While We're Waiting For A Dance
& Dan Finch
It looks like we are in this mess, i.e. the pandemic, for some time to
come. The experts cannot agree on when there will be a vaccine or how
effective it will be (considering the normal flu vaccine is not 100%
effective). Events are still being canceled—we have just had to give up
the Palmquist Palm Springs Round-Up and its 50th anniversary
celebration set for September. The Colorado Gala in October has been
The big “tell” came this week when we went to book Winterfest in
January 2021 at its usual location, the Cypress (CA) Senior Center. The
city reserved the date—Jan. 16—but would not let us pay a deposit on
the hall until there is some assurance from government officials that
the hall can reopen by then.
But remember all those studies over the years that show how important
dancing is for one’s overall health and mental well-being? And if there
is no dancing? If nothing else, you can find a Zoom site. A new study
is underway to determine if we will get those same benefits from Zoom
It seems that Zoom dance classes—legal now that cuers are securing
ASCAP new media licenses—may be the only way to experience those health
benefits for awhile, except for small group, reservation only,
in-person classes that can secure a physical location.
The new study is being done by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine
in New York as an offshoot of a six-month study underway pre-pandemic.
Helena Blumen, a cognitive neuroscientist and associate professor of
medicine at the college, said a pilot study had been comparing the
health effects on two groups who exercised twice a week—one group
walking on a treadmill and the other social dancing. “It’s hard to get
people to exercise regularly, especially older adults,” she said in a
recent YouTube interview with Time for Health Talks. Dancing, she said,
added a dimension that makes exercise more enjoyable and may even be
better for you.
The dancers showed more improvements in tests of their cognitive
functions than those working only on the treadmill, Blumen said. The
social nature of working with a partner along with the intellectual
skills required to learn steps and connecting movements could be
contributing to those results, she said. Dancing requires more
cognitive effort “to remember where you are in space,” she added, which
ramps up brain functions, which translates to better brain health.
Time For Health Talks, a project of Time magazine, included dancer
Derek Hough in the interview. Hough, six times winner of the mirror
ball trophy given on Dancing With The Stars and now a World of Dance
judge, called dancing “artistic athletics.” When you are walking, he
said, you tend to “zone out” but dancing forces you into the moment,
constantly problem-solving to determine the right movement. He called
dancing a jigsaw puzzle to synchronize your movements to help you and
your partner maintain balance.
The remote video interview, which originally aired July 29, 2020,
revealed that the study has been reinvented to see how Zoom dancing
impacts the original study.
During the interview, Hough was asked what he thinks about when he is
dancing. “Color,” he said. He sees color when he hears music and that
translates to a feeling that inspires how he dances. He said salsas
inspire bright colors, fast impact; waltzes more cool tones, mellow,
He encouraged dancers to begin to hear the nuances in music. In the
beginning, a dancer will hear the bass beats, the most obvious, but as
you advance, he said, listen for the sounds of the different drums— the
bass versus the snare—and any of the other instruments and the vocal,
all of which might give you a different feeling and timing.
When people say to him they don’t like to dance or can’t dance, he said
he asks them “when did you decide that.” That takes them by surprise.
“As a kid, you enjoyed music and reacted to it,” he said. “Something
happened to make you doubt that.”
The interview finished with a quick salsa teach by Derek in a garage.
Anyone can do it the way he taught it. Cucaracha left and right,
forward and back basic two times. Hand to hand, both directions. He
even encouraged ladies to let the raised arm drop to wrap behind their
head. Cuban breaks, roll 3, a shimmy, a grapevine and something he
called a Beyonce move. Voila, designed to get anyone moving.
This is nothing new—the only question is whether you get the same
benefits from Zooming. Many studies over the years have shown the
physical fitness benefits of social dancing. You can burn 300-400
calories an hour doing what we do.
There is also that mental aspect—a euphoria like a runner’s high that
comes from the release of endorphins—reduced stress and decrease in
blood pressure. Studies have also shown dancing improves short term
memory and reduces the risk of dementia better than almost all other
physical activities and even working crossword puzzles.
