The first time I experienced dancing where the emotions just blew me away was The Nutcracker with Mikhail Baryshnikov …on television. Through the screen of the box in my parents bedroom I felt the power of his dancing, the vulnerability of Clara, and the excitement, mischief and adventure they traveled together. But the first time I felt the pent up then therapeutic release from a powerful dance came when Ren McCormack danced his ass off in the original Footloose. Yep, Baryshnikov to Bacon in one beat.
Sure, the music in that scene absolutely influenced the audience’s emotions and gave us a rush of chills. But the dance that he did (while obviously choreographed for the film) came across as such a spur-of-the-moment release of pent up physical energy and emotions! At the end, he shook loose all of his frustration and left all of the negative emotion on the dancefloor.
Here are the reasons that I feel dancing may be one of the best self-care methods:
- QUICK MOOD ENHANCER: Again, music already dictates moods, picks up the pace or helps you relax. When you dance, you accentuate and interpret what the music communicates with your own movements, releasing endorphins that make you smile – almost instantaneously.
- RESTORE CONTROL: A lot of anxiety and stress comes from things that are changing and spinning beyond your control. Whether taking lessons or letting the music dictate your moves, dancing a) Redirects your brain, taking your mind off of whatever threatens to raise your blood pressure, b) As the music changes, you do control the movements of your body and often adjust based on the changing beat.
- BUILD TRUST: As you feel your body keeping up with the music, sometimes the moves come from a more subconscious level or you’re learning new moves in a class so you’re trusting your growth and your skills as well as your body that you won’t wind up flat on the floor.
- BE PRESENT: When you dance around you feel your place on this planet, whether you’re hopping around on your toes, spinning on your back, or have your feet firmly planted while moving everything else, you feel gravity and its impact on your body. You’re grounded.
- FEEL FREE: At the same time that you’re grounded, dancers have the ability to defy gravity, leap in the air, move faster than the beat of the music, or move their bodies in ways that we may not even comprehend. There are no limits to what you can do in the name of dance.
- STEP OUTSIDE YOUR HEAD: Some of us become completely different on the dancefloor. Whether dancing like nobody is watching, or strutting your stuff through the middle of the Soul train crowd, sometimes we meet people we didn’t know we had inside of ourselves that pleasantly surprise us.
- DANCING KNOWS NO AGE: Whenever I hit the floor, I bring the moves from when I was 15 – though I know my kids call my dancing, “Oh mom! [eye roll]!”
Absolutely, some of these points contradict each other but that’s what makes dancing so magical. Every time you get your body moving, it brings a totally different experience and end result.
I have a friend, on TikTok as @AuthenticBecky, who almost daily brings a burst of sunshine to my feed with her kitchen dancing! First of all I aspire to move like her, I love that she gets her hubby and girls involved! I asked her what motivates her to do the videos and she said “Dance has always been my salvation, and my daily routines in my kitchen bring me instant joy.”
What about you?
Why do you think dance is great as self-care?
What is the song that you can’t sit still to?
Do you dance alone or with others?
Do you take dance classes, do choreographed dances (like line dancing) or just let your body decide?
Does your music of choice to lift your mood fit in with the usual genre you listed to or is it a total departure?
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