You know when you’re tense, tired, or upset, and you go for a long walk on the beach? Or maybe you call up your best friend and vent about life? Or maybe you put on your favorite album and drive with the windows down? You know that release? That physical/mental/emotional/ release of tension that you get from any of the above activities? For me, dance is the combination of all of the best ways to make yourself feel better.
You have the physical component. You’re moving, letting all of the pent-up anger or frustration or grief or stress work itself out of your body. Whether it’s by focusing your attention on specific steps and movements or just going wild to the music, there’s that rush of endorphins you get from being physically active.
If you take a class or go out dancing, you have the social connection component. You’re around other people who may or may not also be working out their own set of problems. You have people around to connect with and to make you feel less alone, to make you feel like you’re not going through everything all by yourself.
But where dance gets really special, really therapeutic, is when you start to tap into the emotional component of it. No matter what type of dance you’re doing, what style, or what level, you are using music. And music is a vehicle for emotions and it dictates the type of emotion that you are going to put out.
Since I primarily dance Latin styles, I’ll use them as an example. Most Salsa songs are up-beat, high energy, and pretty happy. Even if the lyrics deal with a hard-to-pin-down lover, the rhythm and tone of the song connects you to a place where you’re putting out joyful energy. A slower, more sensual dance, such as Bachata might connect you to somewhere a little more melancholy. A lost love, a bad day.
Every style, every song, has it’s own range of emotions. It’s not necessarily just mega-watt-smile-happiness the whole time—there are subtler emotions you can tease out over different instruments or segments of a song. And those emotions inform your movements. On a visceral level, you walk differently depending on your mood. Have you ever been so jazzed about life that you feel like you’re bouncing? Or maybe you’re so overwhelmed that you feel like you’re walking 20 pounds heavier?
That’s what I love about dance. You use those very real, every day emotions that you experience and translate them into movement. You experience the feeling, tap into the emotion, connect with it through a dance, and then you step away feeling lighter. Like you don’t have to carry the weight of that feeling anymore. Even if it’s a “good” feeling, by dancing through it, you feel recharged. Refreshed. Lighter. Brighter.
I love that anyone can experience this too. You don’t have to be a professional or even have any dance experience to get this benefit. No matter the level, the style, the class, the living room dance party—YOU can experience the benefits of dance. So what are you waiting for?