D is for Dance: living well, despite everything

Jump into someone's arms and DANCE!
Jump into someone’s arms and DANCE!

Dance springs from a natural desire to express ourselves, and through that expression, to connect socially with those around us, to celebrate, to sway, step, twirl and leap on our common ground.
What happens to a toddler when music engages her? She hears and she instinctively moves her body rhythmically and expressively. She smiles at those around her, hoping to induce a response. She wants others to join in her celebration.

4 reasons to dance:

  1. Grooving to the music feels good.
  2. Dancing lifts your spirits. The more involved you become with the rhythm and sounds of music, the more you forget yourself, the more uninhibited and free you feel.
  3. Dancing awakens your physical sense of well-being, increases your emotional awareness, and boosts your creativity.
  4. Dancing is fun.

Do you need music to dance? 

  • If I talk to myself, it’s not a conversation. In the same way, if I move without music, it might be exercise, it might even be impressively gymnastic, but if my body isn’t collaborating with and responding to music, I’m not dancing.

Why not just listen to music without dancing?

  • Listening to music is pleasurable but it’s not the same as dancing. Sometimes you just have to dance! Music and movement belong together like pumpkin pie and whipped cream; like warm summer nights and twinkling starry skies; like my true love and I.

How to dance:

  • Turn on the music, whatever makes you happy.
  • Groove. Move rhythmically in a way that feels good.
  • Dance as if no one is watching. (This works better if you really believe no one is watching!) If your feet and legs are uncoordinated, move your arms, clap your hands, snap your fingers and wag your head.

It’s that easy. So just do it. Dance!

Here are 3 more reasons to dance: 

  1. Dancing releases endorphins which inhibit pain response in the brain and counteract depression;
  2. Dancing increases self-esteem. It does! Just dance every day for a week, and you’ll discover that I’m right. It’s practically impossible to feel worthless when you’re expressing joy.
  3. A study about whether leisure activities are associated with a lowered risk of dementia, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in June 2003, showed that regular dancing (three or more times weekly) is very influential in preventing dementia’s onset.

And, as the author of the blog Adopting James points out, dancing is a clever, fun way to overcome writer’s block. Check it out!

That makes 8 good reasons to dance! 

And the good-reason count is still climbing. My blogger friend Maurice from Newfoundland has just linked me to an article that explains why I’m getting smarter. Not only does dancing ward off dementia, it helps your cognitive processing right now!
So put on some music. Get on your feet and move to the beat. Sing, dance and be merry!

What’s your favorite dancing music? 

40 thoughts on “D is for Dance: living well, despite everything”

  1. Great post. Dancing is something that I rarely do mostly because I seldom play music (I am a fan of quite) but having read this I am encouraged to try dancing, especially as I now know that it can improve self-esteem and ward off dementia. 😉

    1. I love quiet, too. And I don’t play music just to have it in the background. I put on whatever makes my feet happy and dance a song or two. Then I turn it off again.
      I do hope you’ll try it whenever you need a mood boost. The effect has been amazing for me.

    1. Thank you for that link, Maurice. I’m going to move it up into the post!
      I hadn’t connected my increased brain function with dancing, directly, because I thought it had something to do with the fact that I keep pushing the boundaries of what I’m capable of understanding (using foreign language learning, doing puzzles, reading math and science–not my strong suits–and now, learning computer languages which is VERY difficult for me and something I’ve never felt I had any aptitude for).
      But I have been dancing regularly for a couple of years. I did it when I was young but then just went all fuddy-duddy and didn’t dance anymore. Now that I’m back at it, I’m discovering its benefits are multi-level, physical, emotional and spiritual.

      1. Here’s a cool story that happens to be true. When my daughter was much younger she was struggling to remember her “multiplication math facts” (We called them “times tables” when I was a kid.) It dawned on me that if she practiced them while moving we might have better success. Yup–worked fine. She danced her way through some of the facts 🙂 Now, this was totally unscientific and I really have no way of telling whether it was directly related to the movement or just because we were both having a bit of fun 🙂

        1. As far as I’m concerned, that proves my point! I think there is some research on this.
          Are you familiar with Howard Gardner’s work on multiple intelligences? I’m convinced that kinesthetic learners (of which my brother is definitely one) learn best by “doing” and when they can’t “do” (because it’s abstract), they need to connect it to movement.
          And fun never hurts, either!
          Have you seen the movie Akeelah and the Bee? I think both you and your daughter would like it.

          1. Yes, both my daughter and I have a preference form kinesthetic learning. In a related way, as a (retired) science teacher I am pretty much shocked, by the way, with the degree to which lab activities seem to be on the wane in schools. Not only does this present a very inaccurate view of what is science but, just as importantly, it denies students the chance to learn by doing.

  2. Agree with all the reasons you list, Tracy. One of my nieces is a dancer – just about to take her final ballet exam. She is focussed, calm and confident and she has a fabulous posture! She wants to continue her studies (currently musical theatre) and has had two offers from two very prestigious academies here. Can you tell I’m just a bit of a proud auntie?

    1. I’d be proud, too!
      It takes incredible discipline to become a ballet dancer. I really, really wanted to be a ballet dancer when I was a child. But I started way too late, and had too many other interests to focus on that. But I did learn enough to keep me dancing now.
      I’m very impressed–and wish your niece a lovely career in dance. Hope to see her perform someday!

