing was from cave paintings in India that have been there for approximately 9000 years. It depicts variety scenes of their cultural activities, from hunting, childbirth until dancing. But the time when dancing was finally widespread could be traced back to the third millennium BC, during the Egyptian time. They have started to use dances for their religious ceremonies, according to their tomb paintings that could still be read. They used dances for storytelling about the gods and important events, along with musical instrument.



WHY DO WE DANCE? We humans are movement. We are the movement that is making us able to think and feel and act at all. Sometimes the movement that we are erupts in a spontaneous burst and assumes a new pattern. We may be walking down the street and a passing sensation streaks through our bodily selves, producing a small hop, a shift in weight, a skip forward. Or we are walking along the ocean’s edge, suddenly propelled by the felt force of the crashing waves to spin and stretch along with them. In such moments, dance emerges. It is tossed up within the restive currents of movement that we are, taking shape as a new pattern of


sensory awareness that changes us. We are now the person who made that move. When such an impulse courses through us, it relates us to ourselves and our worlds in a new way. It aligns. It touches. It frees. It is dance. While such emergences may be spontaneous, we can also practice opening ourselves up to receiving them. We can practice noticing and recreating movement patterns that appear to us—movements organized into a technique, a style, a form—so as to heighten our vulnerability to such animating bursts. Whatever movements we practice--in any realm--will encourage us to make further movements in the directions they define.

In this case, the movement patterns that we are practicing serve as invitations to deepen our sensation of movement. The movements we practice invite us to move with greater ease, facility, and dynamic delivery in the patterns they represent. They invite us to receive sponteous bursts of energy in line with the trajectories they open. This too, is dance. Returning to the initial question, this definition of dance points towards a circular answer. Humans dance because dance is human. Dance is not an accidental or supplemental activity in which humans choose to engage or not. Dance is essential to our survival as human beings.


While you may be aware of the physical benefits of dancing, perhaps you didn’t know that it has an even more beneficial effect on your brain. Dancing improves brain function in many ways, according to a recent article published in Psychology Today. For one, regular dancing and steady practice can help ‘train’ the brain against dizziness. But learning dance steps, going through the moves slowly and then performing them over and over, also affects cognitive learning. Both mastering a sequence of dance steps and then repeating them requires a deep level of concentration. If you think you have two left feet consider this: dancing is something that comes naturally to human beings. We have been dancing since prehistoric times, as a form of expression, celebration, or ritual. Dancing in a social setting causes the release of endorphins – the chemical in the brain that reduces stress and pain – resulting in a feeling of well being similar to what is known as “runners’ high.



A recent article in the AARP newsletter cites a Korean study which found that older adults who were taught to cha-cha, twice a week for six months, improved their memory and cognitive function. Metanwhile, a 2005 study by researchers with Montreal’s McGill University compared a group that took tango lessons with a group that walked for exercise. While both groups scored well on cognitive tests, the dancers performed better when multitasking.




When learning a new dance, students have to remember certain moves, which have to correlate with the beat of the music. Our brain connects these new movements to the music, which in turn helps us remember them. Kind of like when kids learn their ABCs by singing them. But even regular dancing, just th a partner or a group of friends can reduce stress and help strengthen social bonds. Dancing can also help eliminate depression more than aerobic exercise or listening to music can. An article in Women’s Health Magazine cites a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine that considered 11 different physical activities. Researchers found that dancers have a sharper mind and are at a lower risk of developing brain disease in the long term than non-dancers. Dancing was the only activity of the 11 studied that lowered the risk of dementia by at least 76 percent.


? Y WH 20



With all these definition and theories written, so why do people dance? Aside from to communicate and celebrate in the olden days when there was no written language, or just to simply express themselves in a form of art, like most professional dancers do? It may sound more complicated the reasons why people dance, as it is stated previously, but we still couldn’t deny that dancing is still something natural for human beings. It is not used as a communication tool anymore, but it is used for more beneficial reasons. There would be people dancing because of their passion, to make money out of their passion. Dancing as a stress-reliever could be also another way, as it helps people for their emotional stability, and to feel more positive. It could also help people’s physical health and fitness, rather than going to the gym or doing sports, it is a more enjoyable way to be healthier. It could be also they do it just for the trend– short movements that is iconic and easy to remember, and popular to all ages. To attract a potential romantic partner– and just many more reasons to include to reasons why people dance.






