Dance For Life

Dance To Heal And To Health
Contrary to some misconceptions, particularly among Asians older than 50 years old, dancing is actually an excellent form of exercise, and a potential source of social asset.11

Figure 2. Arte Phillips (1958–2008), U.S. Ballroom champion, Theatrical Dance Champion, a great dancer, performer and choreographer, and the author, Hal. Arte’s shining career was untimely cut short at the tender age of 50. Arte taught Hal how to dance and choreographed some of Hal’s winning routines in world amateur championships. (Source: Hal Archives, photo taken in 2006). (Right) The author and his partner, flanking other world champions, after their performances at a fundraising event “Soar to New Heights” for children with special needs to help these less fortunate to use dance as a skill to open up windows of opportunities. (Feb 26, 2011).

In recent years, dancing has become a craze in Asian countries, partly because of the series of Hollywood movies: “Dirty Dancing”, “Take the Lead”, 2004’s American remake of the Japanese “Shall We Dance”, with Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon and Jennifer Lopez, and the 2005’s documentary “Mad Hot Ballroom”, and others. Television viewers got a view of competitive ballroom dancing in the summer of 2005 when ABC’s surprise hit “Dancing with the Stars” sauntered into American living rooms. This reality television craze, which broke the rating for reality shows, also created enthusiasm for the art form with shows like Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance?”
Interest in Latin dances, particularly the Salsa, Hustle and Bachata, has increased tremendously in the past few years.
Many attribute the trend to the captivating appeal and expressiveness of these saucy dances. Others say the visual media has influenced the popularity of the dance by helping the Hispanic culture become more mainstream with movies like 2004’s “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights,” and the memorable Salsa scenes in “Along Came Polly.”

Dance As a Skill
We are all trained to think of skills as things we develop for the workplace. But think of them as strengths, and they open a huge number of opportunities. Learning how to dance is an excellent example of developing such a skill.
Dancing is a lifetime skill that will provide much joy, and many healthful benefits. It adds new dimensions and offers enhancements to one’s life whether it is one’s avocation, pastime, or hobby. A dancer will find an enhanced appreciation for music and its rhythms, and experience an increased sense of balance, and a more fluid movement in walking and running.
Dancing with a partner in synchrony with music will help develop a lead and follow, a more open, understanding, responsive and supportive relationship with the partner and with others; in other words, the partners learn how to empathize. Outlook on life will also become more positive.
A thread that runs through all of these examples is the awareness of health benefits by these people, and they sometimes choose dances that are more intense to increase the cardio-vascular effects. Any wonder why almost all forms of dance fitness programs such as Zumba involve moves from Salsa, Hustle and Samba—the more dynamic form of dancing. These nonetheless, less intense dances such as smooth dances are still very popular, especially among older age groups.
The increasing popularity of dancing in senior centers is even more apparent—these people derive not only benefits of dancing such as strength building and balance training, but also the pleasure, social network building so that they do not feel dependent or bored, that is, they are building their social asset! Not surprisingly, these dancers have very positive outlook!

For younger and professional people, they dance because they want to social network, make new friends, or just need to look good to stay ahead and be successful in their profession. They also dance because they need a form of relaxation.Dancing is actually a wonderful stress reliever, particularly after a long day, or long week.Becoming a competent dancer provides an excellent learning experience in planning, goal setting, discipline, achievement, self-confidence, assuredness, and pride in the abilities. These favorable attributes will transfer to other aspects of life, such as feeling good and looking good.
Good dancing and good dancers heighten the atmosphere of an event. In business and professional life, a person can lend to their acceptance and belonging by the ability to dance. Dancing well labels one as a leader. In the social front, dancers have more friends. A good dancer is a definite plus in social occasions. If a man takes the time to learn to become a skilled and confident dancer, but not an overly forceful leader, ladies in the room will appreciate his presence. In fact, a good dancer does not have to be handsome to be popular. Similarly, a lady who is a good dancer radiates charm and grace, regardless of her physical appearance.

Social Dancing and Dancercise
These days, in social scenes such as in dance clubs at universities, senior centers, community centers and dance studios, swanky dance music and smiling couples sway their hips in unison or synchronize their steps to smooth dances, Latin dances, or swing dances such as the Hustle, West Coast Swing. With extended arms and straightened backs they begin whirling around the room while waltzing, foxtrotting, tangoing or quickstepping in an atmosphere that is more relaxed than elegant. Ballroom and other dance classes add a certain fizz to the typical sweaty workout at the gym. Members partner up, smile and laugh together after missteps, very unlike going for solitary runs on treadmills. Seeing people who are not the stereotype dancers—they come in different shapes, sizes, heights, and ages—can make it easy for any two-left-foot type to give it a try. People can see that really anyone can dance. As student dancers get better, they develop confidence, poise and better posture as they learn the different steps. Dancing provides a great opportunity for people to meet, whether in youthful, mature, or golden years.
Physical exercise is essential to maintenance of good health. Ballroom and other dancing is a great body conditioner, if done on regular basis, such as twice or thrice a week. If done properly, dancing helps tone all the muscles in the body, improve posture, increase the range, balance and flexibility of movements, something that one will find useful as one ages and in golden years.
The healthful exercise from dancing will help keep weight under control, or ever lose weight. Frequent dancing will build and maintain physical stamina and endurance at a level of that of avid athletes. There is no better way to exercise than to have one’s hobby as an exercise for health, that is, to dancexercise.
A dancer can dance to his or her comfort level or pace, according to the age or health conditions. For a 54-kg dancer, leisure dancing burns about 6 calories per minute, while an 82-kg dancer burns about 9 calories per minute. Competitive and dynamic dancing for a 54-kg dancer burns about 8 calories per minute, while an 82-kg dancer burns about 12 calories per minute.
In yet another sense, since each song lasts for about 3 to 5 minutes, dancing is a great form of interval training, in which an “exerciser” (a dancer in this case) alternates short bursts of high-intensity exercise (during dancing or fast Latin dancing) with easy-does-it recovery (between dances or a slow smooth dance). Alternating short bursts of high-intensity dances with easy-does-it recovery is a great form of fun-filled interval training.

