“Without music, life would be a mistake”, said Nietzsche, and he wasn’t entirely wrong because we have a natural instinct that leads us to follow the rhythm of the music. In fact, most children move and clap their hands when they hear a song they like. It is a spontaneous response related to our need to communicate and express our emotions through the movement and the body.
There is no doubt that music is a universal language and everyone, except the people who suffer from amusia, is able to appreciate and enjoy it. In fact, it was discovered that people of different cultures react emotionally in the same way when listening to different types of music. So, it is no coincidence that anthropological studies indicate that groups who were more likely to survive were those who had developed a particular dance and were able to share their feelings dancing.
Of course, music and dance not only serve as social glue, but are also very useful for our physical and mental health. Recent studies revealed that one of the keys to happiness and satisfaction is right on the dance floor.
Steps that heal, movements that make us happy
In 2013, psychologists at the University of Örebro realized an experiment with a group of teenagers who suffered from anxiety, depression and stress, in addition to presenting psychosomatic symptoms such as neck and back pain. Half of these were asked to attend two dance classes a week, while the rest continued with their daily routine.
After two years, those who continued to attend the dance classes (where emphasis was on the pleasure of the movement rather than performance), not only showed a significant improvement in psychosomatic symptoms, but also reported to feel happier.
In another study conducted at the University of Derby, the psychologists worked with people who were suffering from depression. These people received “salsa” lessons for a period of nine weeks. The improvements began to be appreciated after four weeks and, after finishing the course, the participants said they had fewer negative thoughts, better concentration and a greater sense of peace and tranquility.
But the truth is that dance is not only an excellent therapeutic resource. A study at Deakin University revealed that dance has a very positive effect on our daily lives. These Australian researchers interviewed 1,000 people and found that often those who were dancing not only reported feeling happier, but also more satisfied with their lives, especially in relationships, health, and the goals achieved over the years.
Interestingly, also the psychologists at the University of New York discovered a similar effect in children. These researchers worked with 120 children, aged 2 to 5 years old, who were exposed to different types of sound stimuli, some were rhythmic and imitated the rhythm of the music, others were completely arrhythmic. They could appreciate that children who were moving following the rhythmic movements showed more positive emotions and felt happier. Therefore, these researchers concluded that not only we have a tendency to move to the beat of the music, but also that dancing improves our mood.
Why dancing makes us happy?
When we dance our brain releases endorphins, hormones which can trigger neurotransmitters that create a feeling of comfort, relaxation, fun and power. Music and dance do not only activate the sensory and motor circuits of our brain, but also the pleasure centers.
Indeed, neuroscientists at Columbia University say that when we move in tune with the rhythm, the positive effects of music are amplified. Therefore, a little secret to make the most of the music is to synchronize our movements with the beat, so we will be doubling the pleasure.
However, the magic of dancing can not simply be reduced to brain chemistry. Dancing is also a social activity that allows us connect with the others, share experiences and meet new people, which has a very positive effect on our mental health.
What’s more, as we move, our muscles relax to the music, which allows us to free ourselves of the tension built up during the day, especially the one accumulated in the deepest part of the musculature.
Duberg, A. et. Al. (2013) Influencing Self-rated Health Among Adolescent Girls With Dance Intervention A Randomized Controlled Trial. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med.; 167(1): 27-31.
Zentner, M. & Eerola, T. (2010) Rhythmic engagement with music in infancy. PNAS; 107(13): 5768-5773.
Birks, M. et. Al. (2007) The benefits of salsa classes for people with depression. Nursing Times; 103(10): 32-33.
Lesté, A. & Rust, J. (1984) Effects of dance on anxiety. Percept Mot Skills; 58(3): 767-772.
This article and article photo sourced and copied from psychology-spot.com
Feature photo sourced from Stepnout Performing Arts photos
When did you start dancing? At age 3.
What’s your favourite part of teaching? Watching students become their best selves and seeing self improvement as they go.
If you weren’t teaching dance, what would you do? Probably renovate houses. I love designing old too new.
What is your life outside of Stepnout? It’s performing with my band, running my dance company and hanging out with my 2 dogs, Benji and Pepper.
What’s your favourite dance step? Oooh! This is a hard one…in tap, a triple time step, in jazz, a turning jete…the list could go on!
What advice would you give your younger self? Don’t sweat the small stuff! Things that are meant for you, will always come to you.
What was the last show you saw? Muriels Wedding! Was a really fun night out at the theatre!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Hopefully still teaching and mentoring, and performing when I can.
What is your greatest strength? Compassion, understanding a person’s perspective and hopefully helping them do what’s right for them given that truth.
If you had a chance for a “do-over” in life, what would you do differently? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!
What do you feel most proud of? I feel proud every day of having the courage to pursue a professional career in the arts AND in being able to also nurture and foster new talent.
