The Dancing Brain- What Dance Does For The Mind & Body

The Dancing Brain- What dancing does for the Mind & Body

Something special happens when we hear music. Music stimulates the brain’s reward centers “Dance is an intrinsic human behavior (centered around internal joy and curiosity) that emerges as early as infancy.” Some of us move from side to side, others move their body in an intentional and creative way which activates the sensory and motor circuits.

I was introduced to dance at an early age. At 4 years of age I started learning simple movement, spatial awareness, transfer of weight, posture alignment, flexibility, agility, balance and rhythm. My mind would always be anticipating the next move. Would I be raising my arms, skipping, hopping, spinning around or raising my legs. All this created the ability for me to learn, apply, and recall information. Dancing on stage in front of hundreds of people was ok. I felt no fear.  I remember to this day creating my own moves and imagining dancing in an endless pasture full of flowers and trees, feeling the wind in my hair along with the warmth of the sun on my body and face. I was in a happy place.

Dance is an expression of moving the body in rhythmic ways, expressing emotion, showing joy, releasing energy as we move, and envisioning a story along with sequences of movement. Being very body focused, dance helps with developing strength, power, endurance, flexibility and poise. Not only is dance good for your body, but moving and memorizing rhythmic dance patterns is great for your brain. According to various studies that have been done, “dance involves neurobehavioral processes in seven distinct areas including sensory, motor, cognitive, social, emotional, rhythmic, and creative.”

Dance has shown to improve brain function. Studies have shown how dance blends cognitive thought processes with muscle memory, along with integrating brain areas to improve neuroplasticity. The exercise of repetition through movement helps with our ability to retain information.

Both learning to dance and perform requires the use of several brain areas.  For instance, “the cerebellum helps in planning fine motor activities. while the basal ganglia collaborates with other brain areas to coordinate movement.  The somatosensory cortex contributes to  eye-hand coordination along with motor control.”

The different forms of dance knowledge such as understanding how to dance, knowing the concepts, expressing feelings through movement or facial expressions and memorizing choreography all are all expressed in various parts of the brain.

Other studies show that dance helps reduce stress, anxiety and has shown to increase levels of serotonin, known as the “feel good hormone”.

Dance plays a huge role in body awareness “the ability to recognize where your body is in the space you’re in”. Your muscles and joints send your brain information about your body and how it moves. Why is body awareness so important? Body awareness helps us to understand how to relate to objects, people and to our surroundings. For example, proper body awareness tells us how far to reach for objects or how close to stand next to a person.

Dance can help develop muscles, tone the body, improve circulation, improve posture, balance, coordination and promote greater flexibility. Flexibility is often overlooked as a benefit, but can really decrease the chances of injury especially in an active child. Dance helps keep the body conditioned, and the mind focused which heightens ones ability to perform other physical activities.

For the past few years I have observed our twin boys in dance. Their moves have become more fluid, their anticipation of the next step more in tune, and their expression on their faces show confidence.  Not only has dance developed their mind, but I have seen their flexibility, fluidity  and co-ordination develop in other sports they participate in.

Play your favorite music and start moving. See the balance of the mind, body, artistry and athleticism develop within you.




Stay Active- Create Balance