Dance Anywhere is next Friday!! Where are you going to be?
Brilliant!! Thank you Richard Powers for collecting this research and writing this post. How wonderful to know that being a follow in a freestyle dance is an awesome way of keeping sharp!! Yay for Lindy Hop!
For centuries, dance manuals and other writings have lauded the health benefits of dancing, usually as physical exercise. More recently we’ve seen research on further health benefits of dancing, such as stress reduction and increased serotonin level, with its sense of well-being.
Then most recently we’ve heard of another benefit: Frequent dancing apparently makes us smarter. A major study added to the growing evidence that stimulating one’s mind can ward off Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, much as physical exercise can keep the body fit. Dancing also increases cognitive acuity at all ages.
You may have heard about the New England Journal of Medicine report on the effects of recreational activities on mental acuity in aging. Here it is in a nutshell.
The 21-year study of senior citizens, 75 and older, was led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, funded by the National Institute on Aging, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Their method for objectively measuring mental acuity in aging was to monitor rates of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
The study wanted to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity. They discovered that some activities had a significant beneficial effect. Other activities had none.
They studied cognitive activities such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and playing musical instruments. And they studied physical activities like playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework.
One of the surprises of the study was that almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia. There can be cardiovascular benefits of course, but the focus of this study was the mind. There was one important exception: the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing.
Reading – 35% reduced risk of dementia
Bicycling and swimming – 0%
Doing crossword puzzles at least four days a week – 47%
Playing golf – 0%
Dancing frequently – 76%.
That was the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied, cognitive or physical.
Quoting Dr. Joseph Coyle, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist who wrote an accompanying commentary: “The cerebral cortex and hippocampus, which are critical to these activities, are remarkably plastic, and they rewire themselves based upon their use.”
And from from the study itself, Dr. Katzman proposed these persons are more resistant to the effects of dementia as a result of having greater cognitive reserve and increased complexity of neuronal synapses. Like education, participation in some leisure activities lowers the risk of dementia by improving cognitive reserve.
Our brain constantly rewires its neural pathways, as needed. If it doesn’t need to, then it won’t.
Aging and memory
When brain cells die and synapses weaken with aging, our nouns go first, like names of people, because there’s only one neural pathway connecting to that stored information. If the single neural connection to that name fades, we lose access to it. So as we age, we learn to parallel process, to come up with synonyms to go around these roadblocks. (Or maybe we don’t learn to do this, and just become a dimmer bulb.)
The key here is Dr. Katzman’s emphasis on the complexity of our neuronal synapses. More is better. Do whatever you can to create new neural paths. The opposite of this is taking the same old well-worn path over and over again, with habitual patterns of thinking and living our lives.
When I was studying the creative process as a grad student at Stanford, I came across the perfect analogy to this:
The more stepping stones there are across the creek, the easier it is to cross in your own style.
The focus of that aphorism was creative thinking, to find as many alternative paths as possible to a creative solution. But as we age, parallel processing becomes more critical. Now it’s no longer a matter of style, it’s a matter of survival — getting across the creek at all. Randomly dying brain cells are like stepping stones being removed one by one. Those who had only one well-worn path of stones are completely blocked when some are removed. But those who spent their lives trying different mental routes each time, creating a myriad of possible paths, still have several paths left.
The Albert Einstein College of Medicine study shows that we need to keep as many of those paths active as we can, while also generating new paths, to maintain the complexity of our neuronal synapses.
We immediately ask two questions:
That’s where this particular study falls short. It doesn’t answer these questions as a stand-alone study. Fortunately, it isn’t a stand-alone study. It’s one of many studies, over decades, which have shown that we increase our mental capacity by exercising our cognitive processes. Intelligence: Use it or lose it. And it’s the other studies which fill in the gaps in this one. Looking at all of these studies together lets us understand the bigger picture.Some of this is discussed here (the page you may have just came from) which looks at intelligence in dancing. The essence of intelligence is making decisions. And the concluding advice, when it comes to improving your mental acuity, is to involve yourself in activities which require split-second rapid-fire decision making, as opposed to rote memory (retracing the same well-worn paths), or just working on your physical style.One way to do that is to learn something new. Not just dancing, but anything new. Don’t worry about the probability that you’ll never use it in the future. Take a class to challenge your mind. It will stimulate the connectivity of your brain by generating the need for new pathways. Difficult and even frustrating classes are better for you, as they will create a greater need for new neural pathways.Then take a dance class, which can be even better. Dancing integrates several brain functions at once, increasing your connectivity. Dancing simultaneously involves kinesthetic, rational, musical and emotional processes.
What kind of dancing?
Let’s go back to the study: Bicycling, swimming or playing golf – 0% reduced risk of dementia
But doesn’t golf require rapid-fire decision-making? No, not if you’re a long-time player. You made most of the decisions when you first started playing, years ago. Now the game is mostly refining your technique. It can be good physical exercise, but the study showed it led to no improvement in mental acuity.
