Lisa R Chow, ADC President, 602-740-9616 PO Box 64852-4852, Phoenix AZ.

Dance Articles

Dance articles are listed with links to keep you up to date on research and news in dance. To submit articles for posting, please send articles to gro.noitilaoCecnaDzAnull@asiL for consideration.

Science Explains… Why Dancing is the Fastest Way To Make Yourself Happier

Dancing is fundamental to being human. We know this because there is no wallflower culture, no part of the world where rhythm is ignored. We also know this because we tap our toes to songs we hate. We can’t help it. Our subcortical brain regions converse, bypass higher auditory areas, and make us shimmy to “Happy” whether we respect Pharrell’s whole deal or not. Read the rest of the article by Sarah Sloat for Inverse here: https://www.inverse.com/article/7861-science-explains-why-dancing-is-the-fast-way-to-make-yourself-happier

The National Dance Education Organization has produced a 65-page comprehensive report on Evidence: A Report on the Impact of Dance in the K-12 SettingPress release about the report.

Some Things You Should Know About DANCE, compiled by K Parafinczuk, AZ Dance Coalition, Sept 2013

DANCE AND COMMON CORE STANDARDS, by Lynn Monson, Ex Asst, AzDEO, Sept 2013 Arizona Dance e-Star

COME DANCE WITH ME/DANCE USA, Body and the Brain (Parts 1 & 2), by Veronica Hackethal, June 2013

WHY DANCE MATTERS by Heather Vaughn-Southard, July 12, 2012

USE IT OR LOSE IT: Dancing Makes You Smarter, by Richard Powers

TAP DANCING A Step Towards Better Health by K Parafinczuk, April 2009, updated Sept 2013

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Why DANCE?*
Dance is joyful.
Dance is cathartic and therapeutic.
Dance is a way of expressing, defining,
and affirming one’s identity.
Dance is a means to communicate across
cultural boundaries.
Dance is a form of worship.
Dance is a means to connect to music.
Dance builds community and trust.
Dance is a bridge to cultural heritage(s).
Dance is an expression of our humanity.

* Betsy Cooper’s research article in the Journal of Dance Education, 11:2, 53-59, 2011

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TAP DANCING – A STEP TOWARDS BETTER HEALTH

by Krystyna Parafinczuk

TAP DANCING IMPROVES YOUR BODY, MIND, ENERGY & EMOTIONS. You can take up tap dancing and watch your body transform right before your eyes within a matter of weeks.   The study, practice, rehearsal and performance of tap dancing uses your entire body and makes you think.  It makes you smile when you are exerting maximum levels of energy.  And you learn to ‘act’ when making difficult steps look effortless – just like Fred (Astaire) and Ginger (Rogers).   Yes, you may experience frustrations in the learning process, but more often then not, you’ll tap away feeling refreshed and happy; hence, the phrase “happy feet.”

TAP DANCING RELIEVES STRESS. Let’s start at the top and address the benefits to the mind.  Intense focus and concentration are required in a dance class to learn and master tap steps and remember combinations.   You can’t worry about your day-to-day problems while focusing on making music with your feet.  As a result, you’ll experience stress relief. Many believe that stress is the number one underlying cause of illness, disease and death.  Take advantage of this psychological escape and tap your troubles away at least three times a week and you’ll also train your body to recover quicker from stressful situations!

THE BRAIN GETS TO THINK. The brain is a muscle that gets a workout when learning new steps, trying to assimilate, memorize and recall steps, combinations and dances.  All senses are engaged when learning and absorbing new material.  Tap dancers develop enhanced observational and analytical abilities enabling them to pay greater attention to details.  With repetition, new neuropathways (information highways) are built allowing the brain to send stronger signals to the muscles.  The stronger the signal, the quicker the reaction, the better the technique.   You also gain a greater understanding of the musical, theatrical and aesthetic elements of tap dance performance.

