I’m going to make a radical statement here… Everyone Should Dance!
Ok, I said it. I promise to back it up with some science at the end but first, backstory.
When I was a kid a lot of the girls were in ballet but most of the boys didn’t think dance was a sport and a boy in a ballet class was likely an early indicator of sexual preference. Thank goodness times have changed but in my opinion, there are still not nearly enough boys in dance class.
Furthermore, dancing is not just for the young. It’s an exercise that is very easily modified for just about every physical ability. For proof, just venture down to the 3rd Street Promenade to see the dancing lady. I’m sure she is in her late 70’s, spinning and shimmying with beautiful full skirt twirling behind her. She always has an audience and often folks dance along with her. If you’re not in the neighborhood, just google her for entertaining videos.
Sadly, I didn’t take dance lessons until I was in college…the second time, so mid-20’s. Prior to that, the closest thing to a dance class I went to was Jazzercise and I still have a vivid memory of my mom being so excited to bring me to the workout with her. It was being held in a high school gymnasium. This was in the very early 80’s and I can still picture my legwarmers, a stark contrast of neon purple against my black tights that I wore under a hot pink bodysuit. All the ladies were decked out in similar outfits, the body suits with the French cut leg openings, hair with bangs up to the ceiling and sweat bands around their heads and wrists.
I remember laughing, a lot and even sweating some, but my mom was drenched. We did high knees to Fame and grape-vines to Call Me. At the end we laid down on the mats and did scissor moves with our legs and full sit-ups. Neither of those moves are on regular rotation in any workout class today. Now “bicycle legs” only happen in a spinning class. Which is a great workout, by the way, even if the trend was satirized so incredibly well on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt “Kimmy Rides a Bike!” (Season 1, Episode 11). Laugh-out-loud funny. Seriously. You should watch it.
Recently, I got back into dancing. Thankfully, I have one of those friends who is an ‘inviter’ or what we used to call ‘Julie, Your Cruise Director’ when Love Boat was till a recognizable reference. This friend kept inviting me to go to Zumba. I had a visceral negative reaction to the sound of the word Zumba and even felt a tiny bit embarrassed for her that she liked it so much. But, she’s a terrific friend and I figured if she was gushing this much about how great it was then I should stop being so judgy and do what I tell my kids, “Take two bites before you say ‘No Thank You.’ ”
Well, she was right about it being a great workout and super fun. The hour went by in a blink and I was soaked with sweat. I had no clue what I was doing so I was perpetually going the wrong way and was happy that I had snagged a spot near the back. Sure, I felt a little self-conscious in the beginning and I certainly hoped no one was looking at me to figure out the footwork but then I looked around and honestly, nobody cared what I was doing except me. When I really looked at the class it was a mix of a lot of different people with a wide assortment of ages and abilities all there to get in an entertaining workout.
I will say that the quality of the dance class very much depends on the instructor but just ask around or use the interweb and you’ll be able to find a great class. Dance for adults has really become a movement. It used to be you could take couples Ballroom Dance or maybe find a place that did Swing or Salsa dancing but dance studios offering it as a workout were few. Now the place I go offers both the “Dance Party” style work out or an actual dance choreography class. I love both of them but lately I’ve been going to the choreography class pretty regularly.
My daughter takes a regular dance class weekly, sometimes she does tap for a while, other times Jazz, Hip-Hop or Lyrical. My son does Hip-Hip for shorter stints, here and there because he’s older and has less time in his schedule for any classes. These classes are great for them, but what do the parents do? Sit there. I wish I could be in class with them or in my own class in the room next door. It just looks like so much fun!
So now I’m going to back up my statement: Everybody Should Dance! with science.
- It’s good for your brain.
- It’s good for your body.
- It’s good for your career!
It’s Good for Your Brain: A 2017 study published in Frontiers of Aging Neuroscience showed that participants who danced had less brain deterioration than those who were assigned brisk walking, stretching or balance training. A 2014 Study in the European Journal of Sports Science showed an increase in positive feelings following recreational ballroom dance and another by the AMA showed teenage girls felt more positively about themselves after dancing. To perform a dance routine you have use your memory and your motor skills together while being aware of time or tempo and space, plus your partner or classmates movements as well. You can read more in this CNN article that sums it up nicely.
It’s Good for Your Body: I’m sure you’ve heard about football players taking ballet. One NY Jets player says, “It keeps you injury-free — your ankles, keeps your feet strong, your toes strong; you get away from knee injuries. It’s the hardest thing I do.” It has been shown to improve the neuromuscular coordination of those with autism, and to improve the heart and lung health of participants. And you may have read the story of Roni Tarver who danced off 100 pounds! Dancing is a full body workout and you can do it anywhere!
It’s Good for Your Career: I mean, just look at Ginger Rogers, right? Ok, I don’t have specific scientific research for this one but if you and/or your kids want to work in entertainment having strong dancing skills will NEVER be a hindrance and can only help you stand out. Plus, it will help you put more intention behind your body movements which is hugely important when developing a character’s physical traits. Dance is another form of communicating and storytelling and a great asset in your acting toolbox. Be sure to add videos of your dancing skills to the casting sites too.
Usually I’ll go to dance class on Wednesdays when the kids are in school but sometimes if I go on a Saturday morning, I’ll bring both of my kids because at my studio kids are free and it’s fun for all of us. I certainly hope that my kids have fond memories of all the adults dressed in yoga pants and strappy sports tops sweating buckets to Santigold and Beyoncé.
At the very least they’ll see their mom trying something new, making her health a priority and laughing at herself.
So are you convinced? Do you want to try a dance class? Before you say, “No, thank you,” take two bites first!
CNN Article on Benefits of Dance
Mood & Dance Studies
Physical Health Impacts Dance