Strengthening Communities Through Dance

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Dee Decker, N.C. Cooperative Extension of Swain County Agent
Family Consumer Science & Community Rural Development

Community development simply brings people together who share a common cause or interest. Community development groups often promote and increase social and creative outlets. In developing communities, we are encouraged to look beyond what is and see what can be. When people come together, it provides opportunities to socialize and share stories. These conversations often lead to ideas and projects that help to strengthen a community.

One of the original forms of community development is dancing. Dancing plays a role in most cultures and it’s certainly true for the Appalachian region. Dancing allows people to express their creativity in a safe environment without too many restrictive ground rules. People who participate in community dances can rediscover their community heritage, increase their social activity and reap the many health benefits.

dancers

Many key principles of social interaction including creativity and teamwork are displayed at community dances. Dancers are allowed to express their creativity in a non-verbal format. Dancers often experience a strong sense of accomplishment as they learn complex choreographed steps and work together as a unit. Creativity and teamwork are often used to solve local issues and to make a positive difference in the community.

What about the health benefits of dancing? Recent research indicates that dancing helps make us smarter. The Albert Einstein College of Medicine has discovered that dance is the best means of avoiding dementia. Stimulating your mind can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s diseases and other forms of dementia. Dancing requires participants to make split-second decisions, to interpret and respond to their partner’s movements and to memorize routines.

kids dancingDancing improves cardiovascular endurance and lowers the risk of coronary heart disease, decreases blood pressure and improves bone density. Dancing requires bending and stretching that can help improve range of motion and flexibility. Research also suggests that having strong social ties contributes to a sense of well-being, positive outlook and improved self-esteem.

Through dance, we are laying the foundation to share in the camaraderie, to be healthier, and to strengthen communities. Isn’t it time you start enjoying the benefits of tapping your toes, clicking your heels and moving in the mountains?