If you ask someone, why do you dance? Why do you like to dance? Most of them would say, “Just for fun,” and it is, indeed a credible answer. You could see in parties where loud music started to play and people starting to jump and dance around to the beat. Or a family event, where the parents start to dance to these old dancings while smiling and laughing. Dancing, is indeed a fun experience. As it is mentioned before, dancing could be a way for relieving stress, or just for emotional stability. You might be wondering, how? It does make sense to relieve stress by dancing,

but emotional stability? It is probably something that you’ve never heard of. Dancing is similar to exercising; you could be sweating a lot if you dance with full energy. Any type of physical activity can release neurotransmitter, called endorphins, that will trigger a positive feeling for your body, which will be able to alleviate stress. Endorphins, act as a natural painkiller for stress and improve your mindset, and helps the body to feel calm and relaxed, and more optimistic. When the mind feels good, so is the body. That’s how dancing can act as a stress-reliever.


Many things stimulate our brains’ reward

cerebellum, at the base of the brain, which

centers, among them, coordinated movements.

is involved in the coordination and timing

Consider the thrill some get from watching

of movement.

choreographed fight or car chase scenes in action movies. What about the enjoyment

So, why is dance pleasurable?

spectators get when watching sports or actually riding on a roller coaster or

First, people speculate that music was created

in a fast car?

through rhythmic movement—think: tapping your foot. Second, some reward-related areas

Scientists aren’t sure why we like movement so

in the brain are connected with motor areas.

much, but there’s certainly a lot of anecdotal

Third, mounting evidence suggests that we

evidence to suggest we get a pretty big kick

are sensitive and attuned to the movements of

out of it. Maybe synchronizing music, which

others’ bodies, because similar brain regions

many studies have shown is pleasing to both

are activated when certain movements are both

the ear and brain, and movement—in essence,

made and observed. For example, the motor

dance—may constitute a pleasure double play.

regions of professional dancers’ brains show more activation when they watch other dancers

Music is known to stimulate pleasure and reward areas like the orbitofrontal cortex, located directly behind one’s eyes, as well as a midbrain region called the ventral striatum. In particular, the amount of activation in these areas matches up with how much we enjoy the tunes. In addition, music activates the


compared with people who don’t dance.


This kind of finding has led to a great deal of speculation with respect to mirror neurons— cells found in the cortex, the brain’s central processing unit, that activate when a person is performing an action as well as watching someone else do it. Increasing evidence suggests that sensory experiences are also motor experiences. Music and dance may just be particularly pleasurable activators of these sensory and motor circuits. So, if you’re watching someone dance, your brain’s movement areas activate; unconsciously, you are planning and predicting how a dancer would move based on what you would do. That may lead to the pleasure we get from seeing someone execute a movement with expert skill—that is seeing an action that your own motor system cannot predict via an internal simulation. This prediction error may be rewarding in some way.

So, if that evidence indicates that humans like watching others in motion (and being in motion themselves), adding music to the mix may be a pinnacle of reward. Music, in fact, can actually refine your movement skills by improving your timing, coordination and rhythm. Take the Brazilian folk art, Capoeira—which could be a dance masquerading as a martial art or vice versa. Many of the moves in that fighting style are choreographed, taught and practiced, along with music, making the participants more adept—and giving them the pleasure from the music as well as from performing the movement. Adding music in this context may cross the thin line between a killing machine and a dancing machine.



It takes passion, connection from the soul with the body, persistence, strength, and that strength as Gandhi said, comes from an indomitable will. It takes being persistence, and to get up even when you cant, to get up and keep dancing and keep expressing. As I mentioned before, its more than just technique, every dancer knows that being technically perfect isn’t enough; we need to know why we dance. It doesn’t matter if your feet hurts or how much are you sweating, you keep doing it because its more than just a hobby, its passion, its love for dancing. When you dance, you are completely exposing yourself and your soul, you are not just speaking or listening, you are getting naked a nd completely exposed to your audience. Every dance is a kind of fever chart, a graph of the heart.