  3. Oh Tracy, I’ve been looking forward to your “D” post for awhile! As you know, I absolutely love to dance. It’s the perfect was to relax and let go of the day. Sometimes I like to dance all by myself with some music playing (anything with a jazzy tune) but I also love adult dance classes. I haven’t found as many adult dance classes in Ann Arbor but there is a great place that offers ballet classes.

    1. I haven’t found many adult classes, here, either. I’m not as fond of gym-dance classes (they feel too “punchy-stompy” and not very “dance-y” to me).
      I end up dancing alone, mostly, because it’s best for me (for sleep-health reasons) to exercise between 4-5:30, and almost all the adult classes, if I ever can locate any, are held in the evening.

  4. I’m going proper dancing this Friday evening. Hooray! Looking forward to feeling good (as if I need encouragement to dance).
    I am still into my Arcade Fire but even though they are huge, they don’t seem to get played where I go out.

    1. I haven’t been “out” dancing in ages. I end up dancing alone because Ken and I can’t dance together. There’s an episode in my memoir about that, and why it doesn’t make sense, but it is a fact. So now, since, if I’m going to dance with anyone, I want to dance with him, and we dance terribly together, I end up dancing by myself.
      Enjoy your dancing on Friday–sounds fun!

    1. Chantilly Lace is one of the best dance songs ever, in my opinion! And the Beatles were very danceable in their early incarnation.
      Helter Skelter and Hey Jude, though, I just can’t dance to…

    1. Until you can really dance, you can still turn on music and clap and snap your fingers!
      I hope you’re up and dancing very, very soon. I’d call your adventures “misadventures.” What a bummer!

  5. All I can say to this post Tracy is I love to dance and I would do it so much more if I could, time permitting I mean. That and walking are the best things for all the reasons you list here I think. Works for me! Well, I say that, let’s hope for the future too… 🙂

    1. Walking and dancing are my exercises of choice, too. And swimming, but that’s even more time-consuming, having to get somewhere to take a dip. Walking is easy–I just walk out the door and keep going. And dancing is something I can do at home, in any weather.

  6. Wonderful post, Tracy. I love the eight reasons, and I especially love the picture. Children are naturals; the girl’s face tells it all, and (I’m still smiling here) it looks like she’s already had some artistic fun with a marker on her arm!
    In the assisted living dining room, during dessert one of the asst. managers always turns on music. It’s beautiful to watch the changes. Seniors with dementia will start tapping their silver ware and waving their napkins. One man especially will back his wheelchair away from the table and start doing little half spins. Hands clap, eyes light up, faces break into smiles and laughs. These are the dances of the infirm, and the joy is palpable!

    1. How wonderful, that someone is thoughtful enough to introduce music with the dessert course! And it shows that dancing is something that is a life-long natural response to music, if we don’t stifle it by worrying about how we look to others.
      Funny you noticed the little marker squiggles. She was staying at our house with her parents and woke up in the night, got into her mother’s purse and found the permanent sharpie. Then she proceeded to gleefully color. The sheets; the carpet; the walls; her zippy cup; her mother’s foot; and herself.

  7. I love to dance…I might not be the greatest dancer, but who cares right? When I’m feeling down or stressed, I love to turn on some music and dance.
    Thanks for the link to the article on dancing and dementia, Tracy. I shared it with my father.

    1. I think it’s really sad when people stifle the urge to dance because they don’t think they’re great–and I’m glad to hear you don’t do that. Because it shouldn’t be about the performance, when we’re dancing for the joy of dancing.
      I shared it with my father, too, and he passed it on to a number of his friends. I hope it causes everyone to dance, dance, dance!

  8. Music is a way into our souls. It lifts us up and it captures our emotions. We can cry when the song tells ‘our’ story, or if its message is meant to be sad. I love this idea of reasons to dance and getting us up off our chairs and into the ‘light’ feeling that you get while dancing! Smiles, Robin

  9. I love this post, Tracy. I have danced publicly before – in the church parking lot as I listened to Pharrell Williams uptempto tune, “Happy.” Some might have thought I was crazy, and they’d have been right. Love all your reasons for dancing. 😉

  10. Great post. There is also a metaphoric ‘dance’ that we can do through adversities as well. “Life is not waiting for the storms to pass, but learning to dance in the rain.”
    It took me a long time to work out what the ‘dance’ meant.

    1. My husband is 1/4 American Indian. The Rain Dance…. it’s not something you do just in anticipation, in hope for rain, it’s something you do IN the rain, despite the rain that falls on your planned perfect day. …
      I think?
      I think I want to hear more about what you think the “dance” in the rain means. Very interesting.

      1. I have a lot of respect for American Indian traditions.
        I suppose what I mean is that sometimes when it rains some people get miserable while others make the most of it and enjoy staying inside by the fire or go outside for a walk in the rain. Then there are others who go out and dance. Feel the real joy of being in the rain, and dance and sing and laugh.
        As for adversities, I think that the ‘dancing’ is more than simply ‘putting up with’ or ‘making the best of’ whatever situation you find yourself in, but actually dancing by finding some passion that you never knew that you had and exploring that and revelling in that; or maybe making a deep connection with someone that you would not have otherwise connected with; and whether it is your passion, or a deep connection, being grateful that the adversity (whatever it is) gave you the opportunity for that to develop.

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