The Brain Loves to Dance

brain

 

Have you ever gone to dance class in a slump, feeling tired and fuzzy minded?  I bet that you did not feel the same way when you left class. (Well perhaps your body felt a bit more tired afterwards.) There is no way to go through a dance class and not use your brain. Every movement, detail, and combination is performed from the brain first, and you need split second speed in order to continuously be in motion. Awareness of your surroundings is also an element which is incredibly important, so you don’t take one of your classmates down by accident.

Over the years that I’ve been dancing, I have definitely felt a certain stigma towards dancers which implies that we are not very smart. However the truth is, some of the smartest people I know happen to be dancers, and I believe this is a result of how much we use our brains before, during, and after dancing. We warm up our bodies, but also our minds too. In order to be fully prepared to begin a class, our brain must be involved and active. Once class begins, our minds are constantly multi-tasking; from remembering the order of steps in combinations, to applying our technique, to synchronizing our movements with the music, maintaining spacial awareness, and performing the movement overall, as well as applying our own individual artistry. There are so many elements of the brain working at once that it is a miracle it does not shut down from overuse!

In scientific terms, the regions of the brain that are stimulated during the process of dancing include: “the motor cortex, somatosensory cortex, basal ganglia, and cerebellum. The motor cortex is involved in the planning, control, and execution of voluntary movement. The somatosensory cortex, located in the mid region of the brain, is responsible for motor control and also plays a role in eye-hand coordination. The basal ganglia, a group of structures deep in the brain, work with other brain regions to smoothly coordinate movement, while the cerebellum integrates input from the brain and spinal cord and helps in the planning of fine and complex motor actions”(Edwards, par 4). Isn’t that fascinating? We are consciously aware that we are working all of the muscles, tendons, and joints of our extremities throughout class, as we can feel them working during each and every movement, but we tend to forget that so many parts of our brain are working as well.

In recent scientific studies regarding neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease, dance has been found to significantly reduce the effects these diseases can have on the brain. An increase of intelligence can help to rectify such effects, and help improve mental acuity.  Since “intelligence is what we use when we do not already know what to do” (Powers, par 5) activities that require split second rapid fire decisions, such as dancing, allow for this increase to happen. That is why learning new things helps to increase our intelligence, as it assists in creating new neural pathways.

So keep on dancing, because your brain loves it!

~Victoria

 

Sources:

  1. Edwards, Scott. “Dancing and the Brain.” Dancing and the Brain. Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute, n.d. Web. 04 May 2016.
  2. Powers, Richard. “Use It or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter.” Stanford Dance. Stanford, 30 July 2010. Web. 04 May 2016.
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Dance and Comedy

I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite television shows of all time is FRIENDS. There are just so many things about the show that make it funny, relateable, lighthearted, and enjoyable. It’s a refreshing way to end a busy day, and de-stress from daily troubles.

So, in my opinion nothing can be better than the addition of dancing within an episode of Friends. Sometimes dance can be portrayed in a poor manner within the television and the media, but in some particular cases, the way dance is included within a show can make for quite a humorous event among dance enthusiasts and non-dance enthusiasts alike.

Check out this clip from Season 3, Episode 12 of Friends- The One With All the Jealousy, and appreciate a good laugh!

~Victoria

Mind over Matter

So yesterday was my birthday, which included a full day of dancing as per usual. Honestly, I would not have it any other way. Some days full of dancing are really rough; taxing on the body and on the mind. When every movement you make is constantly analyzed and your body is viewed in such a vulnerable state, it is often hard not to be over critical and beat yourself up about anything you do wrong. However, yesterday I decided to take a different approach. I let myself be in the moment and enjoy the fact that I am alive, that I am dancing, that I am able to do what I love right now in this moment. Really that is all that matters. Changing my attitude for the day, made me have much more fun than I have been feeling lately with my over-critical mindset. Did I do everything perfectly? No. Did I land every pirouette in ballet class? No. I did not enjoy myself more because everything was perfect. Honestly, nothing is ever perfect. It is all about the way you approach things and what you are telling yourself up there in your mind. If you tell yourself everything is bad and wrong, well it is going to be bad and wrong.

Your mind is such a powerful thing, and I believe it is time we started using it to spread positivity. I feel like it has become a recent trend to be negative and hate on people or things in popular media and society these days. Even to the point where teen clothing features written statements of negative context. I don’t know why this has become the new ‘thing’, other than the fact that it is easier to be negative and focus on all of the things that go wrong, and all of the things that you don’t have, but there is so much to be grateful for! When you can appreciate the little things, you realize that the bad things really aren’t so bad. That is what I did yesterday, and that is why it was a great day. So this is what I challenge you to do. Even just for one day, look at the world with a positive mind and turn off those negative thoughts that stem from the little you inside your head. See where the day takes you!

~Victoria