Dancing is good for your health. You get some exercise, mess around, fall flat on your face sometimes (all the time). You do something you enjoy while burning calories. But moving your body on the dance floor (or the wet mud of a free party, the parquet floor or a ballroom) could even make you a better person. An american study reported by the Boston Globe says it all: dancers are more emotionally sensitive than your average man in the street.
Watching a professional dancer in action, just like going to a good concert, should encourage an emotional response from the spectator. The team behind the study wanted to know where these emotional responses come from: the accompanying music, the story that is being told, or even simply the beauty of the moving body? They took two test groups, one comprising professional dancers, and one non-dancers, and showed them both the same series of short clips of professional dancers. All of the participants wore electrodes on their fingertips in order to gauge the intensity of their reactions.
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Two key observations were made. Firstly, all the participants had the same kinds of emotional responses to the clips they were shown. In almost all cases they reacted more favourably to clips showing round, sweeping movements than those showing sharper, more abrupt steps. The second, more surprising observation was that the reactions of the dancers were far stronger than those of the non-dancers. ‘‘The very cool thing about this study is that the dancers not only recognised the emotions better, but their bodies would also respond more sensitively to the displayed emotional movements”, explains professor Julia F. Christensen in the Boston Globe article.
So that explains why “everyone should dance. Our research indicates that dance training might be a way to make you more aware of emotions.’’ “And this indicates an interesting potential”, adds Sarah L. Kaufman, “that the neurocognitive mechanisms that make people more sensitive can be trained."
From there, it only takes one (drunken) step to suppose that dancers are better, more empathetic people. “Because it seems that you learn to react automatically and more sensitively to others’ expressions”, Christensen tells us, before clarifying that this still needs to be tested. What better time to finish the job than your next night out?
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