‘TAKE IT ALL OFF!” The bedridden woman repeatedly yelled when she saw me dancing.
With a black full body leotard, I danced 3 minutes in five different cultural music venues. I swiftly changed props between sets: Spanish shawl, African feather collar, Japanese kimono, Egyptian headdress, lavender cape.
Attendees in the assisted living home were seated in wheelchairs in a circle. I waved ribbons and scarves over their hands as I danced around the circle. Even those with little mobility reached and touched ribbons and scarves. They stretched, tapped their feet, and smiled while hands and arms swayed rhythmically. Throughout, the bedridden woman chanted, ‘TAKE IT ALL OFF!”
Everyone creatively ‘danced’ in ways that suited their bodies. We all became connected in an experience that raised moods and energy levels.
A major study found that stimulating one’s mind by dancing can ward off Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, much as physical exercise keeps the body fit. Dancing increases cognitive acuity at all ages. Frequent dancing increases neuroplasticity, the ability to form new neural connections, which helps in recovering from injury and disease. Improvement of heart and lungs is another bonus! (www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au)
Recently, I had foot surgery. Oldies music was playing in the lobby while I waited to be called to the surgery room at 7 a.m. I danced, felt joy and then danced entering the cold surgery room. Masked doctors and nurses smiled, saying that was a first in their careers! We all connected in a harmonious, uplifting way. Best surgery prep ever!
I feel no inhibition dancing in grocery store aisles, sidewalks, the beach, standing in line, at a music venue whether or not anyone else is dancing, with babies-toddlers-preK-and any age, anywhere it allows for happy movement and music. Children join right in. Their spirits are free. My rule of thumb is: if it does not harm me or anyone else, it is fun and uplifting, then go for it! And I do. It’s like creating a musical anywhere.
I am not trained, just free spirited. I don’t THINK when I dance. I FEEL the music going through me. It guides my body to be in sync with it. Dancing frees and expands me. It sends me into a stratosphere where nothing exists but the present moment… becoming one with the music. Health and happiness benefits are countless.
Studies show that dance helps reduce stress, increases feel-good hormone serotonin and endorphins, improves long-term memory, helps prevent falls, improves posture and flexibility, lifts mood, eases anxiety and is a fun way to sharpen the mind, reduce pain, and stiffness. https://www.scientificamerican.com
Some of my free spirited dancing includes (mostly by myself): dancing in the rain under a street light at night; dancing in the wind; dancing with the ocean waves in sync with other music; dancing at the Cabaret at the back wall for the Buddy Holly Show; dancing on a stage after a drag show brunch, getting kicked off, kept dancing on the floor and got tips! I am straight, my son is gay, treating me to the fun brunch. Dancing in my kitchen while cooking; dancing on a sidewalk in Mexico and in front of Notre Dame to distant music; feeling ecstatic when a waiter in Positano danced with me to La Bamba in the middle of my meal. The list is endless. Dancing generates joy in my spirit.
Countless musicians have thanked me for dancing when no one else did. They say it makes for a more fulfilling performance to have dancers connecting to their music.
Some say there is nothing more universal than the drive to move our bodies in sync with music.
Children dance freely. They FEEL it and are not inhibited. They don’t care what others think about their dancing. Neither do I. When we dance we give ourselves permission to be more alive and create a language with our bodies that radiates a bright joyful energy. It is a gift.
Conclusion: Reduce Stress, Be Happy, Improve Health, Manufacture Endorphins, and DANCE YOURSELF ALIVE.
Janai ‘Grandma Boom’ Mestrovich
Pioneer Expert: 3D Social Emotional Learning