Benefits of Dance, Part Four: Practical Benefits

What if I told you that ballroom dancing could help you make a better impression at a job interview? Or a better basketball or hockey player?  Would you think I'm crazy?

The reality is ballroom dancing can do all these things, and so much more:

As I explain in this video, the benefits of ballroom dancing are not confined to the dance floor. It's all about the magic of cross-training.

Although cross-training refers to improving an athlete's performance, I would offer this expanded definition:

Cross-training (noun) - To engage in an activity other than the one's main activity, in order to increase overall performance in that activity.

In other words, ballroom dance will strengthen fundamental skills, like endurance, balance, dexterity, faster reflexes, memory, lateral thinking... The list goes on and on. These improved skills then help you in virtually every facet of your life.

Here's just a few examples I didn't cover in the video:

  1. Better co-ordination: Helps to reduce injury in jobs that involve heavy lifting or other physical activity.
  2. Faster reflexes: More likely to react in time if the car in front of you stops suddenly.
  3. Improved sense of rhythm: Allows you to better appreciate the nuances of good music.
  4. Greater flexibility: Able to remain limber and lean much later in life than a non-dancer.
  5. More in touch with emotions: Take more pleasure out of good moments... And spot earlier when something feels wrong.

The longer you've been dancing and actively learning, the more of these benefits you start noticing. So, how has dancing improved your life today?

Benefits of Dance, Part One: Physical
Benefits of Dance, Part Two: Mental
Benefits of Dance, Part Three: Personal Development

Couple ballroom dancing

Benefits of Dance, Part Three – Personal Development

Me talking about the emotional and spiritual benefits of dance

It feels good to dance! But it's one thing to know it, another to know WHY we love dancing so much. Knowing where our enjoyment of ballroom dancing comes from helps to motivate us through the hard times, and enhance the good times.

In this penultimate episode on the benefits of dancing, I'll be covering:

  1. How ballroom dancing helps you know people from every walk of life.
  2. Why the connection you get with your ballroom dance partner can be one of the deepest connections there is.
  3. Why ballroom dancing helps bring out your natural authenticity.
  4. The surprising reason why social ballroom dancing can be a great team-building exercise.
  5. Why your confidence benefits from learning a skill like dancing.
  6. A simple way to use dance to destress from work.
  7. How dancing can be good for your health - but not in the way you think.
  8. The way in which ballroom dancing allows you to express your best self, on AND off the dance floor.

About the Author
Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 16 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. He currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada. Click here to see when he’s teaching.

Benefits of Dance Part Two: Mental

In part two in our benefits of ballroom dance series, we explore some of the ways dance can improve the speed and flexibility of our mental capacity.

We also take a closer look at studies that talk about how dancing reduces your risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, or Dementia. What we find isn't what you would expect!

Sorry for the lighting problems on this one folks!

Benefits of Dance Part One: Physical

Welcome to our series on the benefits of dance! Dancing is quite unique, in that it really is a full-body strengthening activity. In this video, I discuss some of most important ways dance does a body good.

5 Reasons to Enjoy Ballroom Dancing Classes NOW, not Later

Every time I greet a new student, I like to take them out on the floor and move them to music right away, so they can get a taste of how much fun ballroom classes can be. It’s usually then that I hear the phrase ‘I wish I’d started dancing sooner.’

Why do we hold off on pursuing the things we enjoy? There’s a mentality that traps us, where we feel the things we really want can’t come to us without years of hard work and toil - as though we could somehow free ourselves of all responsibilities, if we just pushed hard enough.

ballroom dancing lessons

Many people want to dance when they are younger, but don’t act on their wishes because of perceived limitations they face in their life, and because it doesn’t appear to be worth the hard work required. Maybe this will change your mind.

1. Dance helps you live longer.

Canadians are blessed with subsidized medical expenses, but getting injured and sick is no picnic either. The older you get, the more prone to illness you are, and hundreds of people daily have their lives cut short by health issues.

Ballroom dancing classes can add years to your life - it’s perhaps the only activity that works both your body and your mind to the fullest, so they stay strong well into old age. Here’s the thing though - the longer you’ve been dancing, the more effective it is.

You can always tell when someone has been dancing their whole life - they’re still at it when their ninety.

2. Dance prepares you for that special someone.

It’s always in the moments before that first date, that job interview, that networking event, when you wish you could just swallow a magic pill to transform you into the confident savvy person you want to be.

Since those pills are a closely-kept government secret, the next best thing is to prepare in advance. Taking ballroom dancing classes automatically gives you a date option that’s sexy and different, all while getting closer with your beau.

For that matter, it also teaches you how to stand and move confidently in the business world, so you can make your money back in more clients and promotions.

ballroom dancing lessons
Welcome to the team! And may I say, your posture is fantastic.