Something that makes dancers great human beings is that we don’t dance just because we want to, or when we feel ok to do it, we do it every time, anytime, even when we are feeling bad. Because that’s dancing, its not about competition, its about being a great dancer, which means you dance when you’re in pain, you dance when your heart is breaking, and you put what you’re feeling into the performance. That’s when a dancer becomes the artist we know we are capable of.

There could be always lots of cases where people have started dancing or took dance classes ever since they are small. Some decided to drop it and not continue, but there is a number of people that choose to continue and take a career path as a dancer. It is not rare to see dancers, or professional dancers, that are driven by their passion to take this path as a dancer. Contrary to what the stereotypes say, that being a dancer is just merely a hobby, and it is not plausible to make livings from it, is definitely incorrect. The existence of Youtube, have definitely increase the popularity of dancing, and dancers as well. As it has become one of the outlets for dancers to show off their skills, it could be also a place where professional dancers, could actually earn money from it. As we all know that dance is considered as a form of art, and it has an aesthetic and symbolic value. With that being said, dance as a career is something quite common in the present days.


TRADI TIONAL DANCE Specific countries have dances that identify with a region and its culture immediately. For example, African dances or Indian dances have styles that make them readily identifiable, as do other cultural dances from across the globe. When you study dances as part of a culture, you are using different lenses to see each dance in its cultural context. Earlier in this chapter, you discovered that culture is a concept in human geography. It also has deep connections to the fields of cultural anthropology, ethnology, and ethnomusicology. Cultural anthropology is the study of humans and their culture, which includes social structures, languages, laws, religion, arts, and technology. Ethnology is the study of the cultural life of a community. An ethnologist lives in a community for several years to record the everyday life of the people and their culture. Ethnomusicology is the study of a people’s music in relation to its culture or society.



Ethnomusicologists may extend their study to dances performed to the music of the culture. Countries all over the world have traditional dances, but they are actually evolving products of history, migration, wars, and political and societal changes of the people who perform them. Today, in one country you can encounter many cultural dances, including the following: Dances of aboriginals or first people. Dances of early settlers who migrated to the area and brought their culture to their new home. In various historical eras, the dances may have colonial or postcolonial versions. Blended dances created after wars changed a people and their culture. These dances are not created overnight.


In an invaded country, the original people and the new arrivals may or may not embrace each other’s cultures or dances. A cultural clash may occur, and the two groups may resist each other’s influence. Blending outside influences into existing traditions takes place over time. Newer variations of traditional dances that evolve from generation to generation. These dances absorb and blend personal, group, and societal trends that can change a dance and its performance. Dances of tribes, first people, and ethnic groups who strive to keep their ancestral traditions alive in contemporary society. People preserve these dances to share their heritage with the young people of their community. All cultural dances presented in the overview of dance types connect to the three common elements of a culture (see Discovering Cultural Dance). If you add all these elements together, you get two deep understandings:

Culture is about participating as a community; it can be related to ritual, spiritual, and life events and celebrations. Culture can be defined as a way of life that is learned, shared with future generations, and changes with time. Participating, viewing, and learning about cultural dance and the roles it plays in societies leads to awareness and appreciation of other people and their cultural values. Experiencing a cultural dance means taking a look at the movement from the perspectives of both the cultural dancer and the requirements of the dance. The ideas you have learned about other dance forms so far or will encounter in this book may not apply to cultural dances. So, discard your preconception of cultural dances, and involve yourself in perceiving and experiencing the movement. Then you will be poised to find the meaning or essence of the dance and gain some insights about the dancers who perform it. Experiencing cultural dance requires you to observe through a different kind of dance lens; you must see as an ethnologist would, paying attention to the dance in the context of its home culture.





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I loved the moving to music. I found the hard work a focused concentration, which also was a way to divert my excess physical energies into something constructive, (although I didn’t know it at the time). As I grew older, the power I felt in my body (with the increasing technical prowess), made me feel competent. I was a very shy person, but this was a place where I could express myself without having to speak verbally. I had a aptitude to learn movement very quickly and I retained movements in my head for decades. A half a century later I can still recall every step for some variations I danced in school, so I found something I seemed to have a talent and apttitude for. As an adult and a professional, I discovered the dramatic works I was dancing was liberating for my private personality. I found myself cast in many extroverted roles, and after a time, I felt less introverted in real life… or at least, more socially competent to


