FIVE REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD CHEAT (on your dance instructor)

 Time to #stepout

Time to #stepout

I'm not a big fan of cheating, especially when it comes to spouses, taxes or board games. But there are parts of life where "stepping out" might be good for you, and dance is one of them.

Before anyone freaks out, let me be clear: I'm not advising that you to abandon your favorite instructor or do a sudden 180-degree turn on your dance career. But if you have been studying dance with only one instructor or exclusively in one dance style, you might want to consider these advantages to spicing up your dance life:

1.  It helps you develop your own dance "voice"

 Photo courtesy of Zermeno Dance

Photo courtesy of Zermeno Dance

We all have our own voice -- in terms of the spoken word. Everyone has a different pitch, accent and intonation. We use and combine words and expressions in our own particular way. We learned to do this by listening to and imitating everyone around us until we developed our own voice.  We've had hundreds of thousands of teachers. Maybe millions.

The process for finding your unique dance voice is essentially the same thing. You observe, learn and try things out... you decide what works and doesn't, and then infuse it with your own spirit, vision and meaning. And as wonderful as your class, teacher and favorite dance style are, they are a tiny fraction of the dance world. There are so many dance genres, techniques, ways to move your body, ways to read and feel the music. By exposing yourself different types of classes, you increase your dance vocabulary, expand your technique and develop new ways to hear and move with the music. All of these things will help you dance in a way that is distinctly and wonderfully you.

2. It helps combat the sneaky downside of muscle memory

 Photo courtesy of Jatila van der Veen.  Photo by Laurence Wallin.

Photo courtesy of Jatila van der Veen.  Photo by Laurence Wallin.

As dancers, we repeat certain movements (or movement combinations) with our bodies in a particular manner. Over time, our muscles “learn” or adapt, and these movements become automatic, which is a wonderful thing. 

Then again, it’s not. After we gain muscle memory, we often hit a plateau where we aren’t getting the same level of fitness training. In addition, no movement or combo will ever exercise more that a tiny portion of our overall neuromuscular system. Long story short: some muscles get left out. 

Diversity is the key to making sure you’re getting not only optimal cardio and endurance training, but a well-rounded neuromuscular workout as well.  And while you could add diversity by jogging or playing ice hockey, I’m guessing you’d rather dance.  

3. It stimulates your brain

 Photo courtesy of The Alley Project

Photo courtesy of The Alley Project

New activities, especially those involving movement, stimulate the brain to create new neural pathways. I don't actually understand what a neural pathway is (something about white matter and insulated neurons, blah-blah-blah), so click here if you speak science and want to know more. What I do know is that really smart people (like those who publish in the New England Journal of Medicine) believe the process of creating new neural pathways keeps the brain fit and combats the aging process. Their studies have shown that dance (the more mentally challenging the better) is one of the best ways of creating these neural pathways

Here's the Bottom Line: New dance classes = new movements = more neural pathways = dance is really good for your brain.

4. It gets you out of your comfort zone

We all LOVE the dance comfort zone: Hearing familiar music, recognizing dance patterns, sharing the dance floor with the same people week after week, and knowing we’ve mastered (at least some of) the moves… It’s reassuring. It feels safe.

Walking into a new dance class is the opposite of all this. It's scary. Stressful. But dance requires risk-taking, the confidence to express yourself, and the ability to grow and adapt. When you take risks and expose yourself to something new, you challenge yourself to become a better version of you. And every time you try something new, you get better at trying new things, both on the dance floor and off.

The Huffington Post’s Carolyn Gregoire sums it up perfectly: “Think about it: Did you ever do something you were really proud of when you were in autopilot mode?”  No... the magic happens outside of your comfort zone. 

5. You just might end up having fun

 Photo courtesy of Mestre Mariano Silva and Capoeira 805.

Photo courtesy of Mestre Mariano Silva and Capoeira 805.

Even if you've decided to commit yourself to belly dance (or hip hop, or ballet, or whatever), it doesn't mean you can't have FUN doing another style of dance. I've seen hardcore ballerinas having a blast doing the samba, and hip hoppers getting their zen on in Nia. Especially if you've been training hard or rehearsing, it can be a relief to try something new -- a class where you don't have to be perfect. In the end, your favorite dance class (or teacher or style) may always be your favorite. But that doesn't mean you can't break loose from time to time.

What are you waiting for -- GO CHEAT:)

Dance on, my friends!