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Dance and Brain Power

"Few activities stimulate as wide a variety of brain systems as dancing does," says Daniel Amen, MD, author of Magnificent Mind at Any Age. "Dancing requires everything from coordination and organization to planning and judgment."

Even the youngest dance student memorizing and perfecting an exercise in his/her weekly dance class will be benefitting from the incredible brain training that goes part and parcel with any good dance class and, in particular, a ballet class.

Dance dictates that you must synchronize your movements with the music whilst remembering the step sequence. In addition, you must use the correct technique for every single movement in every single muscle group and also move all your body parts simultaneously. A dance class is not only physically challenging, but is also Mega Brain Training.

This dance multi-tasking, which happens in every exercise and dance movement, means new neural pathways are constantly being connected between the right and left side of the brain. In a scientific nutshell, ballet class improves overall brain function by merging cerebral and cognitive thought processes with muscle memory and proprioception skills situated in the cerebellum, so through regular dance classes students of any age can maximize brain functions.

I have observed many times over many years the interesting fact that students who were struggling with low academic school marks and who only danced once or twice a week improved their school marks once they increased the number of dance classes they attended. It would seem that the more dance classes they attended, the better and quicker their academic marks improved.

Research undertaken in the post war years of slum children who were living in impoverished conditions and underachieving at school, improved not only their school attendance and academic work, but also tidied and cleaned up their own surroundings after starting regular ballet classes. It would seem that the effects of structure and method in ballet class helped their overall physical and mental wellbeing to such an extent that they began to want to improve their own living conditions as well as being able to concentrate better at school.

I have noted that full time dance students of all ages seem to need a fraction of the time to do their homework than their non-dancing peers, and often bring home much higher grades. The high level of endorphins released to the brain during dance class assists this ease of learning.

A professional ballet dancer must learn many ballets and dances in various styles in a very short space of time. Rehearsals are often undertaken for several different ballets on the same day and there is often another ballet performance in the evening.

Dancers cope with all this by being trained from an early age to learn ballets with ease, remember multiple places within a dance and if need be, change from one place in the dance to another without rehearsal simply by using their brains to transpose what they have learned to a different position. It is no wonder that many elite dance schools demand proof of high academic achievement before inviting students to audition. Dancers need good brains, and dancing regularly helps develop these mega brains. There is an old saying, "There is no such thing as a dumb dancer."

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