sidestep my inherent introversion. I found the role playing within the performing like a freedon to be whoever I wanted to be, and often portray characters I would never dare to be in real life. If I didn’t like these characters, then I could deny to myself that this was actually me… and just leave the sides of me I didn’t want to face as part of acting technique. The performing was also a direct line of communication to the audiences, where I felt I could speak to from my heart. The injuries I suffered gave me renewed challenges to return to dance. I learned a lot about anatomy, rehabilitation in physio therapy as well as reading up on fitness and training ideas- both mental and physical methods. This aides me today in my teaching of others, and helping injured dancers to get back in the studio and on stage. Without dance, my world would have been much narrower. I would never have traveled as I did, never met as many fascinating people as I do, never been as inspired by my colleagues and other artists, and never have acheived the satisfaction of this long and fullfilling career.


When I was little, Ballet classes were an escape from a home life that was not alwasy so perfect.


Have you ever played music around a baby? Baby's dance. Dancing seems to be some innate thing, a natural reaction to hearing music. It's not as if people sit around thinking, "Dancing will be fun right now because X." It just is fun. And you're right on in understanding that it frequently has nothing to do with flirting -- though it obviously can. Women often like to dance together, as friends, because it's fun to move around in playful ways to music. There really isn't a deeper explanation than that.



Dancing takes your mind off stressful things and gives you peace and joy when you let it.

I myself am a dancer, and let me begin to tell you how much I love dancing. First off, dancing is one of the ways I express my emotions and self. Lets say I was in grief or was sad, dancing would be my answer, I would dance to my heart’s desire because I am using it as a form of therapy. Also it burns the calories, yup dancing for and hour can burn about 450 calories in average. Not only do you fit, but also good about yourself. Personally, also I have been dancing since I can remember and its just a burning passion for me and I can’t stop. Then, people are really impressed when they see you, think about it, lets say you went to the club and you bust some moves, you would feel good about yourself


The joy we feel over new found love, the determination we have in the face of great sorrow or adversity, the passionate fire of our youth and the peacefulness of our softer and more graceful years – maybe they are never expressed more fully than through a waltz, or a tango, or a jive. We all want to be understood, and if we could truly speak the words that describe our feelings, how deep and powerful they would surely be. But alas, those words never seem to come to us just right. There are the obvious answers. We dance for physical fitness. We dance for mental clarity. We dance for emotional stability, and other such pluses. However, all these benefits could be attained by others means, though I confess I have yet to find a better alternative than a great cha cha to lift both one’s heart-rate and spirits. Still, we do not need to dance to acquire a sound mind and body. So, there must be more reasons why we do so. There must be something glorious about dancing that is more than just intangible; it must be almost imperceptible. We cannot seem to explain it, yet we all know it so well that we do not hesitate to tap our feet to a Gershwin melody or pulse with the percussion of a samba rhythm. So why do we dance?



Perhaps dance is the way we express ourselves when words are insufficient.


They had a sense of rhythm and they were encouraged to cultivate it. Not me. I had nothing. The first time I danced was because a friend wanted me to perform for something my senior year of high school. That was the start of doing something to 'look cool' in front of people - I wanted to stop feeling awkward around a dance floor and have the confidence to own it. But as I picked up more moves, something really really strange happened - I actually developed rhythm. It became easy for me to just watch videos and pick up moves - and people started to stop, watch me and take videos of me when I danced. I love dancing now. I love it because people look at me and don't expect me to be able to dance and I love surprising them. I love it because I can make something beautiful and because I can make other people happy when they watch me.


I love it because when my mind's been at it's darkest and when I think the whole world is closing in on me and when I think that I'm all alone and nothing is ever, ever going to feel right again - I can feel like a person when I'm like that. It's like someone throws me a lifeline and I grab on to it and I take my pain, my hurt and I make something beautiful. I love it because I never thought I could be good at it, and I worked like a bastard, and I got good at it. It reminds me that sometimes when you work like a dog and you give something everything you have - sometimes, what you want happens. I just love it - why do you love your girlfriend, or your mom, or your best friend? You just do. Same with dance.


