For centuries, dance manuals and other writings have raved about the health benefits of dancing, usually as physical exercise. More recently we’ve seen research on further health benefits of dancing, such as stress reduction and increased serotonin level, with its sense of well-being.

Most recently we’ve heard of another benefit: Frequent dancing apparently makes us smarter.

A major study added to the growing evidence that stimulating one’s mind by dancing can ward off Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, much as physical exercise can keep the body fit. Dancing also increases cognitive acuity at all ages.

Scientists studied cognitive activities such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards, and playing musical instruments. And they studied physical activities like playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise, and doing housework.

One of the surprises of the study was that almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia. There can be cardiovascular benefits, of course, but the focus of this study was the mind.

There was one important exception: the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing:

Reading – 35% reduced risk of dementia

Bicycling and swimming – 0%

Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week – 47%

Playing golf – 0%

Dancing frequently – 76%. That was the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.

What could cause these significant cognitive benefits? Neuroplasticity created by increased complexity of neuronal synapses. Like education, participation in mentally engaging activities lowers the risk of dementia by improving these neural qualities. Our brain constantly rewires its neural pathways, as needed. If it doesn’t need to, then it won’t.

The key here is emphasis on the complexity of our neuronal synapses. More is better. Do whatever you can to create new neural paths. The opposite of this is taking the same old well-worn path over and over again, with habitual patterns of thinking and living.

The focus is creative thinking, to find as many alternative paths as possible to a creative solution. Those who spent their lives trying different mental routes each time, creating a myriad of possible paths, still have several paths left.

As the study shows, we need to keep as many of those paths active as we can, while also generating new paths, to maintain the complexity of our neuronal connections.

Why dancing?

We immediately ask two questions:

• Why is dancing better than other activities for improving mental capabilities?
• Does this mean all kinds of dancing, or is one kind of dancing better than another?

The essence of intelligence is making decisions. The best advice, when it comes to improving your mental acuity, is to involve yourself in activities which require split-second rapid-fire decision making, as opposed to rote memory (retracing the same well-worn paths), or just working on your physical style.

One way to do that is to learn something new. Not just dancing, but anything new. Don’t worry about the probability that you’ll never use it in the future. Take a class to challenge your mind. It will stimulate the connectivity of your brain by generating the need for new pathways. Difficult classes are better for you, as they will create a greater need for new neural pathways.

Then take a dance class, which can be even more effective. Dancing integrates several brain functions at once — kinesthetic, rational, musical, and emotional — further increasing your neural connectivity.

What kind of dancing?

Do all kinds of dancing lead to increased mental acuity? No, not all forms of dancing will produce the same benefit, especially if they only work on style, or merely retrace the same memorized paths. Making as many split-second decisions as possible, is the key to maintaining our cognitive abilities. Remember: intelligence is what we use when we don’t already know what to do.

We wish that 25 years ago the Albert Einstein College of Medicine thought of doing side-by-side comparisons of different kinds of dancing, to find out which was better. But we can figure it out by looking at who they studied: senior citizens 75 and older, beginning in 1980. Those who danced in that particular population were former Roaring Twenties dancers (back in 1980) and then former Swing Era dancers (today), so the kind of dancing most of them continued to do in retirement was what they began when they were young: freestyle social dancing — basic foxtrot, waltz, swing, and maybe some rumba and cha cha.

If you watch dancers on a dance floor, you almost never see memorized sequences or patterns on the dance floor. You mostly see easygoing, fairly simple social dancing — freestyle lead and follow. But freestyle social dancing isn’t that simple! It requires a lot of split-second decision-making, in both the Lead and Follow roles.

Who benefits more, women or men?

In social dancing, the Follow role automatically gains a benefit, by making hundreds of split-second decisions as to what to do next, sometimes unconsciously so. Women don’t simply follow, they interpret the signals their partners are giving them, and this requires intelligence and decision-making, which is active, not passive.

This benefit is greatly enhanced by dancing with different partners, not always with the same one. With different dance partners, you have to adjust much more and be aware of more variables. This is great for staying smarter longer.

But men, you can also match her degree of decision-making if you choose to do so.