What teacher in school made the most impact on you and why? My music and singing teachers, they opened my eyes to a whole new world of music and truly helped me grow into the person I am today.
When did you start dancing? I started dancing when I was around 3 years old!
What’s your favourite part of teaching? I love watching everyone grow not only as a dancer but also as a person
If you weren’t teaching dance, what would you do? I would probably still be at a dance school myself
What is your life outside of Stepnout? I work outside of Stepnout and I’m always creating from dances to makeup or even baking
What’s your favourite dance step? I LOVE a good jump
What advice would you give your younger self? Don’t let anyone stop you and always be unapologetic to you
What’s your next holiday destination? I would love my next destination to be South Korea but it would probably be Brisbane or Sydney
Who is your favourite performer? Not so much a performer but more a choreographer would be Kyle Hanagami he’s been an inspiration to me since I was 13
What was the last show you saw? Probably my own concert from last year on a DVD
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Hopefully as a working dancer in the industry or studying marine biology
What is your greatest strength? I’m a hard worker and especially in dancing
What are your goals for the future? To be happy with how far or little I have come
What is your best childhood memory? My friend and I used to pretend we were power rangers on my old trampoline or we would lie to each other and say we were spies when we definitely were not
If you had a chance for a “do-over” in life, what would you do differently? I wouldn’t do anything differently it has made me the person I am and it has taught me so much
What do you feel most proud of? Finishing High school!
What is your favourite music? I really love any kind of music but I really do love some slow break up songs
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why? America! I love the environment over there with dance classes and how they hype everyone and anyone up
If you could only keep five possessions, what would they be? Would be my cat, iPhone, Jewellery, makeup and candles
What teacher in school made the most impact on you and why? I don’t believe any of my teachers made an impact on me in school
Why did you choose your profession? I love dancing I can do it all day everyday
How do you spend your free time? I love to sleep and cook for my family
Who do you most admire in life? I admire everyone who can come from a rough spot in life and make themselves something
If you won the lottery, what would you do? I would make myself save the money because I am the worst saver
What are you most afraid of? I am so afraid of holes and dots it’s crazy
What is your strongest personal quality? Making people around me happy
What was your most embarrassing moment? I tripped over on stage once at a competition before I even started dancing
What age do you feel right now and why? I feel and look 12 but for no reason I just look young
What is a skill you’d like to learn and why? I would like to learn how to change a tire so I can do it if I ever get stuck and don’t need to call my dad
What does a perfect day look like to you? Waking up early and seeing the sun come up preferably on the beach and go to breakfast date with some friends, go out for lunch and talk about everything and anything and then watch the sun set
How would your friends describe you? “Super sweet, confident, supportive, kind, talented”
What’s your favourite part of teaching?
Getting to see all of my students develop their love of dance. Nothing inspires or warms my heart more than seeing My students thrive on stage. I love watching each individual bring their own personality to dance and express their own interpretations of what I have taught them.
Who do you most admire in life?
My mum and my dad they are both very strong, hardworking and kind hearted people and I am extremely grateful for all they have given and taught me. They have, they are my rock I wouldn’t be where I am today without their love.
When did you start dancing?
When I was 9 years old and I haven’t stopped since. I do sometimes wish I started earlier but this meant that I had the chance to choose it myself rather than it be a hobby that my parents made me do from a young age.
What’s your next holiday destination?
I have travelled to both the east coast and the west coast of America and it was truly amazing, I would love to go back and do Central America in the next year or two. However my next destination is Asia later this year. I am excited to explore the culture and scenery, and hopefully fit in a dance class or two over there.
If you could only keep five possessions, what would they be?
My photo albums, phone, camera, passport and my ballet shoes, they have been with me for a while I’ve danced a lot of memories in them.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I would love to be in a school coordinators role, I am currently about to finish studying my Bachelor of Education. I would love in 10 year’s time to be a VCE dance and health coordinator at a local school. While still teaching dance outside of school of course and possibly looking at opening up my own studio.
What is your favourite music?
I am certainly an all-rounder when it comes to music, I can go from one extreme to the next. However I am in love with Disney music, you can go wrong with ‘Under the Sea’ from The Little Mermaid.
How do you spend your free time?
Out adventuring somewhere, I love exploring new places and going for drives whether it’s to a small country town or down the coast to visit a beach.
What are your goals for the future?
My biggest goal would be to spend 6 months working as a performer at Disney World, Florida. I aspire to be able to be able to dance at the most magical place on earth, having visited Florida late 2018 I was inspired and knew this was what I want to achieve one day. Being able to combine my passion of dancing and performing with my excitement for all things Disney would be a dream come true.
What are you most afraid of?
Anything that’s creepy and crawly and can bite you.