Therefore do the kinds of dance where you must make as many split-second decisions as possible. That’s key to maintaining true intelligence.
Does any kind of dancing lead to increased mental acuity? No, not all forms of dancing will produce this benefit. Not dancing which, like golf or swimming, mostly works on style or retracing the same memorized paths. The key is the decision-making. Remember (from this page), Jean Piaget suggested that intelligence is what we use when we don’t already know what to do.
We wish that 25 years ago the Albert Einstein College of Medicine thought of doing side-by-side comparisons of different kinds of dancing, to find out which was better. But we can figure it out by looking at who they studied: senior citizens 75 and older, beginning in 1980. Those who danced in that particular population were former Roaring Twenties dancers (back in 1980) and then former Swing Era dancers (today), so the kind of dancing most of them continued to do in retirement was what they began when they were young: freestyle social dancing — basic foxtrot, swing, waltz and maybe some Latin.
I’ve been watching senior citizens dance all of my life, from my parents (who met at a Tommy Dorsey dance), to retirement communities, to the Roseland Ballroom in New York. I almost never see memorized sequences or patterns on the dance floor. I mostly see easygoing, fairly simple social dancing — freestyle lead and follow. But freestyle social dancing isn’t that simple! It requires a lot of split-second decision-making, in both the lead and follow roles.
I need to digress here:
I want to point out that I’m not demonizing memorized sequence dancing or style-focused pattern-based ballroom dancing. I sometimes enjoy sequence dances myself, and there are stress-reduction benefits of any kind of dancing, cardiovascular benefits of physical exercise, and even further benefits of feeling connected to a community of dancers. So all dancing is good.
But when it comes to preserving mental acuity, then some forms are significantly better than others. When we talk of intelligence (use it or lose it) then the more decision-making we can bring into our dancing, the better.
Who benefits more, women or men?
In social dancing, the follow role automatically gains a benefit, by making hundreds of split-second decisions as to what to do next. As I mentioned on this page, women don’t “follow”, they interpret the signals their partners are giving them, and this requires intelligence and decision-making, which is active, not passive. This benefit is greatly enhanced by dancing with different partners, not always with the same fellow. With different dance partners, you have to adjust much more and be aware of more variables. This is great for staying smarter longer.
But men, you can also match her degree of decision-making if you choose to do so.
(1) Really notice your partner and what works best for her. Notice what is comfortable for her, where she is already going, which moves are successful with her and what aren’t, and constantly adapt your dancing to these observations. That’s rapid-fire split-second decision making.
(2) Don’t lead the same old patterns the same way each time. Challenge yourself to try new things. Make more decisions more often. Intelligence: use it or lose it.
And men, the huge side-benefit is that your partners will have much more fun dancing with you when you are attentive to their dancing and constantly adjusting for their comfort and continuity of motion.
Finally, remember that this study made another suggestion: do it often. Seniors who did crossword puzzles four days a week had a measurably lower risk of dementia than those who did the puzzles once a week. If you can’t take classes or go out dancing four times a week, then dance as much as you can. More is better.
And do it now, the sooner the better. It’s essential to start building your cognitive reserve now. Some day you’ll need as many of those stepping stones across the creek as possible. Don’t wait — start building them now.
What more could you possible want from a study?! To read more of Mr. Richard Powers’ work, please click here and you’ll be taken to his site.
Here are some videos that I’m taking inspiration from for this week. What do you think we are up to out here in Herrang for Week 4?
No need to watch this one with sound, but the girls are awfully cute!
A few of us are putting together choreography for a jellyfish/umbrella number. Can’t wait to see how the choreography turns out!
What an outstanding set of competitions this year!!! Holy cow.
1st: Mikey Pedroza (OC) & Laura Glaess (Austin, TX)
2nd: Eric Bertrand (Montreal, CAN) & Stacia Martin (Minneapolis, MN)
3rd: Andrew Hsi (OC) & Mary Freitag (OC)
1st place: Pontus Persson & Frida B.
2nd place: Nick Williams & Laura Keat
3rd place: Michael Darigol & Brittany Johnson
I had such a great time watching this competition! Every couple out there danced their ass off and the crowd freaking loved it! Fuck…..that was lindy hop.
Winner: Jessica Lennartsson (Sweden)
I just saw this and had to post it. It’s Channing Tatum taking off his clothes…..he’s 18 at the time!!