Here’s how:
1) Really pay attention to your partner and what works best for her. Notice what is comfortable for her, where she is already going, which signals are successful with her and which aren’t, and constantly adapt your dancing to these observations. That’s rapid-fire, split-second decision making.
Don’t lead the same old patterns the same way each time. Challenge yourself to try new things each time you dance. Make more decisions more often.
3) The huge side-benefit is that your partners will have much more fun dancing with you when you are attentive to their dancing and constantly adjusting for their comfort and continuity of motion. And as a result, you’ll have more fun, too.

Get Engaged!

Those who fully utilize their intelligence in dancing, at all levels, love the way it feels. Spontaneous leading and following both involve entering a flow state. Both leading and following benefit from a highly active attention to possibilities.

That’s the most succinct definition for intelligent dancing: a highly active attention to possibilities.

The best Leads appreciate the many options that the Follow must consider every second, and respect and appreciate the Follow’s input into the collaboration of partner dancing. The Follow is finely attuned to the here-and-now in relaxed responsiveness, and so is the Lead.

Once this highly active attention to possibilities, flexibility, and alert tranquility are perfected in the art of dance partnering, dancers find it even more beneficial in their other relationships, and in everyday life.

Dance often

Studies make another important suggestion: do it often. Seniors who did crossword puzzles four days a week had a measurably lower risk of dementia than those who did the puzzles once a week. If you can’t take classes or go out dancing four times a week, then dance as much as you can. More is better.

And do it now, the sooner the better. It’s essential to start building your cognitive reserve now so don’t wait — start building it now.

-From Richard Powers, Stanford Dance


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WHY should I take dance lessons? I can dance!

Quote_ carpe dancem

Hey, I can dance—WHY should I take lessons?

We’re glad you asked. There are a lot of good reasons and only one of them is just so dance schools can make money.

First, ALL great dancers continue to take lessons and train and learn. Dancing is not a skill you can learn, then leave on a shelf until you want to use it. It requires constant practice to maintain your skills. To improve your skills, you need lessons.

Second, your TEACHERS should continue to train and learn to maintain and improve their skills. Nobody knows everything when it comes to a skill like dancing. There are always things someone else can teach you.

Third, lessons are NOT just the means to the goal of becoming a good social dancer. They are also the END goal. Here is why:

  • You meet new people when you take lessons;
  • New people expand your dance world;
  • Lessons can teach you new moves or old moves done differently;
  • You can never learn all the styling you need;
  • You have a chance to smooth out your fundamentals, which everyone needs;
  • Your dancing will improve if you spend time dancing with partners at different levels;
  • If you’re older, younger people can teach you to be more adventurous and try new things;
  • If you’re younger, older people can teach you patience, precision, and timing;
  • You can learn new dance styles;
  • You can find new opportunities for networking;
  • Lessons are good exercise and great for your brain; and
  • Lessons are a fun activity!

Lastly, dance schools need your support if we are to continue to provide very inexpensive dance socials and practicas as well as FREE events. For us, nothing is free—we pay to provide these forms of entertainment. We do it because we love dance, because we want to build community, and because we’re trying to fill a need we see in our city for people to connect with each other.

While we’re building this dance world for all of us, we want to know what you think. Talk to us. Tell us what you like and what you don’t. We’re listening. We hope to see you on the dance floor soon!



Why Dancing Makes you Smarter

Dancing improves brain function on a variety of levels. Two recent studies show how different types of practice allow dancers to achieve peak performance by blending cerebral and cognitive thought processes with muscle memory and ‘proprioception’ held in the cerebellum. Through regular aerobic training that incorporates some type of dance at least once a week, anyone can maximize his or her brain function.

Why don’t professional dancers get dizzy?

Do you feel dizzy sometimes when you stand up? Does a fear of falling prevent you from exploring the world more? If you are prone to dizziness, a study has found that dancing may help improve your balance and make you less dizzy. In September 2013, researchers from Imperial College London reported on specific differences in the brain structure of ballet dancers that may help them avoid feeling dizzy when they perform pirouettes. You don’t have to train to become a professional ballet dancer to benefit from some type of dancing.

The article is titled, “The Neuroanatomical Correlates of Training-Related Perceptuo-Reflex Uncoupling in Dancers.” The research suggests that years of training can enable dancers to suppress signals from the balance organs in the inner ear linked to the cerebellum.