3. Social dancing is cheaper than a movie.

A major objection for many potential dancers is the cost of lessons. People get worried about putting down a wad of cash now, because they don’t see how much it can save them in health and entertainment bills down the road.

For example, the price of a movie can be as much as $14 person or more. But learning through ballroom dancing classes gives you access to an evening of fun that rarely exceeds $10. And often includes a dance lesson as well. Talk about a good deal!

ballroom dancing lessons

4. There will always be reasons why you ‘can’t’.

Much as we might wish for it, there will never come a time, except maybe in our old age, when we will be free of responsibilities. And to work now so you can play sometime in the future is missing out on the best part of life.

What if you made some compromise between work and play? Maybe you can tape your favourite tv show, and watch it another day, while you take ballroom dancing classes instead. Maybe you only take one lesson a month to keep the cost down, and practice like crazy in between.

Everyone says they wished they’d started to dance sooner. Nobody says they wished they’d waited longer. Maybe it’s time we learned their lesson, and start making enjoyment of life the highest priority.

ballroom dancing lessons

5. The hardest part is beginning.

Odds are, you will never be as healthy, or as physically-mobile, as you are right now. There will never be a better time to try ballroom dancing lessons, or anything else you enjoy, because you are in the best shape you can be to enjoy it.

Learning anything new is hard at first, and I’m not going to pretend you won’t have periods of frustration. The pleasure of the accomplishment you braved your fears and grew as a person as a result. I wish you courage on your journey.

ballroom dancing lessons

About the Author
Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 16 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. He currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada. Click here to see when he's teaching.

5 Ways Ballroom Dance Helps You Create Successful Relationships

successful relationships

I’ve previously written about how ballroom dance became my key to building successful relationships. Although it began as a source of confidence for me, I gradually became aware of just how much it helps create meaningful connections between people.

In fact, ballroom dance partners are often jokingly compared to romantic partners, because excelling at romance can help you in dancing - and vice versa. Even social encounters help prepare you for meeting potential friends and more-than-friends.

Still skeptical? Then I’ll explain.

1. Working towards a common goal.

All successful relationships involve teamwork of some kind, meaning you are working together to get things like love, financial stability, or a trustworthy confidante. A big part of your compatibility is dependent on how well you help meet each others needs.

Likewise, dance is perhaps the only sport where you don’t compete with the person you’re ‘playing’ with. Quite the opposite actually - the better you work together, the better you will look and feel.

successful relationships

2. Compliments are king.

We all have a fragile part of ourselves called the ‘ego’, and it is very sensitive to being poked. A big part of successful relationships is letting the other person know they are appreciated.

Ballroom dancing can be especially traumatic for the ego, because it feels it has something to prove to the opposite sex. But some genuine words of praise can do wonders for helping you and your partner relax. Sprinkle your appreciation liberally.

successful relationships

3. Becoming comfortable with contact.

These days, physical contact even with friends and loved ones can become a rarity, traded in for phone calls and Skype messages. Yet, there is scientific proof that touch is an important part of building trust and familiarity with each other.

By the way, this doesn’t have to be romantic touching either. Even a hug or a warm handshake tells the other person that you are safe and friendly - very important when closing that business deal, or making a new friend.

Ballroom dancing is rare in that it is one of the few activities that requires constant contact with another person. It might feel strange at first, but growing comfortable with contact is a big part of making strong connections, on and off the dance floor.

successful relationships

4. Your body does the talking.

Ever seen a couple walking together and wonder ‘what ever do they see in each other?’ Other people might be so close you’d assume they are romantically involved, and yet they insist the relationship is strictly platonic.

Body language is a big part of what attracts or repels different people. How you hold yourself, how you move and respond to others, conveys a more about who you are than anything coming out of your mouth.

successful relationships

Learning to ballroom dance is a great way to acquire this ‘je ne said quoi' because you become much more aware of what your body is doing. Better, you learn how to convey yourself with confidence, sensuality, and vitality.

 ’, because you become much more aware of what your body is doing. Better, you learn how to convey yourself with confidence, sensuality, and vitality.

5. Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.

As I mentioned above, we can learn a lot from each other through body language. A key component of successful relationships depends on how authentic that language is - a fluid, relaxed body conveys you have nothing to hide, but a tense, nervous body can look suspicious.

Perhaps the best part of ballroom dancing is that it gives you permission to find that authenticity - what movements feel comfortable to you - in a safe, supportive atmosphere. Everyone’s doing the same thing, right?

It’s for this authentic connection that dance survives, and thrives, even in today’s information age. So why not try a few steps - they'll help you both in the boardroom, and the bar.

successful relationships

About the Author

Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 16 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. He currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada. Click here to see when he's teaching.

