We all know that dancing is good for you. It’s good for your body because it is a physical activity that gets you up off the couch. It’s good for the mind because it keeps you sharp. It’s good for the soul because it fills you with accomplishment and joy. Dancing in general is good for you, but did you know that social dancing is the best type of dancing for your mind? Social dancing actually makes you smarter according to Richard Powers, a professor and instructor at Stanford University’s Dance Division.
In a nutshell, social dancing requires split-second rapid-fire decision making, which makes your brain work harder and creates more connections. Salsa is one form of social dancing that requires two people, a lead and a follow. When we dance Salsa, you literally have a split second to either figure out what pattern you’re going to lead, or figure out what you’re being led into. Women in particular gain much of this benefit. They don’t “follow,” they interpret their partner’s signals, which requires intelligence and rapid decision making. It’s greatly enhanced by dancing with different partners. Men can also gain just as much benefit from Salsa dancing. Trying to adapt to your partner, what she’s comfortable with, where she wants to go, how she wants to style and shine, all require split second decisions as well. The work is doubled when you learn a new pattern and you make even more connections in your brain.
You know that old saying, “Use it or lose it.” That applies to our brains as well. Since Salsa dancing is a fun hobby for most people, we don’t even realize that we are making ourselves smarter by doing it. Usually, the best kind of mental and physical activity is the kind where you are having fun and not notice that it’s hard work.
Do your body, mind, and soul and favor and learn something new, whether it’s a new sport, painting, working out, or dancing. If you really want to benefit your brain, then learn how to dance Salsa.
Ref: Use It or Lose It: Dancing Makes You Smarter http://socialdance.stanford.edu/syllabi/smarter.htm
Sarah Vazquez is a professional salsa dancer and instructor in Houston, TX and is the Artistic Director of Culture Beat Entertainment. She has been dancing salsa since 2005, and has had previous dance training including jazz, hip hop, ballet, and lyrical.