The findings, published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, could help to improve treatment for patients with chronic dizziness. Around one in four people experience this condition at some time in their lives.

Taking time throughout your life to improve the function of your cerebellum through aerobic activity and some type of dance is a fun and effective way to avoid the perils of dizziness.

Dr. Barry Seemungal, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial, said: “Dizziness, which is the feeling that we are moving when in fact we are still, is a common problem. I see a lot of patients who have suffered from dizziness for a long time. Ballet dancers seem to be able to train themselves not to get dizzy, so we wondered whether we could use the same principles to help our patients. It’s not useful for a ballet dancer to feel dizzy or off balance. Their brains adapt over years of training to suppress that input. Consequently, the signal going to the brain areas responsible for perception of dizziness in the cerebral cortex is reduced, making dancers resistant to feeling dizzy. If we can target that same brain area or monitor it in patients with chronic dizziness, we can begin to understand how to treat them better.”

Visualizing Movements can Improve Muscle Memory

A July 2013 article titled, “The Cognitive Benefits of Movement Reduction: Evidence From Dance Marking” found that dancers can improve the ability to do complex moves by walking through them slowly and encoding the movement with a cue through ‘marking’. Researcher Edward Warburton, a former professional ballet dancer, and colleagues were interested in exploring the thinking behind the doing of dance.

The findings, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggest that marking may alleviate the conflict between the cognitive and physical aspects of dance practice — allowing dancers to memorize and repeat steps more fluidly. This creates what is called superfluidity, which is the highest tier of flow.

Expert ballet dancers seem to glide effortlessly across the stage, but learning the steps is both physically and mentally demanding. New research suggests that dance marking—loosely practicing a routine by going through the motions—may improve the quality of dance performance by reducing the mental strain needed to perfect the movements.

“It is widely assumed that the purpose of marking is to conserve energy,” explains Warburton, Professor of Dance at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “But elite-level dance is not only physically demanding, it’s cognitively demanding as well. Learning and rehearsing a dance piece requires concentration on many aspects of the desired performance. Marking essentially involves a run-through of the dance routine, but with a focus on the routine itself, rather than making the perfect movements.”

To investigate how marking influences performance, the researchers asked a group of talented dance students to learn two routines: they were asked to practice one routine at performance speed and to practice the other one by marking. Across many of the different techniques and steps, the dancers were scored more highly on the routine that they had practiced with marking—their movements on the marked routine appeared to be more seamless, their sequences more fluid.

Conclusion: Synchronizing the Cerebrum and Cerebellum Creates Superfluidity

The researchers conclude that practicing at performance speed didn’t allow the dancers to memorize and consolidate the steps as a sequence, thus encumbering their performance. This type of visualization and marking could be used to maximize performance across many fields and areas of life.

-From Psychology Today



Dance is not just a hobby or passion–it’s a lifestyle.
It’s also a good workout.

In addition to unleashing creativity, dance is a way to alleviate daily stresses and bring happiness to those who embrace it.

Dance is an escape from reality; you can lose yourself in the music & movement.

It’s never too late to benefit from dancing, and you don’t have to be a professional to reap its rewards.

Enrolling in dance classes after work is a great way to incorporate dancing into your life. Soon, you can be dancing down the pathway to happiness.

Psychology Today says dancing makes you happier than working out the gym or going for a run. A study conducted at the University of London involved patients dealing with anxiety disorders. Patients dedicated time to one of the following therapeutic environments: an exercise class, a dance class, a math class, or a music class.

Out of all the activities, the dance class was the one environment that reduced anxiety a significant amount.

Another benefit of dancing frequently is that it stimulates the mind and sharpens cognitive skills at every age. Dancing stimulates different brain activities at the same time, including emotional, rational, kinesthetic, and musical. This increases the way your brain functions in a positive way.

So—dancing is a fun activity with a wealth of health benefits that keeps us in shape, makes us feel good, and makes us smarter! What could be better than that?

-from Elite Daily


Tips for Followers:

• Clear your mind and concentrate on your partner.
• Listen to the music, but avoid counting beats.
• Stop analyzing anything except the signals your leader is giving you.
• Don’t think of any specific steps.
• Follow the Leader’s chest.
• Be on the lookout for change.
• Don’t anticipate the next move or step.
• Keep in a receptive state of mind.
• Don’t try to memorize a pattern of steps.
• Try to maintain your own balance.
• Commit your weight to the foot you are stepping onto.
• Suspend the impulse to worry about where you are going and what you are doing next.

