In these times of global health epidemics, which call out for innovation and quantum leaps, an international Forum of dance for health will take place in Amsterdam on March 23, 2016. It partners with major professional ballet companies (The Royal Ballet, Dutch National Ballet, Berlin Staats Ballett, The Royal Academy of Dance, English National Ballet, Sadler's Wells London) and individual teaching artists who are working with innovative programmes in Dance for Alzheimer, Dance for Parkinson's, Dance for Multiple Schlerosis. Initiated by dance & wellness specialists Clare Guss-West & Andrew Peter Greenwood it will be hosted by the National Opera & Ballet, Amsterdam and the 'Dance for Health Foundation'. A few weeks ago, Clare Guss-West was appointed « Key Supporter » to grow the dimension of « Dance & Creative Wellness » within the Global Wellness Day movement founded by Belgin Aksoy.
Recent years have seen a growing interest in the evidence-based wellbeing benefits of dance, particularly in neuroscience research. It appears that, at any stage of life, Dance as a holistic physical activity has the capacity to positively impact the human being on every level: physical, mental, emotional, even spiritual.
This acceleration of interest is partly due to the shift in the aging population. According to Daily Mail (August 2014) Moody's rating agency estimates that one in five of the population is predicted to be 65 or over in little more than a decade. The focus of research is not simply about understanding longevity, but about finding solutions to improve the quality of that extended life and support the continued autonomy of the individual.
In his study « Defy Aging » Dr. Brickey reminds us that 75% of the factors affecting quality of life and longevity are lifestyle related and only 25% are in fact hereditary. Observing that people do not only die from virus, or malnutrition, but from over-consumption, and lack of exercize, a growing number of physicians in 43 countries, include physical activity in their prescription, to promote a rich, autonomous, extended life versus chronic disease. That is what « Exercise is Medecine » is all about.
In « Use it or lose it: Dancing makes you smarter » Stanford researcher Richard Powers, positions Dance ahead of other physical activity in terms of the extent of its health promoting benefits. Mainly, it improves balance and minimizes the risk of falling, which represents the most costly factor in terms of healthcare and loss of autonomy for the elderly. According to ABC TV report, Natasha Johnson, in « Dancing could help the elderly keep their feet », one third of adults over 65 years fall once per year, with 50% of those falling more frequently.
There are multiple causes, exacerbating each other and leading to accidents. To name a few: slow reaction time in the body, nerve signals from extremities to the brain becoming impaired without regular activation, loss of elasticity in joints and muscles, diminished range of movement (particularly in feet, ankle, calf muscles, and also hips, trunk, neck), diminished periphery vision with age. Clearly, the combination of not being able to see well, nor turn around or react fast enough, leads to rigid falls that cause a lot of damage, reducing range of movement, social life, eventually loss of appetite for life & morbidity.
That's not all... musical "rhythmic" dance is also shown to slow down deterioration in the body and the effects of aging.
In his book 'Ultra Longevity', Dr Mark Liponis, MD of Canyon Ranch, talks about his work on the principal of 7 pillars as an approach to Longevity to slow down hyperactive immune system that causes premature ageing. Some of these pillars are obvious: Eat - Sleep - Love - Breathe... but did you know that 'Dance' was featuring amongst these? Dr Liponis refers particularly to the rhythmic aspects of dance, with benefits on many levels (physically, neurologically and emotionally) being more beneficial to the body's repair and regeneration than other arrhythmic activities and sports.
On a practical level, Clare Guss-West facilitates accelerated kinesthetic learning in her "dancing longevity"® approach, teaching movement consciously using external focused imagery, and maintaining a focus beyond the body. It induces calm breathing, lowering the pulse rate and blood pressure. It minimizes muscular tension and effort permitting easy fluid movement and increased range of motion in those with otherwise restricted joints and anxiety about falling.
The Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) 'Dance for Life Long Well Being' teachers excitingly discovered that by using a focus beyond the body, such as visualizations that awaken the senses of touch and/or smell, they facilitated the move into 'flow-state' and away from the 'blocking' effect of cognitive thinking/frontal cortex activity in the older adult dancers. They were thereby able to accelerate the group's ability to move freely and fluidly and to learn new movement skills.
Within a few weeks, Clare and her dance for health colleague Andrew Peter Greenwood of 'The Dance & Creative Wellness Forum', have approached the English National Ballet, the National Opera & Ballet, Amsterdam, the Rome Ballet (Teatro dell'Opera di Roma), the Scapino Ballet, Netherlands, the Berlin Staatsballett, the Sydney Dance Company and The Royal Academy of Dance 'Dance for Life Long Wellbeing' Programme to organize Dance and Wellness events on Gobal Wellness Day (June 11, 2016.)
If you thought that the quest for Balance is getting to a static equilibrium, then you are about to discover that, if you let it, Balance is a Dance. So, as Frank Sinatra said, « let's play the music and dance ! »