by Justine Kawas
Samba, foxtrot, tango, paso doble—thanks in large part to the decade-long popularity of TV’s Dancing with the Stars, these and other dance styles are familiar to many of us. What many may not know, however, is that these dances, from the formally elegant to the energetic Latin, all fall under the category of ballroom dance.
Ballroom dance is a sport that invites all ages and a wide range of abilities at all levels of experience. Emerging in a growing number of local dance halls nationwide, it enhances not only our relationship with the music, but also our relationships with each other.
On an individual level, ballroom dance provides a personal sense of fulfillment. For many, the prescribed steps and gestures that define ballroom styles are comforting, as they allow us to work within a structure of movements and focus on the additional elements that come along with the experience, such as communication, trust, intuition, style, grace, confidence, memorization, flexibility and organization.
More than just personal, though, the socialization of ballroom dance promotes community and allows us to experience dramatic movements such as a tango basic, sultry salsa patterns or the whimsical spins of swing, resulting in a transformational experience. Whether we are acquiring skills on a basic level or delving deeper into this form of dance, the ballroom experience will inevitably affect how we carry ourselves in the world and interact with others.
Ballroom dancing promotes physical and mental stimulation that extend beyond other forms of exercise. The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in 2003 exploring the relationship between increased leisure activities and the risk of dementia in older patients. Lead author Joe Verghese, M.D., praises the combination of physical and mental stimulation that ballroom dancing specifically offers, noting that “remembering the steps, moving in precise time to the music and adapting to the movements of one’s partner are mentally demanding exercises.”
The benefits of ballroom dancing extend to the young, as well, as evidenced by Dancing Classrooms, a program created by Pierre Dulaine in 1994 that provides ballroom dancing to fifth graders as a social and emotional development tool. His program has traveled as far as Northern Ireland and Israel.
Ultimately, dancing is all about the joy it brings. But as we strive to live lifestyles where mind, body and spirit intertwine, ballroom dance provides us with a truly holistic experience. So swing, sway and dance your way to happiness and a well-balanced lifestyle. Your local ballroom awaits.
Justine Kawas is lead instructor and program coordinator at Justine Time to Dance, located within Serenity Day Spa, 64 E. Swamp Rd., Doylestown. For more information, call 917-586-6933 or visit JustineTimeToDance.org. February 2016.