In my lifelong quest for productivity, I have a deep love for fun activities that can serve many purposes. Recently I started to understand how dancing can be yet another activity on this list. In this post, I will share my productivity and learning insights on … dancing.
Anna loves dancing in all kinds of Salsa styles. She used to dance before she met me, and had to stop with the first pregnancy. After a long pause, she started dancing and recently introduced me to dance routines.
Initially, I was not sure what is in it for me. I am not among the most graceful creatures on earth, or in my house for that matter. My relationships with Anna did not need another shared activity. Our courses, kids and household are about the limit. I have the rule to step out of my comfort zone at least once every quarter and it was a slow quarter, so I agreed. I have been dancing with Anna for about a year when COVID19 hit and the dance studios closed.
Why I believe everyone should dance
The social part of dancing may be fun and might be awkward, but there are things which I found important:
- Our brain is a state machine. When we constantly change states, we become inherently more creative. The brain also gets more oxygen. There were studies about brain function, stimulates nerve grows and memory boosts due to dancing.
- In certain dance styles, the male partner provides the frame and the lead for the sequence of moves, while the female dancer provides grace, form and interpretation. This is a great metaphor for teamwork, leadership, and psychological work.
- Simply remembering complex dance routines can be a great memory boost. This procedural memory is somewhat different from the declarative memory we usually train.
- Rhythm and flow. When we chain performance of multiple activities as one bigger task, it is easy to get stressed, bored, or tired. Looking for rhythm and flow in these activities, we enjoy them more and are successful more often.
- Confidence. I used to be conscientious about my movement, as I am not very graceful. After some dancing, I accepted my body. Now I believe I am much less clumsy than I thought. I saw very strange people dancing together. If they can, I think everyone can.
Benefits of dancing
Dancing is one of the most effective low-intensity physical training routines. It can train many different muscle groups, it is fun and not boring, and you can practice at home with your partner.
Dancing can be a way to stay fit for people of all ages, shapes and sizes. It has a wide range of physical and mental benefits including:
- improved condition of your heart and lungs
- increased muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness
- increased aerobic fitness
- improved muscle tone and strength
- weight management
- stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis
- better coordination, agility, and flexibility
- improved balance and spatial awareness
- increased physical confidence
- improved mental functioning
- improved general and psychological wellbeing
- greater self-confidence and self-esteem
- better social skills
If you need more benefits, look here.
Dance as mental palace itinerary
Typically the itineraries in mental palaces are linear. There are many simple rooms, which we pass. This may be comfortable for most subjects. If we get new information, mental palaces are less suited to hold it. Occasionally a room may become overflown with imagery. We may want to make something very different from a particular room.
In many dances the motion of the dance is circular. If we use a big room in a mental palace and pack it with images like a museum room, simply reviewing all of these images is a complex task. Building an itinerary like a dance enables complex trajectories of reviewing the walls.
We can do the opposite trick and visualize the dance as a mental palace.
I personally put PAO groups in the corners of each room, with a PAO group per combination of moves. A PAO group may contain several individuals steps of a male leading the female. I add some colors to PAO to visualize muscle tension and release.
This visualizes like a room with 4 corners, and each corner with up to 4 statues colored in red, white and blue.
The visualization of the positions is simply a marker for dual coding. The moves should be learned using muscle memory. Otherwise, the cognitive strain becomes overwhelming.
In dance it is very easy to see the importance of strong foundations. In theory, the complexity of the moves should increase slowly, combining steps learned on the previous levels and some new variations. Several times during my short progress, the trainer asked me to repeat a specific lesson from the previous dancing level. This is very frustrating, but each time I returned to the previous levels I learned something new.
I danced with Anna almost exclusively, Being with the same partner is very much like learning the same subject. We understand what to expect, and even we are not very clear the interpretation comes from the context.
Changing partners is sometimes like learning a very different subject. Suddenly tricks that used to work well stop working. The partner expects us to know basic things we never learned and is not even aware of that. There is also a logistic problem, as the number of male and female dancers is not very well balanced, and some dancers do not learn some of the steps sufficiently well.
We do not know how much we rely on our partners unless we need to change partners. The surprise can also be pleasant, but this is not a common situation.
Do not stop
During the first year, everything is new and exciting. Then there is an understanding of the gap between the beginner level and the advanced levels. This is a place where most beginners leave. Further progress requires a very strong motivation. My wife brought to dancing school not only me but also her friend. This friend was much more successful than I, and progressed through the levels quickly. Then after about a year of practice, the novelty wore off and she stopped going. I also stopped practicing after a year, in our case we moved to a different dance class. Then we stopped dancing due to COVID19. I could still dance with Anna at home, but this is just not the same.
When physical distancing will not be needed, I plant to dance again.
According to Hesiod‘s Theogony (seventh century BC), muses were daughters of Zeus, king of the gods, and Mnemosyne, Titan goddess of memory. Muses brought to people forgetfulness of pain and obligations. Muses were worshipped at Delphi from prehistoric times, long before the site was rededicated to Apollo. Classical writers set Apollo, the god of light and truth as the leader of muses. There is a line in the Hotel California song: “some dance to remember, some dance to forget“. I guess dancing can be something very different from what I experienced, and I dance to remember…