With our school officially in operation, and classes starting today, this blog is now evolving from a play-by-play of the school set-up into what we hope will be a useful resource for new and seasoned dancers alike. Every Tuesday, we will post a new Dance Tips & Resources article to help you navigate the world of Latin dance. This is the first post in this new series.
At Azúcar, we share a secret that brings us together and inspires us to come into the studio smiling every day. One that makes us ever more passionate about our work, and about our mission of spreading the joy of Latin dancing. I’m about to let you in on that little secret; it may seem a little crazy at first, but (shhhh!) dancing is more than a fun thing to do on a Friday night. It IS that, of course, but dancing also has amazing benefits for virtually every area of our lives.
Here are, in no particular order, some of the benefits of Latin dance:
- Improves your physical health and fitness
At its core, dancing is exercise. It might not seem like it, because you’re having fun twirling and moving to music rather than being bored out of your mind on the elliptical, but dancing is cardiovascular exercise. According to numerous studies, dancing regularly improves your circulation, increases lung capacity, retards the aging process, keeps joints lubricated, helps with blood sugar control, burns calories and improves stamina.
Fact: The muscle exertion and breathing rates of dancers performing in one dance competition is equivalent to those of cyclists, swimmers and an Olympic-level 800-meter runner.
- Improves balance, coordination and posture
On top of the physical benefits above, dancing is especially helpful in toning the stabilizer muscles that help us balance and make us stand tall, while intricate foot and arm movements improve your coordination. Even better: these skills are transferable to many areas of your life – we know athletes and martial artists who took up dance to sharpen their hand-eye coordination!
- Keeps your mind sharp and improves reflexes
Free-style social dancing means you will have to make split-second decisions to lead and follow each move, add style to your dancing, and string patterns together. Decision-making and dealing with new situations improves and preserves our mental acuity, sharpens reflexes and shortens mental reaction time. All these things are useful not just in keeping you on your toes on the dance floor, but also in keeping your mind sharp and your cognitive abilities intact at all ages. Read more about how dancing makes your smarter here.
- Combats stress and improves self-confidence
Dancing raises endorphin levels, and elevates your mood, which helps heal stress and keep away depression. It also promotes body awareness, and makes you more comfortable in your own skin, which builds confidence. These mental benefits will show through even off the dance floor – in the way you walk, approach problems, and deal with pressure.
- Widens your social circle
When going out social dancing, you will meet more new people than you know what to do with. The great thing about Ottawa’s Latin dance scene is that it’s amazingly friendly and eager to see new faces on the dance floor. So if you’re stuck for a way to meet new people, forget bars and online dating – come dance salsa!
- Improves your social interactions and can help conquer shyness
Latin dances are social at their very core – they are all about interacting with your partner and creating connections. If you’re having trouble approaching strangers or relating to people in social situations, social dancing can help conquer some of those fears.
- Helps make or enhance a romantic connection
Not only can you meet a new romantic interest on the dance floor, but couples who dance together also tend to stay together. Partner dancing relies heavily on the connection between dancers, and helps build trust between partners. Latin dances in particular are quite passionate dances, which help you relate to your partner in a romantic, unique way.
- Gives you the means of artistic self-expression
Many of us have jobs which, unfortunately, downplay creativity and self-expression in favour of hard facts and company policy. A few of our teachers are also part of Cubicle Nation by day, and know the frustration that comes with being an office-dweller. Having a creative outlet such as dance not only wards off muscle atrophy from all the sitting you do from 9 to 5, it also provides you with an artistic outlet you may not know you need!
- Provides a new cultural experience
In Ottawa, Latin dance has no cultural barriers. Not only will you discover many aspects of Latin culture through dance, you will also find a culturally diverse dancer population. As Canadians, we know well that cultural interaction improves our health by expanding our mind and sharing our spirit!
- Makes you better-looking
Not only will you look better by standing tall and not tripping over your feet, but dancing socially also promotes good grooming – after all, everyone likes to look their best when they go out dancing!
Why do you dance? What – expected or unexpected – benefits of dancing have you experienced? Tell us in a comment!