Dancing Through Life
Written by Jessica Metcalf
Winter can be a time to bundle up and slip into a lackadaisical lifestyle, in anticipation of sunnier days. Dance can be one way to ameliorate the winter weather blues by getting the body moving and dance. Many people know that dance produces positive endorphins, but few realize the full range of health benefits.
Dancing can improve a slumping posture acquired over years at a desk, and it can be a more enjoyable way to get the heart rate moving without stepping on the ubiquitous treadmill. With physical benefits including increasing flexibility, improving mobility, and enhancing rhythm, even a brief lesson will leave the dancer feeling better than ever.
Partner or group dancing is a low-impact cardiovascular form of exercise and can be an excellent place to start, no matter the walk of life. According to an article from Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute lecture series, dance is a “pleasure double play”: music stimulates the brain’s reward centers, while dance activates its sensory and motor circuits. Both produce health benefits to the dancer. Ballroom dance can decrease blood pressure, help slow bone loss related to osteoporosis, lower the risks of obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, and promote increased lung capacity, according to Fred Astaire Dance Studios’ 4 Pillars of Health.
As an adult with over two decades of dance experience, I found it harder to utilize my dance skills in an environment similar to that of the studios in which I grew up dancing. I began taking some of the adult classes offered at BalletMet, which range from Introductory to Advanced Ballet, a casual, slow-paced Movement Exploration class, and Pilates. This has been an exceptional way to continue practicing dance technique through a highly-regarded organization and led to my search for social dance avenues in Columbus.
After over a year of intentionally keeping our distance from each other in order to remain healthy, I was starving for more social engagement than individual technique classes could provide. Social dancing can bring powerful enhancements to mental and emotional health. Many have heard dancing is a self-expressive form of art, but it can also be an interconnection between partners or groups. Right in the heart of Ohio, Lincoln Street Social hosts Salsa Nights every Saturday for amateurs and professionals to work on their salsa dancing. With no experience necessary, one can gather with friends or make new ones during the beginner/intermediate lesson right before the party begins.
Though an experienced dancer, I had never dipped my toes into the realm of ballroom dancing. The social aspect of partnering seemed to be a logical next step. There are many Central Ohio dance studios to choose from: Ballroom Avenue (Grandview), Emerald City Ballroom (Dublin), Crystal Ballroom (Worthington), and Danceville, U.S.A. (Victorian Village), to name a few. If ballet and ballroom are not the styles that get your feet tapping, the historic barn at Malabar Farm State Park (Lucas, northwest Columbus) offers square and line dancing. These country-style dances might be more familiar and a good place to start for the apprehensive dancer. Any of these social styles of dancing will provide the same abundant health benefits to the body and brain.
I chose to go to Dance Edge in Grandview and had two 45-minute lessons with Enoch Evans (EA Dance Art) to prepare me for a Friday night ballroom party at the studio. Through learning smooth styles like Waltz, Foxtrot, and Tango, and an introduction to rhythm styles like Swing, Cha Cha, and Rumba, my crash course prepared me for an evening of, “May I have this dance?” and stepping into a beat of social dancing of which I was unfamiliar. I left that night feeling a sense of fulfillment that I believe many have been aching to find again in the past couple of years. Whether it’s for health or happiness, dance can be the perfect addition to your health regimen by exploring these social connections in Columbus.
Photos Courtesy of Dance Edge.