When we watch our children dance, we see them coordinating limbs, facial expressions, spatial relationships and emotions. We see them bringing a series of movements together, one after another, remembering multiple steps along the way. What we don’t see, however, is the complex processing firing in the brain to make it all possible, and it’s a view that scientists want to examine more closely.
The link between dance and higher math and SAT scores is well established, and we’ve written about it here, but more research into the neuroscience behind it is showing dance is as much an exercise for the brain as it is for the body.
Scientists have found that dance, particularly, sparks neurogenesis, the growth and development of neurons responsible for carrying information throughout the body. Ongoing dance classes increase neuroplasticity, strengthening existing neurons, creating new information pathways and increasing the brain’s agility. In short, it means that dance classes increase learning ability and capacity along with memory.
Some researchers have likened dance to learning another language; it’s just a nonverbal one. The vocabulary exists in gesture and locomotion and the grammar in ways movements are strung together. And just like children who grow up multilingual, dancers gain greater brain plasticity and can multi-task more easily.
Bottom line: when we watch our children dance, we are watching them express themselves through another language, one that fuels capacity for learning other subjects and gives them a leg up in dance and in life.
As research continues, so too does the evidence for dance’s singular benefits for the whole child: mind, body and spirit.