This year marks the 3rd year in a row that 1920’s-clad picnickers will spread blankets under the shade trees among the historic buildings of Governor’s Island for two solid afternoons of hot jazz starring Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra. On Saturday June 7th and Sunday June 8th from 11:30 am-6:30 pm both days, join in on the Gatsby-esque revelry. Activities include: Charleston and Peabody dance lessons, croquet games sponsored by the New York Croquet Club, tug of war games, a pie contest (Saturday only), 1920’s motorcars on exhibit, a Bathing Beauties and Gents Vintage Swimsuit Parade (Sunday only), and couture milliners pedaling their chic chapeaux.
Ferries to Governors Island are free and do not require tickets. Ferries leaving from Manhattan leave from the Battery Maritime Building at 10 South Street. Ferries leaving from Brooklyn leave from Fulton Ferry Landing, at the end of Old Fulton Street. For directions please visit www.govisland.com.
A wide array of music, food & drink, activities, games and contests are open for all ages to enjoy:
– A delightful variety of refreshing cocktails will be served by St. Germain.
– Picnickers are welcomed and encouraged.
– Tasty sandwiches and BBQ provided by Cercle Rouge.
– Authentic ’78 records from the 1920s played on a phonograph provided by Michael Cumella of WFMU’s Antique Phonograph Music Program.
– Charleston lessons given by dance legend Roddy Caravella of Sandra Cameron Dance Studio.
– 1920s Motorcar Exhibition - take a spin around the island in a genuine rumbleseat; hold on to your hat!
– Vintage clothing dealers and boutique milliners – They will all be peddling wares, so be sure to tuck some cash into your garter.
– Special literature/ephemera booths and readings by the Dorothy Parker Society & F. Scott Fitzgerald Society.
– Bathing Beauties & Beaus Promenade
– Live dance performances
– Vintage portraits by R.A. Friedman.
– Tug O’ War
– Parade Of Hats
– Bake Sale!
– Pie Recipe Contest – Categories: “Mom’s Best,” “Best Savory,” “Most Deliciously Unusual,” and “Hobo’s Choice”. Special Prizes and coveted gift certificates to be awarded.
Boo. I am not going to be in New York this weekend, but Kevin will be!! Nevertheless, you should go if you’re in the area, have fun, take pictures, post them on Facebook or Flicker, send me or Sharon Davis a link, and then we’ll post them on Swingfashionista. Think about it!!! Tony and Voon, have fun and send me pictures!!!
Synopsis: A reinvention of the original Oscar-winning hit film, Fame follows a talented group of dancers, singers, actors, and artists over four years at the New York City High School of Performing Arts, a diverse, creative powerhouse where students from all walks of life are given a chance to live out their dreams and achieve real and lasting fame…the kind that comes only from talent, dedication, and hard work.
In an incredibly competitive atmosphere, plagued by self-doubt, each student’s passion will be put to the test. In addition to their artistic goals, they have to deal with everything else that goes along with high school, a tumultuous time full of schoolwork, deep friendships, budding romance, and self-discovery.
As each student strives for his or her moment in the spotlight, they’ll discover who among them has the innate talent and necessary discipline to succeed. With the love and support of their friends and fellow artists, they’ll find out who amongst them will achieve Fame.
The cast includes Asher Book as Marco, Kristy Flores as Rosie, Paul Iacono as Neil, Paul McGill as Kevin, Naturi Naughton as Denise, Kay Panabaker as Jenny, Kherington Payne as Alice, Collins Pennie as Malik, Walter Perez as Victor, and Anna Maria Perez de Tagle as Joy. Their instructors include Debbie Allen as Principal Simms, Charles S. Dutton as Alvin Dowd, Kelsey Grammer as Joel Cranston, Megan Mullally as Fran Rowan, and Bebe Neuwirth as Lynn Kraft.
Starring: Kelsey Grammer, Megan Mullally, Kay Panabaker, Bebe Neuwirth, Naturi Naughton
Director: Kevin Tancharoen
My flight to Quebec was uneventful, but passing through customs was a different story. The night before I left, I checked the details on a few of the websites and from what I understood, I only needed a copy of my contract and I’d be fine. That wasn’t the case, apparently.
I had the contract, but because it wasn’t on letterhead, it didn’t look official. The custom’s lady didn’t want to let me through and was very annoyed by me. She didn’t know what lindy hop was and couldn’t understand why I was in Quebec; obviously I was trying to take work from Canadians! After some bickering and the declaration of “I don’t think we are going to let you in”, she had to double check with her superior on whether or not I could pass. He, a sweet old man, asked me a few question (which took all of 120 seconds) and then said “Oh, she’s fine. She’s not taking away jobs from Canadians. She is basically giving a seminar. No one else can do what she is being paid to do.” OMG, what a star! That man totally made my day. In my head I was thinking “IN YOUR FACE!!!” to the lady, but said nothing. I gloated to myself once I completely cleared customs.
