Dancing is the Best Medicine

Many of you know that I read this fabulous book recently. Dancing is the Best Medicine is an engaging exploration of why dance is good for the mind, body and soul.  Written by two neuroscientists, this book cites evidence to support many of the things we already knew that dance was good for, along with a few surprises. The book focusses on social dancing, and explores solo dancing, partner dancing, group dancing, dancing as therapy etc.

It is astonishing to think as humans we are wired for rhythm – rhythm is as fundamental to us as the air we breathe: it is rooted in our brains.  How often do you see very young children moving in time to the beat of a catchy tune? As we get older, we become more self-conscious, and the excuse, ‘I can’t dance,’ comes out.  I’m sorry to tell you that this excuse only applies to 1.5% of the population who suffer from a disorder called amusia. 

The brain sees dance like a language.  I have always advocated that learning to dance is like learning a language, and finally I have the science to back that up! But unlike a spoken or written language, dance doesn’t just require you to learn words and phrases (dance steps, if you will) but to learn how to move correctly in relation to those instructions, and to do that with a partner, if dancing a partner dance. Thus dancing uses both sides of the brain, making it a useful form of exercise for people with dementia and auto-immune diseases.    

Beyond all that, there are the measurable benefits to cardiovascular health; the effect on mental health, and general flexibility. Probably the best quotation to sum it all up is, “ Dance is a very special art form.  It is a physical, emotional, spiritual, cognitive, and social activity.”

For more details you’ll need to read the book, however as a dance and pilates instructor I certainly found it fascinating.  It has further convinced me that the two disciplines are so complementary to one another. There are similar benefits in terms of physical and mental health, and in classes there is plenty of the all important social interaction. Pilates teaches the importance of core and spinal articulation which complements movement in dance. In dance we move to the rhythm of the music, but in pilates we move to the rhythm of our breath. Our lives are, in turn, ruled by the beat of our hearts.

Maybe Goria Estefan had a point – the rhythm is gonna get you.