No question that dancing is social. It now can provide a needed
connection between people in a world where we are more and more
disconnected, with working and learning from home, social distancing,
and keeping our facial expressions—a major form of communication—hidden
behind masks. Whether we like it or not, Zoom dancing is here, and
maybe w should be thankful for that.
Get Up & Dance
Some of us are coming down with coccygodnia. It will be recognized as
one of the pandemic diseases, a rare condition also known as “TV
bottom,” caused by prolonged sitting in front of the TV— especially in
bad positions—that results in poor posture and lower backaches.
Symptoms are said to improve by standing or walking. So, get up, get
moving, better yet, get dancing. Most of us are watching too many
movies, too many sports events now that football, baseball, golf and
basketball are all trying to have their much-delayed championships, and
maybe too many cooking shows. Over the past six months of the pandemic,
we have cleaned out closets, reorganized files, considered taking up
new hobbies, and resorted to TV, initially to keep up to date on
infection numbers, the latest shut-down or reopening news, or where the
latest surge is occurring.
Sitting too long, especially slouching, puts pressure on the sacrum and
coccyx, those bony structures at the bottom of the spine. With that,
the sciatic nerve can be impinged, and then you have pain in the lower
back, hips and legs. We slump and our shoulders sag, heads protrude and
our core disappears. Coccygodnia (it is a real thing, look it up) most
often has occurred from a fall, such as while skiing, being thrown from
a horse, or hitting the frame when bouncing on a trampoline. But that
was before the pandemic set in.
If you aren’t ready to venture out for one of the dances/classes now
starting to be offered around the country, and if Zoom dancing isn’t
your speed, just get up and exercise to good music. [As with any
exercise program, be sure you have no medical condition that would be
exacerbated by exercise before trying these.]
To strengthen and limber the spine, put on some foxtrot music, stand
with feet parallel, hands on hips. Keeping back and knees straight,
bend your torso to the right, then forward, to the left and back,
counting 1-2-3-4, in one measure of music. Do it the opposite way, then
repeat several times. Do it again, this time bringing your left arm up
overhead as you bend to the right, let both arms dangle as you bend
forward. Straighten, then bend to the left, letting right arm go up
Put on some tango music. Step forward with the right foot, twisting
your body so that your left shoulder comes forward. Walk forward onto
the left foot, twisting your body so that your right shoulder comes
forward. Do eight steps. These exaggerated walks are walking into
contra body movement position (CBMP) that occur in many figures. Do it
going backward, which is important for ladies to recognize the feel
when dancing in closed position.
Exercise those knees with simple lowering, important for good rise and
fall and for taking strain off the back. Do this whenever you lift
anything, to spare your back.
For the purpose of exercise, stand as though a plumb line dropped from
your ears, through your collar bone and ribs, to your hips, knees, and
to the arch in your foot. Count 1-2-3-4 to foxtrot music as you flex
through the knee to lower while keeping your back straight and the
plumb line in place. Rise to a count of 4. Your heels can release from
the floor as you lower.
Work on your balance. Put on some salsa or mambo music. Stand with feet
together, arms up as in frame. Step to the side on count 1; as you
slightly bend the standing leg, make a small circle forward, out and
around with the other foot on count 2, take weight with the circling
foot on count 3, and circle the other foot forward, out and around.
With waltz music, thinking of balance, stand with arms as in frame,
feet together. Reach back with the right leg, stretching the foot and
holding it slightly off the floor for a measure (1-2-3). Step onto that
foot. Repeat, reaching back with the left.
We can all use this time to work on our foxtrot footwork. By that I
mean the heel toe, heel toe, toe heel of the basic Three Step (when man
does that footwork) and Back Three Step (when lady does it). In the
Three Step, lady steps back three steps toe heel, toe heel, toe heel.
This is the man’s footwork going back in the Back Three Step (or the
second measure of a Reverse Wave).
It doesn’t take boring gym exercises to maintain your balance, protect
your back, and achieve a body discipline that will improve your figure
control. You just have to get up off the couch and do it.
newsletters, August & September 2020,
in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC)
Newsletter, October 2020. Find a DRDC Finch archive here.