The Benefits of Dance
There is definitely a wide range of comfort levels when it comes to letting it all loose on the dance floor. Maybe you feel the most present and joyful when you have some time to dance, or maybe just the thought of dancing creates inner turmoil for you. You might be somewhere in the middle! Remember that creating a dance/movement practice for yourself is just that, for yourself! You don’t have to do it in front of or with anyone else if you don’t want to, though sharing dance with other people can be a great way to have fun and connect. If you haven’t incorporated dance into your self-care routine, hopefully this blog will show you some of the possibilities and benefits of doing so.
Remember, if dancing isn’t already a part of your life, it is completely normal to feel a little bit of hesitation and nervousness around trying it. It’s the same with trying anything new! Our hope is that you will keep an open mind as you read this week’s blog and consider trying out something new in your self-care or creative practice.
But… I Can’t Dance
This is a very, very common idea that people often tell themselves when they are uncomfortable dancing, or they don’t think they are good at it. It doesn’t mean you “can’t” dance. Dancing is self-expression in motion. Simply swaying to the music, no matter how “on” or “off” beat you are, is still dancing. And it can certainly be an exercise in expanding your comfort zone (and becoming aware of its boundaries!). You do not have to be a classically trained ballet dancer to engage in dance. People can dance while sitting in chairs. No matter what a person’s functional or mobility level is, they can still express themselves via movement, with or without music, which means they can dance!
Try to let go of any expectation of an outcome when dancing. Dancing is truly about process rather than destination, which is a very good lesson in life anyway. If you commit to approaching dance with a non-judgmental and playful attitude, you’ll likely end up feeling lighter, less stressed, and more carefree after you’ve danced.
Benefits of Dance
If you can work through some of your potential initial discomfort or hesitation when it comes to dancing, there are some real benefits to incorporating dance into your life. Dancing can:
- Increase confidence
- Increase fitness benefits by engaging in aerobic exercise
- Reduced overall heart rate, blood pressure, and cholesterol
- Reduced heart disease
- Reduce anxiety and depression
- A study of teenage girls who exhibited depression, anxiety, and stress found decreased levels of anxiety and depression when dancing weekly and results persisted 8 months after stopping.
- Increase mental sharpness
- You are making split second decisions on the dancefloor, like navigating a crowded room when leading your partner in a waltz, and this engages your brain.
- Improve posture
- Improve the mind-body connection
- While dancing, you are sometimes forced to become aware of your body, how it moves, and attending to the present moment.
Types of Dance
There are so, so many different types of dance in the world that there is absolutely no way to do them all justice in one blog. Suffice it to say, there is a style of dance for everyone, even if you develop your own! You can rock out with a partner, or all by yourself.
To start out, you might want to think about if you’d like a more free-form dance experience, or if you think you’d like to have more structure.
free-form dance ideas
- Ecstatic dance
- Dancing mindfulness
- Social dancing at a club/bar
Structured Dance Ideas
- Ballroom dance
- Zumba class
- Line dancing
- English folk dancing
And, of course, there are some forms of dance that can be categorized in either, like belly dance. Remember, you can always just put on some tunes that move you in your own home and maybe watch some YouTube videos to get some ideas of how to incorporate movement into your music-listening! There doesn’t necessarily have to be any rhyme, reason, or specific choreography to your dance practice—but sometimes people feel more comfortable starting out with some structure to build off. Explore what fits for you and allow yourself to experiment.
How to Get Involved
You might want to start with a quick google search in your area for the type of dancing that you might be interested in. Another first step could be calling your local YMCA to see if they have any classes to take. You can always go out to dance socially at a ballroom event, club, or bar—whatever strikes your fancy. Remember that you can also practice movement in the privacy of your own home where there is no one to judge you but yourself… and usually, that’s your harshest critic. You might consider joining a Zumba class at your local gym or YMCA. There are private studios as well. This way, you can engage in movement in a group, and be instructed on what movements to do, all the while enjoying the music and getting a good work out! This can be a great introduction into the world of dance if you’re not already there. If you are, maybe try branching out and incorporating a new form of dance into your regular routine. There are options out there too for diverse mobility and functional levels.
Movement can be very therapeutic when working through all sorts of different concerns from daily stressors to trauma. Sometimes dancing and movement helps heal the parts of us that can’t seem to find words. Talk with an Angelus counselor today about how some movement/dance might be a helpful practice for you.
Blog Credit: Natalie Drozda, MA, LPC is a PH.D student in Counseling Education and Supervision at Duquesne University & therapist at Angelus Therapeutic Services