I’ve talked a lot about what values the Genevieve Ryan Dance Academy brings to class. Today I’d like to share with you what dance brings to us – its students and teachers! As a dance academy owner, I am in a unique position where I can see over the years how dance contributes to people’s lives. I acknowledge that there are many factors and life events that contribute to a person’s growth and development, and I also see and hear from our students, teachers, and families. Below are some of the benefits of dance that I have gathered over the past 20 years.
Learning to Love Learning
A lot of us are under the belief that mistakes (and failures) are wrong. That we are wrong when we make mistakes. The truth is, making mistakes, and having failed attempts are morally neutral – their neither wrong nor right – they’re simply feedback. Feedback can be used to guide us on how to improve. You cannot succeed without many, many failures. Trial and error are not only welcomed but celebrated in dance! Learning to love learning again brings new joy and readiness for new things into our lives!
Opportunity for Self-Expression
dance brings creative joy to our lives. It creates an opportunity to explore the movement of our bodies freely. As we do this, we remember what it was like to live as a child does. Our inner child gets to come out and play. The way a child runs for the pure joy of an empty field, or suddenly flips a cartwheel, somersault, or some kind of jump for no apparent reason (to onlookers). There are endless videos online of toddlers busting a move to their favourite song (baby shark doo, doo, doo-doo, doo!) wiggling, giggling with unabashed enthusiasm. Dancing brings this back to all of us, of any age. It’s why you see an equal number of charming videos of elderly folks still getting their groove on! It’s just FUN! At GRDA we foster a physically and emotionally safe environment to be our freest, most expressive selves.
Strength & Flexibility
This one is a little more technical, yes we could talk about splits, bridges, pushups, and situps here, and that’s all true. Dancers increase their strength & flexibility in their training in order to increase their skill repertoire, and their effectiveness, their presentation of the skill. Thinking more broadly, daily strength & flexibility is essential to overall health. As we age, our body’s ability to repair diminishes, that includes our muscles. It becomes more difficult and time-consuming to heal. When we stop moving and stretching, we become less capable of movements we remember doing. Suddenly when you lunge forward with one foot and stretch a hand out to catch a falling glass vase (perhaps your cat has taken a liking to knock things off of shelves?), that sudden stretch that might have been easy to do before instead causes an injury because you haven’t done any stretching in weeks? Months? Years? I bring this up not to shame anyone for their current level of fitness, but rather to point out that a weekly dance class can help people’s bodies maintain their level of fluidity and strength, thereby preventing injuries in their day-to-day.
The Importance Self-Love
Finding a space to be your fullest authentic self is essential to your mental wellness. A lot of us don’t find the time for ourselves. Life is busy. Mental and emotional wellness is a delicate balance and sometimes we’re barely able to care for ourselves – shower, brush our teeth, eat, heck there are days where I don’t even bother to get dressed! We all saw or experienced during COVID lockdowns how easy it was to allow our self-care to slip. Self-love is another thing entirely! Self-care is how we care for our bodies and our brains. Self-love is how we care for our spirit, soul, or personhood (pick your term! That which you refer to when you say “I”.) Dance can be an act of self-love. It can be done alone with instructional videos if that’s your preference or it can be done in a community like GRDA! Self-love is about setting time aside to just be! Exist in a way that is for no other reason than joy. Dance allows time for you to be in your body, feel your emotions, and express them by moving to the music. It can be choreographed, or freestyle. The most important thing is prioritizing yourself and doing that which brings you joy!
Spatial and Body Awareness
Time for another technical one. Moving our bodies through time and space is a skill. It’s one that we begin developing in infancy and continue to learn and relearn throughout our lives. Ever met or been someone who grew several inches in a couple of weeks? Usually, this leads to a period of bumps and bruises because you’ve got to re-orient your movements to your new dimensions. Dancing – especially in a facility with lots of soft mats – helps you feel your body and helps you re-learn your body as it changes. In addition, the inversions dancers often practice develop our brains to feel our limbs in a new way, often when we can’t even see them! Dancers learn what it feels like to engage various muscle groups individually and in concert, and we learn how to move in new and intricate ways often in a very small space (like during a large group number). These skills might not sound like they mean much day-to-day, but being aware of your body this way helps you more easily identify and communicate to a health professional what is wrong. For myself, understanding how to engage my core and tilt my pelvis was so helpful when birthing my babies! I know exactly what the midwives were asking me to do when pushing to work with my body to help the baby progress!
Dancing can be a great way to find your tribe! Whether you’re joining a dance class, or as an adult out-on-the-town dancing the night away, sharing the experience of moving to the music with others is a great way to find community!
Communication and Teamwork
In a dance class, you’ll also develop and strengthen your communication and teamwork. Communicating your needs to a teacher or a peer is a valuable skill. Supporting each other through frustrations, mistakes, setbacks, and celebrating wins is another learned life skill that helps build interpersonal connections. At GRDA we value communication, support, and teamwork.
Dancing offers unique brain activity. Dancers are asked to pay attention to their bodies and surroundings while simultaneously memorizing new things! Memorizing new choreography, or how to do a new skill, is a great brain exercise. Even your brain gets a workout when you join a dance class. There’s a lot to say on how dance is good for the brain, enough to fill another blog!
Thank you for reading!