THE MIND GETS TO CREATE. The mind has to think, but it also gets a chance to create.  That’s when the brain operates at its highest level.  Tap dancers create when the style of dancing is rhythm tap or what is now known as jazz tap.  Jazz musicians improvise, which means they spontaneously create music on the spot.  Tap dancers, when performing alongside musicians, take turns improvising and trading musical phrases.  Tap transforms the dancer into a percussive instrument with a mind!  Improvising may be intimidating at first, but teachers begin the process in the classroom with tap games conducted in a circle.   One by one, students spontaneously create 2-, 4-, 8- and 16- count musical phrases with their feet.  It’s great fun.  And studies have proven that activities need to be fun for “learning to occur.”[i]

Using the mind to learn, remember and create  becomes more important later in life when concerns about dementia begin to surface.  Tap dancing trumps crossword puzzles any day.  This could be one of the reasons there are so many senior tap dance companies.  Tucson has three:  Tap Sensation (awaiting a call back for America’s Got Talent), Tucson Prunes, and The Rodeo City Wreckettes.   There are a few more reasons tap dancing is a hit with seniors – stronger bones and shapely legs!

TAP DANCING LEADS TO STRONGER BONES. Since tap dancing is a high-impact, weight-bearing activity, the body seeks out calcium to make bones stronger with each heel-to-toe impact into the floor.  Here’s one very important reason for young girls to start tap dancing.  Eight million women suffer from osteoporosis.  Studies by Dr. Saralyn Mark (Women’s Health, U.S. Dept of Health & Human Svcs) and Dr. Tom Lloyd (Penn State Young Women’s Health Study) have shown that weight-bearing activities during adolescence (9 to 14 years) can play a significant role in preventing bone loss during menopause.  Girls form 40% of their bone mass during adolescence. While almost all research studies use a sports activity to determine findings, one can easily see how tap dancing can be substituted.

TAP DANCING CREATES GREAT LEGS, BUTTOCKS WHILE BURNING 300-450 CALORIES. Shapely legs and buttocks are the result of dancing mostly on the balls of your feet with relaxed knees.  A visible difference can be seen in three weeks if you take a one hour class three times a week.  And while you are bouncing, hopping, leaping, flapping and shuffling off to Buffalo, you are working your heart and lungs, strengthening your cardiovascular system. Depending on the intensity of the tap workout, you can burn anywhere from 300-450 calories!  You will definitely be “breathless” for at least 30 minutes of class and that translates into a stronger heart, greater muscle strength and endurance.  And the increased flow of blood to the brain will help ward off dementia.  The increased blood flow also helps get more oxygen to your muscles so they can work harder.

TAP DANCING IMPROVES BALANCE, DEXTERITY, AGILITY, COORDINATION. Tap dancing is also excellent for improving skills such as balance, dexterity, agility and coordination.  Tappers need to execute hops and balances with ease on the balls of their feet.  Use of the arms and legs, together with spatial directions and formations, require a greater degree of coordination.  The very fast speed of tap dancing requires dexterity and increases agility when dancers strive for precision in performance.   It also increases the mobility of your ankle, knee and hip joints.  If you stretch after class, when the body is hot, then the rest of you becomes more flexible.

­TAP DANCING CREATES PLEASURE, FRIENDS AND ENHANCES SELF-ESTEEM. The best part about tap dancing is that it engages your emotions in many different ways – as many different ways as there are styles of music.  Music motivates us to choreograph, to practice, to perform, and to smile.  One minute you can be a flapper doing the Charleston, the other a Broadway dancer in 42nd Street putting on a show.  And if you become famous like Savion Glover, you could be a tap dancing penguin in the animated film Happy Feet!

From a psychological and social standpoint, tap dancing contributes to your emotional health.  You experience satisfaction and pleasure when you master that difficult step or remember a new dance.  Your self-confidence builds and you hold yourself in higher esteem.   By virtue of it being a tap class or performing group, you are surrounded by like-minded people where you can share stories, classroom dramas and performance blunders!  When the performances are successful, you experience euphoria – a “high” — and that may be the single most significant motivating factor that will keep you tap dancing forever.


[i] SMART MOVES, Why Learning Is Not All In Your Head, by Carla Hannaford, pub. Great River Books, 2005.

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NURTURING GOOD HABITS THROUGH DANCE

How dancing can foster important life skills

By Susan McGreevy-Nichols

DanceTeacher, February 2002 Issue, pp 105-017

We’re all guilty of bad habits, such as nail biting or pencil tapping, that become a part of our lives when we allow them to happen time after time.  But repetition, and a heavy dose of dedication and effort, can also help us overcome these undesirable behavioral traits and develop new, better ones.  In the educational setting, good mental habits that students are encouraged to develop are referred to as “habits of mind,” or as Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick’s informative volume Discovering and Exploring Habits of Mind terms them, “elements of good thinking” that help individuals practice intelligent behavior.

