Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bellydance Makes You Smarter!

Ted Shawn and Denishawn Dancers, New York Public Library
Let's get one thing straight: bellydance is hard. Once you get past the basic "this is a hip circle, this is a rib cage circle, this is a shimmy," you have to start layering moves and walking and turning and executing a 3/4 shimmy while moving your arms. And then there's choreography to create and memorize, or if you do improv, you have to come up with moves while on stage, leading a figurative train behind you and working to keep it on track.

Well, rest assured. Not only will all that practice make you a better dancer, but it'll also make you smarter and lower your risk for Alzheimer's and dementia. A study done by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine showed that senior citizens who danced frequently greatly reduced their risk of dementia.

And you don't have to wait for your retirement years before reaping the intelligent benefits of dance, either. Dancing forces you to think creatively, and try alternate paths to a solution. Working out a difficult choreo, whether it's creating it for your students, making up your own for a solo performance, or just trying to memorize it before your troupe's show, will force you to create new paths in your brain to access the same thing: in this case, your choreo.

Or if improv's your style, there's a lot of creative thinking there. Just being the leader provides plenty of opportunity for creative thinking, since you have to come up with your moves on the spot. And if you derail the train of dancers behind you, you have to think fast to get it back on track and still make it look like you meant to do that. Even following behind the leader requires creative thinking, if you're a step behind or miss a cue.

All of this brain work we dancers have to do while practicing and performing our art means that you'll never see a stupid bellydancer. And the more frequently you dance, the more benefit you'll have. It doesn't matter if you're fifteen or fifty, any dance you do will be beneficial to your mental health.

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