Let’s Dance

I invite you to dance in 2020.

In a bio for one of her early articles – which I can no longer find but she corroborates – neuroscience journalist Maia Szalavitz wrote that she attempts to live an evidence-based life. I do, too. I try to use the findings of research – which are simply meticulous attempts to discover and express cause-and-effect relationships – to open my life to what’s real and possible.

Anne dancingThe evidence is in on dancing. I’ve added it to what a lovely friend terms my “carefully crafted” life. I invite you to join me.

Here’s why.

Loneliness, social isolation, and lack of social relationships are increasing in the U.S., are linked to cognitive decline, and contribute to premature death. Former Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, termed this a loneliness epidemic. This writer elaborates in The New York Times. Forty percent of Americans identify as lonely.

If loneliness is the problem, the logical solution is to find something to do with people.

For many, that something needs to be engaging enough to add to a long day of effort at work or home. It needs to take little time, be learned quickly, and have low costs.

Dancing can meet those criteria. And research on dancing suggests it helps with more than loneliness.

  • According to this 2016 report, “Results suggest that participation in partnered dance styles is associated with perceived improvements in physical fitness, cognitive functioning, social functioning, mood, and self-confidence, and that perceived benefits may increase as individuals dance more frequently and over longer periods of time.”
  • According to this 2018 brain imaging study, “Our results indicated that ballroom dancers showed elevated neural activity in sensorimotor regions relative to novices and functional alterations in frontal-temporal and frontal-parietal connectivity, which may reflect specific training experience related to ballroom dancing, including high-capacity action perception, attentional control, and movement adjustment.”
  • According to this clinical trial conducted in Greece in 2017, “Dance may be an important nonpharmacological approach that can benefit cognitive functions.”
  • According Dr. Agnieszka Burzynska, quoted in the 2017 New York Times article, “Walk, Stretch or Dance? Dancing May Be Best for the Brain, “‘Any activities involving moving and socializing’…might perk up mental abilities in aging brains.”
  • In this 2017 study comparing recreational ballroom dancers vs. non-dancers, “heightened cardiovascular functional status” was observed in the dancers.
  • According to this 2019 report, “This study validates the intensity of recreational ballroom dance as matching the criteria established by the American College of Sports Medicine for improving cardiorespiratory fitness and reducing the risk of chronic diseases.”

Look at all the reasons to dance! I glory in reasons! But, I can hear the voice of Deborah Richey, executive director of Sapphire Ballroom, laughingly chiding me: “Anne! Dancing is fun!”

Yes! It is fun! I love to dance!

Here are some drop-in opportunities to dance in the New River Valley of Virginia (in alphabetical order). Please follow the link to check the schedule.

I took myself to my town’s rec center for my first dance lesson in April of last year at age 60. I felt uneasy openly revealing to people I didn’t know my lack of skill and lack of a partner. Our instructor briskly asked us to decide if we wanted to “lead” or “follow,” then walked us through beginning steps until we had them. Then she asked us to dance with the person in front of us. Then to shift and dance with the next person!

In my decades as a teacher and a student, I have never before witnessed such skilled, efficient, effective instruction. In one hour, a room full of uneasy, awkward strangers were transformed, laughing and spinning to the music together. We were dancers.

Beyond Dance Etiquette: Success and Enjoyment in Social Dancing by Professor Aria Nosratinia, at over 20 years old, is the most uplifting, encouraging, realistic writing about partnership dancing I have yet read.

I so hope to dance with you in 2020!

Photo of Anne Giles by Sapphire Ballroom at the West Coast Swing workshop by Adela + Eddie.

Last updated 1/19/20

The views expressed are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the positions of my colleagues, clients, family members, or friends. This content is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or professional advice. Consult a qualified health care professional for personalized medical and professional advice.

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