A lot of people I know were 'born' into dancing


I love to dance because it helps me really be focused on the present, in the studio; I myself don’t know how I do it but when I dance I forget all my worries, whether it’s in friendship, school, or anything else. When I dance I work hard, and that makes me feel good. It’s feels amazing to feel tired after dancing, knowing you’re part of something so amazing. When I dance, I enjoy myself and try and get better every single time, losing myself in the music. Dancing is my comfort; I don’t just dance in the studio; I dance at school, at home, in the classroom, even in the library; dance is so expressive and it requires no words; when I’m at a loss of words I can dance and release all my energy.

Dance is magical because of all the people you meet as well. Some of my ‘dance friends’ are considered to be my closest; it’s because when you dance together you work together, and there’s a connection that just happens. As they say, friends who dance together, stay together. Whoever says dance isn’t a sport—that’s because it’s more than that. Dance is an art and a language and so much more than I can tell; but it’s also exercise, which is amazing—I don’t run, I don’t throw, I don’t play ball games; in other words, I am not sporty. If it weren’t for dance, I’d be even less fit that I am now. I don’t just love to dance; dance is my language, my comfort; most importantly, it’s my exercise. Too bad I’m not that good at it. Ha.



Because it’s fun, expressive, challenging, and it counts as exercise. Seriously. 47

I myself am a dancer, and let me begin to tell you how much I love dancing. First off, dancing is one of the ways I express my emotions and self. Lets say I was in grief or was sad, dancing would be my answer, I would dance to my heart’s desire because I am using it as a form of therapy. Also it burns the calories, yup dancing for and hour can burn about 450 calories in average. Not only do you fit, but also good about yourself. Personally, also I have been dancing since I can remember and its just a burning passion for me and I can’t stop. Then, people are really impressed when they see you, think about it, lets say you went to the club and you bust some moves, you would feel good about yourself.



Dancing takes your mind off stressful things and gives you peace and joy when you let it.


Dance is a powerful metaphor for how successful relationships function. Both partners are free to be independently creative, yet are invested in working together in tandem, because that’s what makes it fun. After dancing for a while, the partners separate and take time to rest. Like breathing in and out, every relationship needs closeness and then space. Dancing with a partner or with a group of friends is like a fast-paced enactment of an entire successful relationship. After all, how you live one day is how you live your entire life. Besides that, dancing is a great way to trick yourself into getting a workout because you are enveloped in the fun, creative, social, and audio aspects and not focused on the boring workout aspect, but you still get the endorphin high that comes with intense physical exertion.



Dance is a powerful metaphor for how successful relationships function. 51


E H T A M G I T S 4





We all have something that we are self conscious about, often we feel really isolated with it, as if we are the only ones to have ever felt that feeling. It might be something physical – we’re too fat, too thin, too old, too unfit, too stiff, not supple enough, not a good enough dancer, not enough stamina, if we have an illness or specific limitation it will be that. Or it might be on the emotional plane – we’re too needy, to scared, too shy, too sad, too angry, too sensitive, too lonely, too attractive or not attractive enough, too ordinary or weird. When we think of coming onto a dance floor we fear that all that will be shown. A bit like a singer being nervous that all his apprehension will be apparent in the way he sings, that it’ll all be audible and he won’t be able to sing properly, the song will go out of tune and the audience will know he’s nervous.


Self consciousness is defined as “undue awareness of oneself, one’s appearance, or one’s actions”, the things we’re aware of are often the things we feel most vulnerable about and we fear that those things will be visible to others on the dance floor, and that our self consciousness will be increased. It might be that we’ve been hiding that aspect of ourselves for years, even decades – why would we risk having it seen? The reason why is that when we bring it into movement it changes. Jill Bolte Taylor in her book ‘My Stroke of Insight’ said an emotion lasts for 90 seconds. She is a neuroscientist who was in the extraordinary sittuation of witnessing herself having a stroke – one of the outcomes of this experience coupled with her own research is what she calls the 90 second rule “Once triggered, the chemical released by my brain surges through my body and I have a physiological experience. Within 90 seconds from the initial trigger, the chemical component of my anger has completely dissipated from my blood and my automatic response is over. If, however, I remain angry after those 90 seconds have passed, then it is because I have chosen to let that circuit continue to run.”



MALE DANCER STIGMA While many cultures see dance as an acceptable activity for men, in the West, musical theatre and expressive dance such as ballet is still associated with women. Dancing, when carried out by boys and young men, often rouses cultural anxiety. Because ballet is seen as a feminine pursuit, men who dance run the risk of being labelled feminine, girly or homosexual. Despite the cliché that dance is a universal language, it’s interpreted very differently depending on where we live.