A follower can listen in many different ways to her partner:
• his body motion,
• his hand pressure on her back or side,
• visual cues, or
• signaling with subtle movements of eyes, head, etc.

THE THREE LAWS for Followers:
1. Never hold on;
2. Never let go; and
3. Don’t think, just do it.

Following means:
if he doesn’t give the signal, you do nothing. If he gives the wrong signal, you forget what you were expecting to do, and follow the signal he gives instead. No exceptions.


You don’t have to listen to other people.  Live your dream!

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These are the signs to look for in a good dance teacher.  Green is for good to go!

• Gives clean, clear instructions

• Easy to follow and lead

• Protects you

• Dances at your level

• Patient and kind to all partners

• Open to questions and repeating demonstrations

• Has an attitude of constant improvement

• Continues to learn and train themselves



If a teacher displays these characteristics, beware!  Red is for stop and look elsewhere.

• Is rough or cause you pain

• Doesn’t care about your level

• Poor ability to dance around other couples

• Easily frustrated by a beginner student or partner

• Self-taught or learned socially (no formal dance or teaching background)

• Has been dancing for a short time

• Doesn’t look up to other professionals

• Only wants you to learn from them

• Only recommends the most expensive learning options

• Doesn’t ask you what you want to learn and where you want to go in your dance life

• Parties but doesn’t take classes with other professionals


A good dance teacher is not everything in learning to dance, but it can make your progress faster, smoother, & more fun!









 1.   Dance with some different teachers:

A good teacher doesn’t need to be the best dancer in the room, but they should be the one most conscious of and interested in their partner.  A good teacher should have substance as well as style and should have a strong foundation in the dance.  A great teacher pays a high level of attention to students and is much less interested in showing off than in improving their students’ abilities

 2.  Ask questions:

Find out who the teacher learned from, how long they have been dancing and teaching (those should always be different numbers), and who are their idols in dance.  Teaching is a separate skill from dancing.  If you really want to learn to dance, keep in mind that learning dance informally can lead to a lot of bad habits that are hard to break!  It’s best to learn from a qualified teacher.

3.  Try a short session of classes:

Watch how they teach to see if you connect with their teaching style.  You might not catch on to the dance right away, but the directions should be clear and not confusing.  Don’t expect your body to internalize the movements right away.  Dancing is a progressive skill.  You should be patient but feel like you leave every class having learned something.  Don’t forget to have fun!

4.  Set up long-term goals:

A teacher should be able to help you plan how to get where you want to go with your dancing.  This might involve recommending private lessons or workshops with travelling professionals.

5.  Find out about the teacher’s plans for growth:

It’s easy for teachers to become complacent simply because they dance better than their students.  You want a teacher who continues to learn, cross trains, and works at upgrading and updating their skills.

6.  Look at how they treat their students and other social dancers:

A good teacher is kind to all dancers, not just the ones paying them.  They should be able to deal with unsafe or undesirable behaviour from other dancers in order to protect and promote the dance community.



IMG_1749Are you a Good Leader or a Great Leader? (Or neither?)

First, to define the role:

Leader = responsible for guiding the couple and choosing, then initiating, transitions to different steps.  The leader should signal the follow by using subtle physical and visual cues.

A Good Leader:

  1. Dances at the follower’s level.
  2. Has good musicality, which means the leader can hear the rhythm and understand the nuances in the music.
  3. Is clear.  Not rough or forced, but the signals should be easily understandable to the follower.
  4. Has good connection with the follower.
  5. Is creative, but not a show-off.  Part of being a good leader is making your partner feel great.
  6. Dances safely by watching out for other dancers.
  7. Makes the follower enjoy the dance.
  8. Understands that partner dancing is about two people.
  9. Is familiar with the basic rhythm and elements of the dance.
  10. Is calm, confident, and kind.
  11. Smells clean!

A Great Leader:

  1.  Reads the follower and adapts to his/her level.
  2. Adjusts the lead based on how the follow reacts to each signal.
  3. Can make the follower feel like they are moving together with the music.
  4. Can do all this AND enjoy each dance!


(source: zouktheworld)