Move and Improve: the Therapeutics of Dance
BY ARICA BROWN, SAM GAITSCH, & CARL BRINGENBERG
PHOTOS BY DEBBY SIEGEL
“I was fourteen and I had been dealing with seven years of anger sparked by the fact that both of my parents were incarcerated. As a transplant to Oakland School of the Arts, I took dance as an elective my first year. I discovered breaking, and after another year, I was taking dance classes regularly. The disciplinary requirements of being a student of dance required me to steer clear of my fighting habit. Eventually, I wasn’t angry anymore. Practicing dance allowed me to have an outlet for physical expression that didn’t end with someone getting hurt.”
“In the wake of my grief over losing my grandmother, I left dance behind for some time. It wasn’t until I found dance again that I was finally able to begin the healing process.”
“Dance allowed me to have control over my scoliosis.”
“I was painfully shy and awkward as a child until dance brought me out of my shell. It not only helped me to gain confidence, but was also a great way to make friends.”
These are just a few of the stories shared by the dancers at Consuming Kinetics Dance Company (CKDC). Everyone has a story about movement and how it continues to influence their lives. What’s your story?
Psychology Today lists countless studies that indicate dance’s ability to improve cognitive function, and even relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Recent findings suggest that dancing improves your quality of life and has an impact on longevity. Dance even has a positive influence on people suffering from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. People often tell themselves “But… I’m not very good at dancing… how can I benefit from it?”
You can, absolutely. If you would like to improve your energy, buoy your mood and lowered stress, try it. If you suffer from social anxiety, collective dancing has been prescribed by therapists for decades as an effective therapy for anxiety sufferers. Just stepping foot inside a dance studio and moving with a qualified professional instructor, you can unlock the joy and expression that pure movement brings. Dancers of all ages and abilities find significant stress-relief from dancing. At CKDC, dancers with professional experience share the floor with first-time movers. They come together in a welcoming environment where all are able to express themselves freely. It’s a safe place for people of all ages, backgrounds, and levels of experience.
Dancing isn’t just something you do, it is a lifestyle. Dance training follows you for the rest of your life. It instills the importance of time management, self care, respect for others, empathy, acceptance, discipline, and open-mindedness. Like yoga, dance is a practice, you never arrive at perfection. You’re never done training. Each day is a journey and an opportunity to move in new ways and improve.
The life of a professional dancer comes with huge responsibilities. Dancers have to work on their bodies full time, but often they must also maintain full or part-time jobs. Dancers that work with very prominent companies in their cities must still rely heavily on side gigs and teaching opportunities to make ends meet. Artists are some of the hardest working individuals out there, as they are constantly striving to improve, while living in a world that is increasingly difficult for creative people and endeavors. As Ohad Naharin says, “For me, to dance, is very much the idea of surviving.”
While it isn’t easy for dance educators, one of the biggest rewards is connecting with people and hearing their stories of how dance has impacted their lives. If you are looking to move your body more in the new year and would like to feel safely surrounded by a family of movers, try Consuming Kinetics Dance Studio’s drop-in style classes for adults (and of course kids). Classes for adults run continuously and there are no registration fees to join. You can try out your Hip Hop style, or free flow and learn a routine in a contemporary class. There’s also Music Video Moves, Jazz and FloorBarre, among others. Find one that speaks to you and fits your schedule and experience the healing properties of practicing dance.
And take it from Al, “Nothing happens until something moves” ~ Albert Einstein.
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