Most people these days believe that dancing is a wonderful form of exercise, and dancers could not agree more. Dancing feels good not only for the body but for the heart and mind as well. Dancing has appeared throughout history, and has brought people many benefits, both physical and mental. Before beginning any sort of dance routine, it is best to know of the risks and rewards associated with dance.
Ballroom dancing has been shown to help with dementia and with reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. After dancing, people have been proven to score higher on tests than after swimming, walking and golf.
In addition to the health benefits from dancing, the activity itself brings great entertainment and joy to people and cultures all over the globe. However, not everybody thinks of dance in terms of fun and merriment. The sheer thought of doing so may bring anxiety to those who feel as though they have two left feet and cause worry and fear. Due to the strenuous nature of dancing, it can also bring pain.
Dancing pushes and challenges the human body in such a way as to possibly cause serious harm, such as in a repetitive strain injury. A ballerina who is pointing her toes, twisting her hips and stretching beyond belief surely looks beautiful, but underneath the surface, the motions can be dangerous. When done incorrectly, the stress it places on the human body can cause immediate injury. Even when performed correctly, the repetition of the unnatural movements can lead to a repetitive strain injury; sometimes without the dancer even knowing they have suffered damage. The danger of professional ballet is evident in the fact that up to 50 percent of the dancers in large ballet companies will miss performances due to an injury sustained during rehearsal.
To deal with the strain of dancing, professional dancers become regular patients of physical therapists. Sometimes, however, dancers are instructed to work through the pain, which could end up worsening the symptoms, prolonging recovery and perhaps causing permanent damage.
Professional dancers are not just susceptible to suffering physical stress. Chronic workplace stress is also a danger. Dancers are not paid as well as other performers, and the world of dancing is highly competitive. The perfectionism caused by having to reach and maintain poses in just the right way leads to physical and technical perfectionism. In addition, many dancers, especially younger ones, suffer from eating disorders caused by striving to maintain the thin image believed to be the ideal in dance. Many times, dancers who diet obsessively do not eat enough nutrients to maintain physical health, which leads to a higher risk of injury as well. Stress may also be a factor in a study which found that 40 percent of the 300 professional dancers studied were tobacco users.
Dance is also used as a form of expressive therapy, which helps to treat emotional, cognitive, social, behavioral and physical conditions through movement. Learning routines is a good way to sharpen mental discipline.
Dance, either as a form of exercise or recreation or as a profession, carries with it both risks and rewards. Stretching, staying healthy and knowing one’s limits are vital before any strenuous activity, including dance.
Written by Esther Smith
Image by Kevin Eddy – Flickr License