Exercises to Improve Dance Balance

dance balance

Ready to learn how to dance any pattern without losing your footing? Now that we know the shoes to buy, the posture to strive for, and the muscles to strengthen, it’s time to try some exercises that build your dance balance for all the main movements in ballroom.

Remember as you try the drills below, that good dance balance means holding your position on every weight change, without falling out of it. As your dance balance improves from the easier exercises (the first ones) to the more challenging, you will find increasingly that you can choose exactly where you want to step, instead of having uncontrolled momentum make the choice for you. Let’s get started.

1. The One-leg Exercise

Basic: Stand with your blocks of weight (hips, ribcage, head) over the ball of one foot, with the other foot pointed and pressing on the ground in front or behind for stability. Keeping your body position steady, slowly lift the free foot off the floor and hold it for 5 seconds before returning it to the floor. Repeat on the other side.

Advanced: Gradually increase how long you hold on one leg. Try bending your standing leg gently while balancing.

dance balance
It's a good time to work on your yoga poses too.

2. The Walking Exercise

Basic: Keeping your feet parallel, take a walking step forward, feeling your weight roll through the heel and pausing at the ball of the foot. Repeat with the opposite foot, letting the ball brush the floor and gradually switch to the heel as it passes under your body. Repeat going backwards. Also, try the Latin/rhythm version, brushing the balls only.

Advanced: Increase the pause between each step to really test your dance balance. Try combining quick and slow steps, at rumba timing for example (SQQ).

dance balance

3. The Chaise Exercise

Basic: A chaise is three steps in any one direction, where the second step is a closing step. Practice chaises first one direction, then the other, pausing on the last step in each chaise to make sure you are balanced. Gradually increase the speed.

Advanced: Add a little bounce to your step if you’re practicing for east coast swing or jive. If cha cha is harder for you, dance a cha cha basic, making sure your forward and back steps are perpendicular to your side steps.

Ready to take your dance balance to the next level? Next week, we’ll add turns to the mix, so you can pull off multiple spins and still stop on a dime.

dance balance

Ballroom Dance to Improve Balance

improve balance

Dancing or no, balance is the difference between looking graceful or awkward. I’ve often heard the best way to improve balance is simply by practicing the activities that challenge you in the first place. Fair enough… But a few fundaments won’t hurt either.

First, The Shoes

Balance is built from the ground up, so if you want to improve balance, it’s time to invest in some decent dance shoes. Assuming you already understand the importance of suede leather soles, make sure your shoes have a steel shank, providing extra support and stability.

improve balance
If you're allergic to heels, dance pumps are another good option.

If possible, test your shoes before buying them. Make sure the bottom feels flat and not uneven. Try a few steps, and make sure your foot doesn’t move around inside the shoe. For brand new shoes, err slightly on the tight side, as leather tends to expand over time.

improve balanceWear the socks and bring any insoles you would normally wear dancing when trying the shoes, to avoid any unpleasant surprises later.

The Posture

How do we hold ourselves? We’ve talked about good posture to improve balance here, but a few reminders:

improve balance

  1. Feet - Focus on keeping your weight rolling through the centre of the ball of each foot, between the second and third toes.
  2. Knees - Keep them soft, to absorb the impact of your steps. Make sure the weight-bearing knee is directly over the ball of your foot.
  3. Hips - A slight pelvic tuck keeps your butt from sticking out, or your lower back from curving inward. Imagine a bowl of water resting between your hips on your pelvic floor (the space directly between your legs). No spilling!
  4. Back and chest - Flattening your back against a wall to maximize contact will keep your spine straight and over your lower body. The chest also puffs out slightly, by pulling the bottom of the shoulder blades towards the spine (but not arching the spine itself.)
  5. Head - Stretch straight out from the spine like a tree from soil. If a position requires the spine to curve, the head will curve with it.

The Muscles

improve balance

improve balance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

None of this is possible without the appropriate muscles to hold you in place:

  1. Feet - The peroneal muscles wrap around the arch of your foot, and are crucial in stabilizing your ankle, for instance, from spraining if you step unevenly on the ground.
  2. Knees - Softer knees requires stronger hamstrings and quadriceps, which take on more of the upper body weight. They also help with leg extension for those beautiful ballroom lines.
  3. Hips - The abdominals and glutes constantly work to keep the hips in correct alignment. The abs are also the crucial turning mechanism for the body, because they are located in the body’s centre of gravity, and won’t cause you to overbalance.
  4. Back and Chest - The back muscles have a number of balancing functions, including assisting hip stabilization, opening and raising the chest, and supporting the spine so you stand tall.
  5. Head - The head is supported by the neck muscles, which keep the head high over the spine. Weak neck muscles can cause the head to move and pull the body too far forward.