Although there are gay men in the dance world (as there are in all “worlds”), it’s only recently that we’ve started focusing on the sexuality of men who dance. Despite the fact not all men who dance are gay, and sexual desire shouldn’t be a problem in any case, homophobia is still an issue. There are a number of explanations for this fear. The unease and suspicion that sometimes accompany male dancers can be linked to ideas about gender. How we interpret masculinity and how it’s represented in theatre dance is the result of our society’s view of the body. Because the body is the main vehicle for expressing dance, and because gender is performed on our bodies (outfits, haircuts and make-up), gender is made obvious on a dancing body. If the male dancer is performing the role of a graceful swan, we may associate his body with soft and feminine qualities. This has consequences for men who decide to dance.




You will never not care how you appear when you Dance.

You will never not care how you appear when you dance. If you dance more, you’ll feel good about how you look when you dance then it will no longer be a source of stress. If you can afford it, take some dance lessons so you have a good start. If cost would be a problem see if you have a swing club or salsa club or line dance group you could join to get more comfortable on the floor. One suggestion to you. Put the music on and dance the basic step pattern over and over and over. Forget the turns and fancy stuff. Repeat the basic step until your feet can keep going while you answer the phone or make up the grocery list or whatever. I am talking about 30 minutes a day for a month or more. Learned so well you will pass out before losing the beat. When you have the basic rhythm down cold you are able to learn new patterns and turns ever so much more easily. Line dances are cool as the basic routine is short and just repeats until the song is over so they are not a big project to learn. They can provide a bunch of simple things you can use for free style too. (I didn’t get a gender cue here but if you are a guy and a lady offers to help you learn a step the response is “Gee, thanks!” Converse, be careful. Sad but so.) Good luck.




After awhile you realize that everyone else is mainly focused and self conscious themselves.

In my own experience, simply just doing it over and over and over will get you to stop caring. Maybe try it a little bit at a time. Perhaps try dancing with a group first. Either way, to get comfortable with it, you just got to do it. Do it until it no longer feels uncomfortable. It's just one of those things you got to condition yourself for. After awhile you realize that everyone else is mainly focused and self conscious themselves. And to the ones that take the time to judge you or tease..... Notice that those are the ones that are most insecure and self conscious and the ones that are most afraid to dance. So try not to fret too much about them. I'm usually the first person at an event or club to dance. You seem a bit crazy at first but people will eventually start to realize that it's more fun to dance instead of standing around staring at the wall like bored sheep. :) This might be an extreme example but watch how this one man dancer attracts a huge crowd of people to dance.




I’m smiling, giggling, and loving being in my body.

For me, dance is one of my favorite things to do mainly because when I dance, I feel an enormous amount of pleasure, joy, release and happiness. I’m smiling, giggling, and loving being in my body. So, if you want to feel less self-conscious when you are dancing, the trick is to get out of your mind and bring your attention south into your body and notice where in your body feels good when you move. Does shaking your hips make you giggle, or pumping your fists make you feel strong and expansive or when you shimmy your shoulders does that shaking make your chest feel warm and relaxed? The thing about having these amazing bodies we live in is that they are our number one vehicle for experiencing pleasure but we have to learn how to turn our attention to feeling good from the body’s perspective. Once you’ve established that, dancing will come easy as you teach your brain to pursue the sensation of pleasure through movement. So, it’s less about learning not to care about what others think and more about, “what feels good in my body right now/what movement feels good in my body?” and then continuing to pursue that feeling/sensation/pleasure. Hope that helps.


The dance exists for itself. By accepting dance for itself. When you get to the point of submerging yourself within the dance it really no longer is a concern. The dance exists for itself. Of course this brings up a question, why are y ou being asked? When I dance it is for myself and my dance partner, everyone else’s opinion on the subject is irrelevant provided our dance does not interfere with theirs.



It’s basi cally my other half. Personally I love dancing because it is my way of life. It is an art form that allows me to express my emotions and passion through movement. It’s basically my other half. It always knows how to turn my day around and ensure that I am feeling happy and content with my life. On days where I’m facing much trial and I want to give up, I know dancing will snap me out of it and change everything. It is my savior and has saved me from a few pre depression stages.






