I have been attending Ottawa’s Street Dance Society’s evenings on Friday nights for three weeks now and I’d like to share with you some happy thoughts about why I think swing dancing (and probably all social dancing) is marvelous.
Physical, social, intellectual benefits:
1.A Joyful Workout
Once you've figured out the basic steps, you will soon discover that swing dancing is basically an aerobic workout. Before you even have time to realize that you are sweating, your mind will have gotten lost in the music and the moves, in the bliss of moving along the beat, looking at your partner, groovin', and suddenly you forget that you have been bouncing up and down for 2(3,4) hours already!
Plus, since every lead/follow has a different style, you keep adapting to new things all the time!
Which brings me to......
2. Neuroplasticity: How about a brain workout too?
Let me tell you a little bit about neuroplasticity (The brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life).
While you are figuring out new ways to move your body, you are creating new neural connections, expanding your consciousness faaaaar beyooooond what you knew before. (I'll keep my spiritual beliefs for another post) Then without even feeling like you are training, you will have improved your kinesthetic perception.
BONUS: once you have learned some of the basic steps, learning new ones gets easier and easier! Then just like french-speaking people have an easier time learning other latin languages (in general) you’ll be able to catch up more quickly on new dance moves if you practice dancing for a long enough period of time!
3. "dancing involves both a mental effort and social interaction and that this type of stimulation helped reduce the risk of dementia. "
This is Harvard Stuff, friends :
" A 2003 study in the New England Journal of Medicine by researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine discovered that dance can decidedly improve brain health. The study investigated the effect leisure activities had on the risk of dementia in the elderly. The researchers looked at the effects of 11 different types of physical activity [...] but found that only one of the activities studied—dance—lowered participants’ risk of dementia. " For the whole article, click here.
Braaap! Sorry Golf, Tennis & Biking...
...but wait, THERE IS EVEN MORE !!!
As you can read on this excellent article about the benefits of Swing Dancing on UK Swing Dance's website, "...besides improving a person’s physical and mental health, joining a swing dancing community can help build both verbal and nonverbal communication skills as well as give a person opportunities to ...
4. make new friends."
Social dancing, makes you become part of a group. Just like singing in a choir, vibin’ along with other human beings.
There's also that awkward moment when you dance with a new partner in the beginning : swing dancing requires a tight "arm-connection" that helps you lead or follow, which means to have to get close to the person you are dancing with.
In our North American society, it is so rare to experience this and while it does feel a little awkward and uncomfortable at first (oh but more neuroplasticity action again!) , it is a connection with others that benefits most of us when you realize how much fun and creation happens between you and your partner during a single song.
I think that being touched by other human beings in a respectful and friendly manner is a powerful drug and helps shape a sane, and stronger community.
5. Stronger community.
I have never hung out with such a broad range of ages (other than family parties or in a school class). Intergenerational dancing happens all of the time during a swing night. Dancing creates bonds between partners no matter the age, race, social class, hair type, and any other class you want to invent.
6. Consent is more than a fashion
When a new song begins, people ASK you if you want to dance with them for the upcoming song. After that song, you are free to go dance with whoever else you want to! Then that same person might ask you a second time if you would like to dance. This time, you can still say YES!! or no thank you if you are tired,not in the mood for dancing at the moment or if you haven’t enjoyed dancing with them before.
7. You Can Dance With Anyone:
In the past years or so, there is a new tendency in the swing classes that I have attended: Ambi(dextrous?) dancing. This means that you are being taught how to dance as a lead AND as a follow. You can dance with your friends and teach them any "role". Leads are no longer stuck waiting for someone to ask them to dance. Leads don't have to lead anymore. There is still a very strong tendency for leads to be male, but I have been seing more and more people of the same sex dancing together and it makes my heart sing to know that we can do so. Now, even if you would rather stick to the traditional male-leads-female-follows point of view, ambi dancing can teach you something really valuable too:
8. You get a better understanding of your partner's role
Which in turn makes you a better partner. Now you know how it feels when your directions aren't clear (for you leads). Now you know how it feels when your connection is unstable (for you follows). Oh, more understanding, I just love it.
9. You can go to a social dancing event by yourself
You do not need a partner to attend. Wether it's during a swing introduction class or during the dance evening afterwards, there is a frequent rotation in partners. And in most cases, you do not even need to have any experience dancing. Just go to the beginner’s class that is usually given before the evening so you can learn the basic steps, and you’ll get to meet with some people trying this for the first time too! They probably feel just as awkward as you do!
10. International Passport
Once you have learned some steps, you can go to (almost) any swing dance event anywhere in the world and dance with whoever is present there, and make new friends wherever you go! I have been travelling between Canada, Europe and the US for three years now and Swing Dance nights or Lindy Hop nights are a way for me to find a family wherever I go!
ARE YOU PUMPED??!
Find the nearest swing dance event near you
Get Happy & start groovin’ !
Special Tip #1 : BE PATIENT! If you have never danced before, give yourself some sessions to get into the groove.
“But, Sophie, how old will I be by the time I get to dance properly?
The SAME AGE as you will be if you don’t!”
Special Tip #2 : Have fun. Even if you are not a master of the new steps you just acquired, if you enjoy your time you are much likely to actually be dancing.
See you on the dancefloor!
Ask me to dance....or maybe I'll ask you ! ;)
Credits: drawing by Michelle Shrier (some more great illustrations of hers over here!)