Insights from my 3 years of getting to know, love and appreciate the movement of freestyle dance.
As a proud member of the international over-thinkers association, from the moment I fell into dance as a passion, I’ve pondered on the ‘why’.
After all — I devote at least 10 hours a week to training, cultivating my craft, riding the undulations of frustration and self-criticism. Sounds excruciating, no? There was no way I was going to let this pass.
Here I summarise my cloudy reasoning in 6 concise points:
- Healing through movement
The first time I went to my psychologist. she introduced the concept of getting ‘out’ of your head, and shifting focus to the body. Stillness and meditation was never my friend. I felt jittery and restless. The moment I realised I could use dance as a way to do the somatic displacement I needed to self-soothe, I regained hope in my healing process.
One caveat is that if you’re overly perfectionist that you start to judge your lack of coordination, as opposed to riding the ‘flow’ of movement without judgment, this may cause panic.
My recommendation is stopping for the day, reflecting, and then returning to yourself tomorrow.
2. A healthy outlet for femininity/sensuality
I’m a sensual being. I always have been (still unpacking how this came to be). But I dare say I notice several aspects of my sexuality which remain repressed. Likely due to the influence of upbringing, social mores and self inflicted criticisms.
One reason dancing feels so euphoric is to give myself the permission to escape and lean into my sensual femininity. In safe spaces like ballroom, or in environments where most people appreciate and celebrate authentic movement, I am free from shame or danger in expression.
Every day, I work on improving my relationship with my sensuality through art.
3. Mastery over body and mind.
I agree with many that the lifelong pursuit of mind control should be supplemented by bodily control. When you feel the two fuse, the feeling of power over yourself is unbelievable. Think of yin and yang — the ultimate equilibrium.
Accompanying the intertwining of the two are beauty and music, which are expanded on in my next point.
4. Connection with the intangible
You know the feeling when you hear, see, or feel something so beautiful, you wish it would materialize so you can embrace it (and never let go!).
There have been a countless number of times during a freestyle session to a beautiful track, or watching my fellow dance friends move like deities, where I felt like I was going to implode from overwhelming connection to the music or from an overload of ‘beauty’.
Ah, the magic of dance!
The best part of being a human being. By far.
On my darkest days, I couldn’t allow myself the liberty of movement based on solely spiritual reasoning. So I did some research into the tangible benefits of this amazing art form.
According to Teixeira-Machado et al. (2019) dance:
- Strengthens connectivity between both cerebral hemispheres
- Complex movements of dancing recruit different motor, somatosensory and cognitive brain areas
- Long-term dance practice positively affects brain activity
- Dance modifies white and gray matter in various brain regions
Other effects include cognitive improvements such as memory, attention, body balance, psychosocial parameters and altered peripheral neurotrophic factors.
Some of the neuroscientific jargon strains my brain still, but all-in-all, studies clearly demonstrate that dance successfully integrates brain areas to improve neuroplasticity.
Last but not least. Being part of a dance community presents opportunities for human connection. The best news for introverts is that small talk is not mandatory — just shake your body!
The air at dance events/parties is incomparable. If you’re super sensitive to ‘atmospheric energy’ like me, you’ll know how important it is to place yourself in a positive and uplifting environment.
Apart from a few battle zones and high competition events, I’ve always felt free to be myself, talk to others (or not talk, too) and safe from danger (physical or emotional).
I could talk about the above forever!
Summarizing all my accolades on dance in merely 6 points was a struggle.
I’ve been able to sift through my thoughts through meaningful conversations with other artists, and hope to continue to be able to do so for a long time.