The Joy of Dance

“The benefits of dance are not just reserved for the professionals.  Anyone can experience the transformative qualities and the joy of dancing.” 

This is a quote from Dance Education student, Monica Mardones.  She is currently studying at the University of South Florida, and intends to become a dance therapist once she graduates.  Mardones believes in not only the physical benefits of dancing, but the mental and emotional as well.

Dance, like most exercise, offers a number of advantages to one’s health.  No matter age, size, or background, dance can be started at a variety of levels.  It incorporates the three major types of workouts into one, including cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility training. 

According to WebMd, a 30-minute dance class burns between 130 and 250 calories, about the same as jogging.  So if you are tired of the treadmill, signing up for a hip-hop or ballroom class might be a new and exciting option. 

Dance can also improve “heart health, joint mobility, strength, and balance/coordination.”  Even more, dance can be an incredible resource for one of the most important parts of the body, the brain. 

“It is no surprise that dancing can raise endorphins during and after a class, just like regular exercise. But dancing itself has also been shown to raise serotonin and dopamine levels as well,” explains Mardones.  “This can be a beneficial tool to someone suffering from mental illnesses like anxiety or depression.”

Because of these findings, Mardones has dedicated her studies to using the art of dance as a form of therapy to those suffering mentally and emotionally.  Understanding the difficulty of expressing one’s emotions, she finds value in expressing them through motion and nonverbal body language. 

The American Dance Therapy Association is an organization that similarly recognizes and values this expression.  They’ve created their own kind of therapy, called Dance/Movement Therapy, or DMT, which helps to promote “emotional, social, cognitive, and physical integration, for the purpose of improving health and well-being.”

DMT sees dance as a holistic approach to wellness, unlike many other exercises, which focus solely on the physique.   The association stands by their statement that, “changes in the body reflect changes in the mind, and vice versa.” 

If you are not necessarily looking for an organized therapy session, you can still benefit emotionally from dancing.  Mardones has taught classes where children and adults leave feeling empowered and full of self-love and joy.  Simply stepping on to the dance floor or even twirling in your living room can make you feel great!

Mardones instructing an after-school class.

Mardones teaching a dance combination to students.

When asked about the future of dance as therapy, Mardones stated that, “the professional world of dance is changing.  We are slowly becoming more inclusive and diverse, which is really exciting to see.”

She believes that dance therapy will become like this too, aiding the mentally ill, the physically and mentally disabled, the young, the elderly…the list goes on. 

If you are interested in dance as physical exercise, there is no doubt that the emotional benefits will follow.  Exercise can be an uplifting experience, and moving the body to express oneself is a way to integrate both. 

For more information about Dance/Movement Therapy, click here.

For more information about dance for physical exercise, click here.    

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