This alternating fast-slow technique is hardly new. For decades, serious athletes have used it to improve performance. But new evidence suggests that a workout with steep peaks and valleys can dramatically improve cardiovascular fitness and raise the body’s potential to burn fat, even during low- or moderate-intensity workouts. And best of all the benefits become evident in a matter of weeks. Interval training also stimulates changes in mitochondria, where fuel is converted to energy, causing them to burn fat first—even during low- and moderate-intensity workouts. Improved fat burning means endurance athletes can go further before tapping into carbohydrate stores. It is also welcome news to anyone trying to lose weight or avoid gaining it.12

Dance for the Thrill and for the Kill

Dancing is now part of elementary, middle, high school and university curriculum partly because ballroom dancing is now an event recognized by the International Olympics Committee (IOC), the many dance competitions sanctioned by different associations throughout the year, and that dance parties are now a ubiquitous part of almost all casual celebrations or more formal banquets. To qualify as an Olympics event, it has been renamed dancesport. On September 8, 1997, IOC announced that it had granted outright recognition to the International Dancesport Federation (IDSF) as a full member of IOC. Still dancesport will not be a program in the Olympics until after the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, UK. Professional and serious dancers are jocks devoted to an activity that demands great physical acuity. Each couple is precisely in sync with the music, carriages erect, and hands and arms carefully positioned, with the leader leads fluidly negotiating their way through the other couples. Despite the occasional stumble and awkward run-in, the best of teams move with effortless aplomb, an assured and well-rehearsed grace, and diva-like walks. Good posture makes a dancer look elegant and exude confidence.

Mental Training in Choreography
Mental training teaches how to focus on the task at hand. Mental training skills—also known as sports psychology—can be used in any situations where one must perform under pressure. For example, a couple on the dance floor performing for a huge audience in a banquet event or in a dancesport competition. In such situations, mental training is often the difference between performing well and performing “as well as possible.”
Mental training skills comprise of two categories: skills of emotional control and attentional control. Emotional control means that the individual has achieved the right combination of mental activity and physical arousal consistent with his or her ideal performance state. Under pressure or tense situations, our blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, blood flow to the muscles and metabolic rate all increase. This does not enhance learning, practicing or performing. Thus, we see performers freeze under pressure, experience a lapse concentration and forget their choreographies.
Emotional control balances relaxation with arousal to permit better concentration. Emotional control uses “controlled breathing” to relax muscles, and “positive self-talk” to build confidence and correct errors. More specifically, four methods are used to evoke the relaxation response: “mind-to-body” techniques, “body-to-mind” techniques, combining physical sensing and mental imagery, and combining controlled breathing and stretching. Competitive dancers must work with their coach to determine which methods work best. To be effective, the coach must teach the dancer to relax on cue. Once emotional control is achieved, attentional control helps the dancer focus on the task at hand. Attentional control involves concentration, visualization, and refocusing. Concentration is the state of being relaxed and alert to the changing environment. Dancers experience this on a crowded dance floor often—if someone gets in the way, a dancer must react while staying focused on the performance. Visualization involves rehearsing a positive, mental image of the performance.
It can also be used to anticipate problems that may impede performance. Finally, the dancer must be able to regain composure when distracted. This can be achieved by simulating adverse situations in practices.
Ultimately, not only in dancing, but also in all forms of sports, mental training skill must help the individual achieve his or her ideal state of relaxation and activation which results in a peak performance. In sports, dancing included, this is called the “ideal performance state” or the “zone.” Whether dancing recreationally or competitively, regular use of mental training skills will improve learning and practicing. But in competition training, it is essential to develop mental training skill in conjunction with perfecting dancing
skills. The next step is to integrate these skills into a seasonal or year-long practice schedule which will improve practicing and prepare the competitor physically and mentally.13
For dancers who have other professions (so-called amateurs because dancing is their side “profession” or hobby), this mental training helps in their true professional as well; and more importantly, this mental training prepares all dancers to cope with the stresses and demands of routine daily life.

11 This section is dedicated to a great dancer, performer and choreographer, Arte Phillips, who passed away on November 12, 2008 at a young age of 50.
Arte taught Hal how to dance properly, and choreographed winning routines for Hal and his partner.
12 Jason L. Talanian, Stuart D.R. Galloway, George J.F. Heigenhauser, Arend Bonen, and Lawrence L. Spriet, “Two weeks of intensive aerobic interval
training increases the capacity for fat oxidation during exercise in women”, Journal of Applied Physiology, 102(4), 2007, pp. 1439–1447.
13 “Mental-training skills improve practicing and performance” by Tim Mah, British Columbia, Canada. Tim is the first DanceSport/Ballroom teacher in
Canada to be accredited with level 2 NCCP Coaching.

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