Now that we’ve examined the ‘nuts and bolts’ of improving balance, time to look at exercises that strengthen our ability to stay upright in motion… Next week.

improve balance

Sources:
Selecting Ballroom Dance Shoes
What Muscles Does Dancing Ballet Strengthen?
What Muscles Support the Ankle?
What to Know Before You Buy Ballroom Dance Shoes

Any Party is Better if You Know How to Dance

how to dance

In the social jungle, making a good impression, or just having a good time can depend a lot on how well you make new connections. And of course, having a few tricks, like a sharp wit, dashing good looks, or ballroom dancing, can help you stand out from the crowd. In fact, knowing how to dance with others is like a superpower in the social arena. Here’s just a few ways it can transform you from a wallflower into a social butterfly.

Dance puts you in the action.

Most of my students wanted to learn how to dance after they saw others doing it at a party. Let’s face it: most of us would rather be where the ‘life’ of the party is, rather then watching from the sidelines.

how to dance

Dance is an reason not to drink.

If you’re normally introverted in social situations, you may find yourself tempted to imbibe some liquid courage - sometimes more than is wise - in order to feel comfortable approaching and making conversation with others. A good alternative might be to start the evening off by hitting the dance floor. Others will admire your confidence, and you may find others start introducing themselves to you.

Dance provides a new way to socialize.

If you’re like me, conversations aren’t really your strong suit. I’m serious - it’s why I learned how to dance in the first place. Dancing gives you a whole new avenue for getting to know others, many of whom started dancing for the same reason.

You can make cool dance friends.

Fact: People who know how to dance are interesting people. Coming from every walk of life, these energetic souls love to share their artistic spirit with others. So much more fun to hang out with than Debbie Downer from the office.

how to dance
You're getting a steak? Enjoy your mad cow disease...

Cool dance friends tell you about cool dance parties.

Another awesome thing about having dance friends is they tend to know about all the other dance parties going on in your area, and can introduce you to even more people in the dance community. Many of the events I attend yearly in Toronto I would have no idea about if I hadn’t met someone who told me about it first.

It’s a fun challenge!

Maybe you don’t have a problem with being a wallflower. Maybe you’re the suavest, most charming and entertaining guy or gal around. In that case, why not challenge yourself? The dance world is just a new arena to meet others for fun, romance, and potential business clients. Learning how to dance just shows you can be fun and confident, no matter where you are.

how to dance

MORE Practical Uses for Ballroom Dance

ballroom dance

Previously, we looked at the myth of ballroom dancing as a frivolous activity, something that benefits you on such a fundamental level that we usually dismiss it as being non-essential. The truth is, we’ve been taught to dismiss general knowledge - we want to be specialized in something. And yet, as you improve and develop in ballroom dance, there’s virtually no area of your life that won’t improve.

We’ve already learned how ballroom dancing can have important uses for both the board room and the squash court. This time, we’ll expand into two new areas ballroom dancing can help you excel: on a date, and staying healthy in your senior years.

ballroom dance

On a Date

Improved memory: Remembering little details about your beau is an important way of demonstrating to them how much they mean to you. And ballroom dancing is constantly training your memory - for steps, for technique, for choreography, and musicality. The faster you can recall information, the faster you put a smile on the face of your teacher, your dance partner, or your better half.

Coordination: Being a klutz is not attractive. We tend to be drawn to someone who can slide through a crowded room without knocking glasses off trays, because it demonstrates their potential as a healthy mate. Dancing helps build this spatial awareness, so you can weave between couples and waitresses with ease.

Rhythm: Anyone who can keep a beat is automatically sexier then someone who cannot, because it suggests they can move with their partner if a romantic song calls for it. And of course, one can’t help but wonder where else a strong rhythmic movement might come in handy…

ballroom dance

In Your Senior Years

Greater mobility: Studies show that as we get older, our strength tends to decrease, and our joints start to loose their flexibility. This isn’t just the inevitability of age however - much of it comes from living an increasing sedentary lifestyle. By countering that with exercise and a wide range of movement, ballroom dancing keeps you flexible and limber far longer then most.

Decreased neurodegenerative symptoms: Dancing has been overwhelmingly linked to decreased symptoms of Dementia over other activities like crossword puzzles and swimming. Frequent dancers create increased connections in their brains, which then take longer to decay due to diseases like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. Whether you’re eight or eighty, dancing keeps you sharp!

ballroom dance

Higher quality of life: By it’s very social nature, ballroom dancing can’t help but keep you involved with and enjoying life. It provides an opportunity to meet new people with similar interests. It keeps you happy and healthy, through a fun form of exercise. And it reminds you that no matter how much you’ve seen and done, there’s always more room to grow.

So often, we feel we don’t have time to take care of everything we want to fix in our lives - whether it’s an angry spouse, late deadlines, or not making the basketball team this year. Maybe it’s time we embraced an activity that simplifies things, by benefiting us in all these areas at once. Because if we’re not taking the time to grow and enjoy life now, when will we?