Can Dancing Help Your Writing?

My dance teacher avidly believes that dancing improves one’s Math skills. To some extent, I completely agree. A dancer must be able to count beats of any form: whole, half, one-eighth, one-sixteenth, and sometimes, even smaller than that. A dancer must also readily be able to divide a 64-count phrase into four equal phrases, sixteen counts per phrase–remember the multiplication table you learned in third grade?

Yet, over the sixteen years of my dance training, I’ve found that dancing has actually helped my writing. It was hard to convince people that dancing is like a push button; when pressed, it activates something in the brain that allows for spontaneity and creative thinking. When I write, I find myself going into that push-button dance mode, hoping that a cascade of thoughts and words flow through my head, just as a series of steps and phrases encompass my body when I dance. It works.

And just recently, I ran into an article that proves why it works. In the middle of the article, author Richard Powers introduces an aphorism.

“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.”

The study was of course, primarily for preventing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, yet the activation of the creative process is very much applicable to our everyday writing processes. Writing is a world of its own, and there are endless ways to approach writing; I wanted to share my approach–through the dance push-button mode. As Richard Powers concludes, “Don’t wait,” start dancing now!

For the complete article: http://socialdance.stanford.edu/syllabi/smarter.htm

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