Dancing is one of the oldest activities in the history of mankind. Since the time of primitive man, cave paintings have symbolized people dancing in caves. Jorge Drexler says it well in a song: “We made music long before discovering agriculture”, and music and dance have always gone hand in hand.
But last year a pandemic fell, and an activity that has always been social has become dangerous. Rules of distancing between people were imposed and bars, discos, dance clubs and any other place where we used to meet to dance, to feel the closeness of our body with other people’s bodies, were closed.
After a brief moment of hope, where the reopening found us briefly, 2021 begins with the threat of a regrowth, and worse yet, a new, more contagious strain of COVID-19. Strict quarantines, closures of entertainment venues and distancing continue to be imposed as the measures to combat it.
But in this scenario of confinement, dance has once again become a tool to combat the pandemic, at least to the anxiety, depression and other mental health problems with which it has been accompanied. Also to make a dent in the sedentary lifestyle that virtuality has exacerbated, if before we were living in an increasingly sedentary world, with work at home those levels have exceeded.
That is why this new year the resolutions to exercise more, eat better, and in general be more active do not fall badly. In this scenario, why not turn to dance as a way to improve our mental and physical health, and even our state of mind to face confinement in a better way.
And it is that dancing brings happiness, as demonstrated by a recent study conducted by the University of Hertfordshire in England and directed by the dance psychologist Dr. Peter Lovatt.
Lovatt found evidence that When dancing we release a greater amount of endorphins than when doing any other type of exercise, and thanks to this, we connect better with the emotional centers of the brain.
“For many people, dancing causes an emotional release; it is often uncomplicated happiness, while for some it can make them cry. It’s cathartic, letting go of repressed emotions “he said for an article published in The Telegraph.
Dancing also improves spatial awareness, helps increase your heart rate, and triggers a release of feel-good endorphins in your bloodstream. In addition, it lowers the levels of cortisol in the body, a hormone that produces stress.
If we get technical, dancing stimulates the brain areas related to propyoception, which are responsible for recognizing the notions of our own body; the cortical zones, related to the planning and execution of movements. The limbic system, which coordinates emotional responses, and the aforementioned endorphin production.
“All this favors body awareness, creativity, memory, in addition the sensory senses are activated to receive all the information that comes from the environment and integrate them with our muscular responses to perform movements”, says Eva María Méndez, master’s degree in clinical psychology.
For Dr. Méndez, who is also an artist and has studied ballet, art therapy and aerial acrobatics, in the midst of this pandemic dancing can be “A very useful tool available to anyone” to combat anxiety, fear and uncertainty, which stands out as the main reasons for consultation among his patients during the past year, mostly adolescents and young adults.
“A recurring reason for consultation is the anxiety associated with the uncertainty of not knowing what is going to happen, something that impacts people’s life projects, generates a feeling of emptiness and frustration, because they feel that their life has stopped”, says the psychologist.
This is added to the sadness for the loss of a family member due to COVID-19, or the fear of the risk that this could happen to someone close to them or to themselves.
“There is also the anguish over the loss or possible loss of their supportive relationships (such as a partner or friends) and the family difficulties associated with the economic blows that the pandemic has left “he adds.
Méndez says that in this scenario, the benefits of dancing can also depend on the age of the person who practices it. In children, for example, dance not only improves physical condition, but also coordination, elasticity, strength and musical sense. In adolescents and young adults, it allows you to connect with yourself and improve emotional control, channeling emotions such as anger, rage or anguish, with a language other than verbal. And in older adults, dancing ends up being one of the most powerful remedies against physical and mental aging.
“Dance, whether recreational or professional, has many benefits for people’s mental, physical and emotional health. You have to remember that body and mind are a unit, they work in an integrated way “, highlights.
“Being able to move is health”, as summarized by the psychoanalyst and master in Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) from the National University of Arts of Buenos Aires, Sandra Milena Vélez Giraldo.
He is right, recent scientific studies conducted at the University of Sydney in Australia have shown how Just 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise a day can counteract up to 10 hours of sitting.
Other studies found that to do “Bursts of intense exercise” for periods as short as 20 seconds or even 4 seconds for several moments of the day can produce concrete benefits to the physical state of the people.
“Dance has a symbolic character that movement gives it,” says Vélez Giraldo.
She practices DMT, a psychotherapeutic modality framed within creative psychotherapies, along with music therapy, art therapy, and psychodrama. This modality uses the movement in its psychotherapeutic process to promote the integration of body and mind.
He argues that although dancing as an exercise is important and beneficial, doing it as therapy helps to bring something of the subject’s symbolic world into practical life.
“DMT has more to do with a matter of exploration and discovery of its own because you become aware of your movement patterns, which are like our fingerprints”, adds.
For her, the isolation of the pandemic does not prevent being able to come into contact with our mind and body through dance and that something as simple as making us aware of our breathing and the movement that it produces can serve to improve our mood and the way we relate to our environment.
“For Freud, a healthy person is someone capable of loving and working, and work implies movement, and movement is a dance itself. This does not refer to a specific dance technique but to the movement that we need for everything ”, Velez Giraldo highlights.
A similar vision has the yoga teacher and art therapist Flor Martínez, who runs from Barranquilla (Colombia) a workshop called “Reconnection in Movement” in which she combines yoga, dance and Afro-Caribbean and world sounds to provide an experience which aims to recognize one’s own body as “a channel that allows us to act in the face of life and not only as an object”.
For her “dance is an alternative of life, a therapeutic determination “, something that ensures is “Vital in the midst of the pandemic.”
“When we exercise or any physical activity we secrete serotonin, when we dance the body is connected in a single son, at that moment a great amount of tension is released at the joint and muscular level”, it states.
But unlike Vélez Giraldo, Martínez, also known as Magic Flow Yoga, says that adapting to virtuality was not easy and that she herself had to struggle with self-imposed mental barriers that for a time prevented her from continuing with her workshops.
“In my workshops, networks of women were created that supported each other in their projects and endeavors, I believed that this could not happen in virtuality but after overcoming those mental barriers I find that people connect in the same way and with the same desire, to sweat all those problems with which this situation of fear has filled us “says the art therapist.
For her this has brought new opportunities and it is that people outside of Colombia can connect to her workshops and are finding in dance a way to know more about their bodies, their minds and themselves.
“Life itself is dance, we are in constant movement and the moment we remain static we allow our mind to get stuck in something negative”, says Flor.
She advises those who want to start dancing as a way to cope with anxiety and fear in the pandemic that they can start by understanding that dance is not just about steps or choreography, and that only observing nature helps to start to be in contact with movement, since “our real nature constitutes movement”,
“Dancing in the mirror or in the bathroom is a good exercise to do at home, that helps us to recognize our image and make us aware of our body”, He says.
He concludes that dance is “a total catharsis”, because it puts another rhythm to the mind, which is always thinking, always in motion, but by dancing connected with who we are in essence we demolish body and mental schemes “We give ourselves to being one with the movement and only we remain as observers of our own body but an observation free of judgment”.
In short, whether for physical or mental health, dancing and above all, moving, should be among the list of priorities for this 2021, perhaps to the sound of a good melody we can get out of the nightmare that this pandemic has been faster.
As Jorge Drexler says: “We are alive because we are in motion” and “If you want something to die, leave it alone.”