Lessons from a four-year-old
I’ve never been much of a dancer. Even as a kid, I embarrassed myself in dance classes — I could never remember the choreography, which became obvious during recitals because I was always turned around trying to see what everyone else was doing. I’ve long since hung up my tap shoes and spent most of my adulthood feeling too awkward and too self-conscious to dance, even by myself.
On the rare occasions I have danced as an adult, it has typically taken many drinks to get me on the dance floor. And since I recently quit drinking, it seemed possible my limited dancing career was over for good.
But my four-year-old daughter will not let that happen.
Whenever she hears music, she starts moving. The genre doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t even need to be a song — sometimes my husband will beatbox or clap a beat, and she just goes. She definitely got her rhythm from him. She asks questions like, “Do you like my moves?” The answer is always yes: she’s been wiggling her body since she was old enough to move it voluntarily and has legitimately great moves in spades.
We have also apparently raised her to be very, well, assertive. The music starts playing, she starts dancing and then demands we do the same. I used to try to get away with just bobbing my head or shaking my hips briefly and walking away. But she won’t have it. Now that we’re in quarantine and together ALL THE TIME, we’ve been playing a lot of music, and she’s been making a lot of demands. And it’s quarantine — it’s not like I have anywhere to go. Plus, I have to admit, she makes it look like a lot of fun. So I’ve started caving. She wore me down.
And so, our daily family dance parties have begun. It’s gotten a lot easier, and I’ve shaken off my nagging embarrassment. I guess it’s like exposure therapy — just doing it has made me less anxious. In fact, it’s even fun.
We even wear tutus sometimes.
Jen’s daughter doing her thing
Dance more, brood less, live longer
Obviously, a lot of people enjoy dancing. It’s the center of important events from Brazilian Carnival to every wedding you’ve ever been to. And it turns out, dancing is good for your brain, too. People who do any kind of exercise can identify with the endorphin rush, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
In the last couple decades, researchers have begun to study the neurological effects of dance and uncover the benefits of exercising complex coordination and physical and expressive movement. Brain scans have identified that your motor cortex, somatosensory cortex, basal ganglia and cerebellum all get a workout when you dance, and benefits include strengthened neuronal connections, critical to what’s called neuroplasticity — essentially the brain’s fitness and resilience, governing its ability to change, form new memories, learn new things and stave off the decline of age.
Dance is even used for psychotherapy — dance/movement therapy (DMT) uses the brain-body connection to regulate emotions through movement and promote well-being. DMT has been shown to be effective in treating individuals with depression, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
My daughter won’t let me not dance with her, but I also like that it aligns well with my resolution this year to take my mental health and emotional well-being seriously. And I feel like it’s at least a little bit of a counterbalance to the deluge of stress in the time of coronavirus.
Join the dance dance revolution
As we slipped into our new homebound lives, dance was one of the first coping mechanisms to come to the forefront. “Club Quarantine,” a quarantine dance party hosted by DJ D-Nice (among other things, a renowned DJ who played Barack Obama’s White House farewell party in 2016) has taken Instagram by storm and attracted over 100,000 viewers at a time. Even A-list celebrities like Michelle Obama, Rihanna and Drake attend. TikTok — a social app that has largely made its fame with short, silly dance routines — added 12 million new U.S. visitors in March alone. And bands like HAIM started hosting dance classes to teach their fans the dances from their videos.
You won’t see me posting videos on TikTok anytime soon, but as the internet surges with dance, I plan on checking out some of the stuff that’s out there, so my daughter and I can mix up our daily jam.
I tapped The Juggle’s Slack channels, where people are sharing their daily joys, challenges and inspiration, for ideas. I know there are a gazillion other things out there, but here are just a few I’m thinking about checking out.
Drop your suggestions in the comments, or join us on Slack and share there.
Oh My Rockness
In regular times, OMR is an excellent newsletter and resource for info on upcoming, mostly indie rock concerts in New York where I live (as well as LA and Chicago). Lately, though, they’ve started tracking upcoming artist livestreams so you can rock out at virtual concerts.
My Juggle colleague Sarah tried out this super popular class: “Honestly, I’ve been fighting off the ‘will this last forever?’ scaries and needing some fun distractions, especially if they boost endorphins. So I’m trying Dance Church tomorrow!”
The website describes it as “a movement class that offers a fun and inclusive approach to dancing. Designed for people of all shapes and sizes, backgrounds, and identities. The teacher leads this 55-minute experience with a series of movement cues, accompanied by a curated playlist of multi-genre pop music. The format is open but guided throughout.”
Robyn’s Konichiwa TV: Club DOMO
This one’s also from Sarah: “Robyn (yes, the Robyn) has been hosting live DJ sets on Fridays. I’m turning my house into a club ce soir!” Sarah turns off the lights and transforms her apartment into a mini-rave, which, in addition to providing the release and benefits of dance, adds much-needed novelty at a time when most of us are spending all of our time in the same place.
Sarah’s quarantine dance party/Club DOMO
Live online classes with instructors from the Alvin Ailey dance company
This is definitely advanced for me, but I’m intrigued by the idea of learning new moves from some pretty amazing professionals. You can join live online classes and watch free on-demand video classes for hip hop, dancing in heels, something called DanceFIT and more.
This cardio studio in NYC, DC and Boston is hosting live dance classes online for free. You can do dance workouts of a ton of different varieties — Latin, hip hop, pop, “sexy,” “Britney Spears” and more.
Another Juggle colleague, Alyssa, says, “Pre-COVID, I LOVED doing these live morning, pre-work dance parties. They are now going virtual.” These sober dance parties in the wee hours of the day are apparently hugely popular with dancers of all ages. For quarantine times, you need to sign up on their website to receive text messages about virtual events. I just signed up, so I’ll let you know how it goes.
A few of Alyssa’s colleagues are also trying out Steezy, which offers a seven-day free trial and multiple styles including urban dance, popping, krump, house, breaking/bboy and whacking (and yes, I am still looking up what some of those styles are).