I finally get where I need to go, am picked up, I swing by the house, change, grab some food, and get ready to teach. My first class was a charleston class (see previous entry) and it went super well. I was so pleased with myself. What was most amusing for me was that I was trying to speak in French, but mostly Spanish was coming out, and occasionally German. I’ll be totally honest, I have NO idea how people keep multiple languages separate in their heads; what a skill! (There are photos of the class that look awesome floating around somewhere, and if I find them, I’ll provide a link.)
After class, the dance started and I had some awesome dances. I danced most of the night and was the only instructor from the weekend out on the floor (small victory moment for me!). I was super sweaty and gross by the end, but man, did I have a good time!!!
Saturday was a great day as well. I taught my class on details, did a private, had an awesome lunch, and then Mickey and I walked around the city. It was rather gray outside, but it didn’t stop us from window shopping! We wandered into the Crock’s Shop, Aldo (which was having a sale), a pastry store (but didn’t get anything), and then a Ren-Fair store. It had clothing from the middle ages, swords, quills, trinkets, fairies, potions, and more. It was quite the experience. We then hustled back to the classes to eat dinner and then prepared to go home.
Tonight was the big dress-up night, so I got all dolled up in a vintage dress I bought about 10 years ago. Here I am in the dress with Nina. There were some great performances that night and some fun social dancing. For late night, I changed out of my gown and got into some clothes I could dance in. I had some more great dances that night and probably got in bed around 3am.
Sunday was my big day, but I got to sleep in because I didn’t have the first class. Yeah! I started my day teaching a technique class which was packed. I couldn’t believe how many people were there! Lots of great questions were asked and lots of good swivels were done. I had a cute guy named Martin teaching with me (he was my Demo Boy) and he did an awesome job of following me. He could pull in on one, on two and on three every time I asked. Shout out time: He ROCKED! The leads also asked a lot of great questions too. I feel like I got them to think about the options they have, or could have. Any class that gets students thinking about what and why they are doing what they are is a success for me.
The choreography class ended up being a lecture. I walked the students through, step by step, how Kevin and I choreograph, from picking a song, to putting on the final touches of a piece. I thought it was a good class. I haven’t taught it before so I didn’t have a flawless flow, but I still think it went along nicely.
The last class of the day was a class on power moves. I had a bunch of ideas, but only got through 2 of them. The biggest challenge was teaching people to do kick-steps down a line while keeping their rhythm. We added arms on top of that, but mostly it was the legs that proved to be a problem. But everybody looked great in the end.
That night there was no dance, but there was a dinner for the instructors who stayed around. It was really cool to get to hang out afterward, chat about the weekend, drink a beer, and eat some awesome food. They have a really great thing going in Quebec, and Dominique and Vero did an awesome job getting the weekend together. The students asked great questions and were soaking up the information. Yeah!!!
My flight home took ALL day. I got up around 830am, and didn’t get home until about 8pm that night. That sucks, but that’s what I get for not looking at my ticket more closely.
The exciting thing a bout my flight was that I had a bag-check issue. I almost never check my luggage. I don’t have time for it to get lost or miss a connection, and frankly I just don’t need that much stuff (laundry can be done, after all). Well, the plane from Quebec to Toronto was rather small, and my suitcase wasn’t going to fit in the over head, so I gate checked it, assuming it’d be there at the gate when I arrived. I was wrong. I got off the plane, checked with the stewardess, and she said it’d be there at baggage claim. So I headed towards baggage claim, but for where my connection was going to be. Mistake. My bag went to normal baggage claim, but because I had walked through the special glass doors leading to “American territory”, I couldn’t leave to get my bag. After waiting for my bag at the wrong conveyor belt, and some chatting with the guy at the help desk, he went downstairs to get my luggage. How sweet. Those Canadian – they sure are swell!
All in all, the weekend was awesome on a personal and professional level.
If you have pictures, please link them here, or send them to me. Cheers!!
1 – Nick Williams & Carla Heiney
2 – Max Pitruzezlla & Annie Trudeau
3 – Jeremy Otth & Laura Keat
Open Lindy Strictly:
1 – Juan Villafane & Sharon Davis
2 – Jamie Cameron & Crista Seipp
3 – Carl Nelson & Joanna Lucero
1 – Max Pitruzzella & Bethany Powell
2 – Todd Yannacone & Annie Trudeau
3 – Dax Hock & Marie Mattsson
1 – Stephen Jean & Laura Glaess
2 – Jamie Cameron & Crista Seipp
3 – Mike Roberts & Kate Hedin
1 – Hurley (from FL)
2 – Emily Hoffberg
3 – Juan Villafane
1 – Lee Tucker & Kelly Arsenault
2 – Andrew Thigpen & Emily Hoffberg
3 – Abigail Browning & Nick Williams
1 – Kelly Arsenault
2 – Rockstep Brothers (Kevin St. Laurent & Juan Villafane)
3 – Lady with the Fan (Sharon Davis)