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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Like Magic to the Body

Poster for a concert
Purchase Cares: A Benefit Concert for Dancers Responding to AIDS

Last night was a magical experience, so let me try and explain why.  There was a benefit concert held at my college for Dancers Responding to Aids. This concert featured dance pieces, musical performances and collaborations of the different arts; all created specifically for the concert, and to raise money for this cause. Overall, the concert and online fundraising prior to the show raised almost $3,000 for the organization! It is a pretty amazing thing when you realize that you can use your art for a good cause, and help to make a difference. That is one of the many reasons I love what I do.

I had the privilege of performing in a piece alongside my entire Senior dance class of 2016 (which consists of 32 dancers). We realized that it was the first time (and also the last since graduation is in 2 weeks) that we had all actually been able to perform together in the same piece. Although we always have technique classes together throughout the week, performing is just such a different and invigorating experience.

The greatest aspect of it, was that we all felt an incredible supportive and loving energy that was spread across that stage as we performed alongside each other. Every single one of us was smiling at one another and really connecting on stage. That is 32 authentic smiles all in one space at the same time. Now I call that powerful. The energy that was in the theater I can only define as the feeling of magic crackling through the air, into our muscles, and our hearts. I hope the audience was able to feel the magic, but I know that 32 unique and amazing dancers sure did.

I just thought I would share this experience while it is still fresh in my memory.

~Victoria

My Creation

For my Senior composition project, I created a piece based off of those wonderful but horrible, pesky but invigorating, butterflies that you feel whenever you are around someone that you like or are attracted to. My piece evolved and made a journey from this original concept to the final product, incorporating the idea of staying true to yourself while also encompassing the different worlds of dream and reality along the way.

It took a good amount of time for this work to morph into the final product, and up until the day of the performance there were still changes that I was debating whether or not I should make. However, it is a work that I am proud of- which is unusual for me. I normally am extremely critical of my own choreography and do not always feel positively about the end result, but in this case I did. It also didn’t hurt that I had the best cast of dancers to work with. So, here it is below. I hope you enjoy!

 

~Victoria

Love is in the Air

You did it. You survived Valentine’s Day. Whether you are single, in a relationship, in a “complicated” relationship, in  a “it’s not yet a relationship” relationship, in a “we are just talking” relationship, or a “I wish I was in a relationship with you, but you don’t know I exist” relationship, you probably thought about a special someone, or a few special someones this past Valentine’s Day.  Past or present, feelings that you have for another human being are sure to show up and remind you that “I am here” on this special day whether you welcome them or not.

But it is okay. These feelings remind is that we are alive, that at some point love will touch us all, and although it is frightening, annoying, and exhilarating all at the same time, it is a beautiful thing. As much as we may want to say sometimes that we don’t need love, or that it doesn’t exist, we all know that is a lie. Even if it is the love you have for your family, your friends, or your pets, love is necessary and assists us all through the hard times in life.

Just as love shown in everyday life, love shown through dance is a beautiful thing. Have you ever danced with your crush or significant other? Wasn’t it nerve-wracking, but magical and super fun all at the same time? I honestly can say that I never have had as much fun as when I was dancing with a guy I had feelings for. As an enthusiast and practitioner of ballroom dancing for many years, I became used to enjoying dancing with anyone. However, when I had the opportunity to dance with someone I viewed at a different level, everything was enhanced by quite a percentage.

Check out this beautiful video that uses dancing as a means to accentuate the love that these couples share towards each other. A clear example of how dance speaks louder than words.

~Victoria