Dance has often been used as a method of relaxation and a way to express emotions. In addition, dance has proved to improve mental health, confidence, and physical health.
Today, many people experience depression and anxiety. Many studies have shown that dance decreases symptoms of depression and improves moods.
In a thesis titled “The Power of Dance: How Dance Affects Mental and Emotional Health and Self-Confidence in Young Adults” written by Amber Rhae Salo from the University of Northern Colorado, the graduate school, she talks about how dance can affect mental capacity, mental health, emotions, and self-confidence. She quotes a mental health book by Jenson (an advocate for the arts) titled “Arts With The Brain In Mind.”
She quotes him, saying, “Dopamine and norepinephrine are released during movement and physical activity. These emotional chemicals (hormones and neurotransmitters) enhance long-term learning when administered either before or after learning.”
Dopamine improves memory and learning, so when you partake in physical activity and your body is full of dopamine, you are more subject to learning and remembering things better. Norepinephrine is similar to adrenaline. It triggers the fight or flight moment and reaches a much higher level under stress.
“A frequent theme in dance research is that dance is a ‘safety valve that releases pent-up emotions, tensions, and drives’ (Pavitra and Shubrata 107). ‘The arts transform, so to say, subjective human emotions [into states] leading to internal calm and transcendence from mundane existence’ ()Pavitra and Shubrata 108). Learning happens as an ending result of these various psychological states.”
Salo quotes a journal written by Dr.K.S. Pavitra (she is a psychiatrist, working as Associate Professor of Psychiatry at SDM Medical College, Dhaewar, has been selected as a reviewer of Indian Journal of Psychiatry, and she has written many books and articles). Pavitra explains how dance can help relieve emotions even if they are not being expressed verbally but through movement, facial expressions, and the feeling and energy put into a dance.
With experience as a dancer, dancing has helped me get through challenging moments in life. Whenever experiencing stress or anxiety, improving choreography helps focus my mind on something else. However, dance can be used not only in times of sadness or despair but in times of happiness and joy. When feeling sad or anxious, dancing helps me feel significantly better, and I become more joyful.
Often, people attend what is called “dance therapy.” In a paper titled “Dancing and the Brain” from Harvard Medical School, Blavatnik Institute Neurobiology, written by Scott Edwards (a freelance science writer based in Massachusetts), Edwards talks about the effects dancing has had on people who have Parkinson’s disease and how people with the condition have found dancing therapeutic.
He explains how “More than one million people in this country are living with Parkinson’s disease, and according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, each year, another 60,000 are diagnosed with the disease.”
He goes on to explain how Parkinson’s Disease affects people’s motor skills, and this happens when “the dopamine cells in the brain are lost.” Dopamine is a crucial component in coordination skills and movement. As the disease worsens, more and more cells begin to die and slowly decrease the amount of dopamine sent to the brain. Therefore, it reduces a person’s motor skills.
As previously explained, during physical activity, a high amount of dopamine is released throughout the body. So it makes sense why dancing can help a person who has Parkinson’s disease.
Edwards goes on to say, “According to the foundation, the primary motor symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease include bradykinesia (slowed movement), stiffness of the limbs and trunk, tremors, and impaired balance and coordination. These symptoms that dance may help alleviate” (He also adds that a lot of the research is not hard science but more observational. However, it is consistent.)
They have tested this by using dance as “a form of rhythmic auditory stimulation (RAS).”To complete the test, they ask those with Parkinson’s to listen to rhythms and move to the beat. It was found that there were “significant improvements in gaits and upper extremity function among participants” despite there being no “scientific comparisons or RAS with either music or dance… “they” speak and walk better if they have a steady rhythmic cue.” This test forces them to exercise the parts of their brain and body that the disease attacks.