'Dancing can change the way you think'



Dr Peter Lovatt has been head of the Dance Psychology Lab at the University of Hertfordshire since founding it in 2008. Prior to this he trained in ballet, tap and jazz, and worked as a professional dancer. Last summer he wrote, produced and performed in Dance, Doctor, Dance! The Psychology of Dance Show as part of the Edinburgh festival fringe. In March he gave a talk at TEDx Observer.

How can dance change the way people think? We've had people in the lab dancing and then doing problem-solving – and different sorts of dancing help them with different sorts of problem- solving. We know that when people engage in improvised kinds of dance it helps them with divergent thinking – where there's multiple answers to a problem. Whereas when they engage in very structured dance it helps their convergent thinking – trying to find the single answer to a problem. You've been studying the effects of dance on people with Parkinson's disease… Yes, we know as Parkinson's disease develops it can lead to a disruption of the divergent thinking processes. So we thought if we used improvised dance with a PD group we might see an improvement in their divergent thinking skills, and that was exactly what we did see. Next we would like to study what it is about dancing as an intervention that has as impact on neural processing. One possibility is that when they dance they are developing new neural pathways to get around dopaminedepleted blockages.


How else can dance change how we think? There have been several papers looking at the self-esteem of ballet dancers in training – and what they’ve found is that girls in their midteens have significantly lower self-esteem than non-ballet-dancing girls. There are two explanations for this. One would be that girls with low self-esteem choose classical ballet because the struggle for perfection reinforces their poor self-image. Another theory says that ballet training subculture can be very detrimental to a young girl’s self-esteem because they are constantly being told they are not doing it right and that the body shape issue is very important in classical ballet. Which explanation do you think is correct? We are trying to test these two hypotheses in the lab by comparing data from 600 dancers in different dance groups. So we’re looking at things like comparing classical ballet dancers with Indian classical dancers – the latter don’t have to wear tight-fitting clothing in training. We’re also comparing them with burlesque dancers who are very happy to show a fuller body. If it’s the case that girls with low selfesteem choose ballet there’s not a great deal we can do about that. But if the classical ballet subculture might lead to eating disorders and self-harm then that’s something very important we should be flagging up.



Is there a dance style that is good for self-esteem? Anything where there’s a high degree of tolerance for not getting it right. Things such as ceilidh dancing people smile, laugh and giggle, and they are adults and it’s absolutely fine. It’s wonderful. There have also been studies that have found that dancing in baggy “jazz” clothing is better than tight-fitting clothing for the dancer’s self-esteem. Is it correct that women think men whose ears are the same size are better dancers? It sounds like nonsense but a study by Brown et al found that physically symmetrical men were rated better dancers by women. A second study by Fink et al focused on men’s fingers. They measured the 2D-4D ratio – the relative length of the second and fourth digit, an indicator to exposure to prenatal testosterone. He found that those men with a high degree of prenatal testosterone exposure were again rated as more attractive and masculine dancers.


You've built on this research? I went to a nightclub where we offered people free entry if they took part in the study. We measured fingers, their ears, their fertility, where the women were in their menstrual cycle, their relationship status, whether they were looking for a mate. And our findings were very similar. Those men with high 2D-4D ratio were rated as more attractive dancers. We also found something unique: the women signalled their degree of fertility through their body movement by isolating and moving their hips, which made men find them more attractive.



So is their a causal link between factors such as symmetry or hip-movement and being an attractive dancer? Some people, such as Brown and Fink, argue that your hormonal and genetic make-up is being signalled by the way you dance. They posit a direct link. But it might not be that at all: imagine you are a really beautiful person so whenever you go out to a club, everyone looks at you and that fills with you with confidence – that might be what makes you dance in an attractive way that people find even more attractive. There might be a link, it could be an association though behaviours that makes you more confident. So female performers in pop videos dance as if they were at the most fertile point of their cycle? Yes, they do. There are often lots of images of women's hips moving in isolation. Often it's not the most attractive form of dancing – it's an artificial enhancement. What's interesting is that people who look at these women and tell us why they find them attractive never say: "I just spent the last three minutes looking at her hip region", which is what our data suggest they are doing. Rather, they find all kinds of other reasons to justify what they think.



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