Dance education can provide the right setting to support and cultivate excellent habits of mind that will not only benefit students in the studio but prove essential in life as well.  Here are 16 examples of the qualities that dance can nurture:

Creativity, Imagination and Innovation
First and foremost, these constitute the very crux of dance and dancemaking.  Through dancing and choreographing, students develop a unique mode of personal artistic expression.

Persistence
Whether it’s perfecting a particular movement in class or refining a piece of choreography, persistence is an absolutely essential part of dance education.  Rehearsal – the frequent, even daily repetition of movements and combinations – constitutes one of dancing’s most fundamental principles, and teaches students how to stay focused on a task.

Accuracy
Dance education compels students to strive for accuracy in numerous ways.  In rehearsals, dancers are encouraged to become ever more aware of and precise in their movements.  This accuracy is essential to putting on a clean performance, especially when more than one dancer is on stage.  The process of choreography, too, involves a constant attention to detail that can transfer to other non-dance activities.

Calculation
While performing or choreographing a piece, a dancer is constantly thinking ahead to the next step.  Improvisation aside, dancing helps the individual develop essential planning skills.

Flexibility
Dancers learn to plan, think ahead and deliberate – but they are also required to react quickly and spontaneously.  In situations like performances, dancers must think on their feet, observing circumstances and adjusting accordingly.  This mental flexibility encourages students to consider a variety of strategies in approaching and solving problems outside the dance studio and off the stage.

Application of Past Knowledge to New Situations
Dancers learn to apply what they are taught in daily classes to their dancing on stage as well as to their choreographic efforts.  Through dancing, students develop the crucial life skill of relating prior knowledge and experiences to new knowledge and experiences.

Reflection
Asking students to analyze the steps they took to create and solve movement problems reinforces their analytical skills.  Ask them to explain to their peers how they thought through a task and why they opted for certain choices in organizing dance material.

Questioning
Dance instruction should encourage students to pose questions, devise problems and solve these problems through movement.  Many times these problems and solutions lead to other problems to explore.

Listening
Learning someone else’s choreography requires dancers to be good listeners and to learn from other people while holding back their own opinions.  By understanding that dancemaking is extremely personal, students discover that listening with empathy, then sharing and discussing ideas, will help them gain not only an understanding of what inspired a particular choreographer but how the piece can convey personal meaning for themselves as well.

Communication
Especially during the choreographic process, dancers are called upon to clearly communicate basic information in addition to their personal thoughts and opinions.  By expressing concrete as well as abstract ideas, students learn how to make themselves understood to others who may or may not share these ideas.

Teamwork
The choreographic process allows students to work and create together.  Experiencing the benefits of combining brainpower firsthand, students have the opportunity to feed off each other’s ideas, triggering new ideas in the process.

Sensitivity
Dancers become more engaged individuals when they utilize all their senses to collect and channel information into their choreography.  This greater awareness of the senses enriches their dancing and adds another dimension to the research facet of dancemaking.

Wonder
You can see it by the smiles on their faces:  When students succeed in thinking through a performance piece or a choreographic problem, they respond with wonder and awe as well as confidence.  This keeps them open to life’s boundless possibilities.

Risk-taking
Performing – or even working with and sharing choreography with peers and teachers – gives students the opportunity to put themselves on the line.  It goes without saying that not being afraid of failure is an important lesson in other avenues of life as well.

Humor
Encourage students to dance not only about serious issues and ideas but also about humorous topics.  Your students will welcome the chance to lighten up and maintain emotional health, too.

Openness to Future Learning
Dancers’ dedication to classes, rehearsals and performances instills in them the concept of lifelong learning.  Whether it be in the field of dance or a completely different area, students of dance are always prepared to learn something new.

* For more information on this topic, refer to Discovering and Exploring Habits of Mind, ed. Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick.  Alexandria, VA:  Association of School Curriculum Design, 2000

Serving Arizona's dance communities and "creating connections" between the dancers and the general public.

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Send your news and event information before the 25th for the coming issue of the Arizona Dance e-Star, krystyna@azdancecoalition.org.

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