THIS IS WHY WE DANCE - from BBC Magazine

Dr Peter Lovatt

Dancing is in our DNA. It is found in every culture around the world throughout history, and is enjoyed by people of every age, from toddlers to the elderly.

From a scientific prospective, dance ins an important human activity. Actually, from any perspective dance is an important human activity. It’s important for enjoyment, for interpersonal communication, for social bonding and for our general health and well-being as well.

Scientists have long been interested in dance because it can tell us about our innate responses to music, about why some people get dizzy and others don’t, about how we find a mate and about the very essence of being human. Dance is something that only we can do (no other animals on the planet can dance creatively like us), and which every human being is equipped for. If you love to dance, welcome to the club. Now let’s find out why we dance…

Boogie Brains
It all begins in our brains. The human brain is specialized for the control of movement – it needs to be, in order to manipulate our 600-plus muscles. The motor cortex, located at the rear of the frontal love, is involved in the planning, control and execution of voluntary movements. Meanwhile, the basal ganglia, a set of structures deep within the brain, works with the motor cortex to trigger well-coordinated movements, and may also act as a filter by blocking out unsuitable movements, such as that ill-advised funky chicken. The cerebellum, at the back of the skull, also performs several roles, including integrating information from our senses so that our movements are perfectly fluid and precise.

Just lifting a cup of tea to our mouths involves an unimaginably complicated sequence of nerve impulses, so how can our brains cope with a full-blown dance routine? In 2006, researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Centre at San Antonio asked amateur tango dancers to perform a basic dance step known as ‘box step’ while lying in a PET (positron emission tomography) scanner. The researchers saw activation in a region of the brain called the precuneus, which is associated with spatial perception. They suggest that this region creates a map of our body’s positioning in space, helping us to keep track of our torso and flailing limbs as we plot across the dance floor.

Of course, dancing also tends to involve music. By comparing the tango dancers’ brain scans both with and without music, the researchers noticed that those performing to music had more activity in a particular region of the cerebellum called the anterior vermis, which receives input from the spinal cord. It might be that this region of the brain acts as a kind of neurological metronome, coordinating our different brain areas and helping us to keep time to a beat.

Just like any activity, the more we dance, the better we get, as new neural connections are forged and strengthened. What’s more, it seems that our brains may even reward us for having a good boogie. Music has been shown to activate the reward centers in the brain, and some motor areas are also connected to reward-related regions, so dancing can give us the satisfaction of feeling good. It’s part of a virtuous circle: we generate rhythm, we move to it, we feel great, we do it some more. Let the good times roll…

Born to Bop?
We still don’t know for sure whether humans have evolved an innate instinct to dance, or whether dancing is a learned social activity. Nevertheless, a growing body of research suggests that we are indeed born to dance. Why else would we make ourselves look so ridiculous at school discos or the work Christmas party, when we’re desperately trying to impress someone?

To investigate whether dancing is an innate activity, researchers need to look at three factors. First, do humans show an inclination to dance – a natural tendency, or an urge? Second, is dancing automatic – ie, are people able to dance without being taught? And finally, is dancing universal? Do people from all parts of the world displace dance-based behaviour?

This last one is easy: dance is truly universal, both in time and place. Anthropologists have shown that dance-like behaviour dates back to thousands of years. Early Bronze Age paintings in the Magura Cave in Bulgaria appear to depict a fertility dance while dancing was an important part of life in Ancient Greece and Egypt. Dance has played multiple roles throughout history, in religious ceremonies, rituals and festivals, and as a way to heal, entertain and tell stories. It might even have served as an early form of language.

Meanwhile, there’s also evidence that dancing is both a natural urge and an automatic behaviour. In 2009, researchers led by Isvan Winkler at the Hungarian Academy of Scientists showed that babies as young as two days old are able to detect a simple beat. When the babies heard a missing downbeat, their neural activity suggested that they were expecting the downbeat to be present – so newborn babies appear to have an innate sense of rhythm. In a separate study in 2010, Marcel Zentner and Tuomas Eerola showed that older babies make more rhythmic body movements in response to music than they do to human speech, and some even speed up their movements when the tempo is ramped up. The evidence all suggests that humans are hardwired to boogie.

Dancing for Joy
If our brains are primed for dancing, it’s no surprise that we love to get our groove on. But there’s another reason too: it’s a fantastic mood enhancer. I’ve been drunk on disco, made merry by a merengue and felt the euphoria of dancing in a hot, sweaty night club. And it seems that everyone can experience that euphoria: Zentner and Eerola even found that their baby subjects smiled as they moved to the rhythm. The more they moved, the more they smiled.

So why does dancing make us feel better? It might be because as we move together in response to music, we also move in response to each other’s rhythms, helping us to form a social bond. It’s one of the reasons why we love music festivals. A 2010 study by Sebastian Kirschner and Michael Tomasello at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology showed that after a session of paired music making, four year old children were more likely to behave cooperatively and helpfully. Music and dancing act as a kind of social lubricant.

As with any intense physical activity, dancing can also release endorphins – the feel-good, pain-relieving brain chemicals responsible for the so-called ‘runners high’. In fact, Bronwyn Tarr and colleagues at the University of Oxford have found that just dancing in time with someone might be enough to release these neurohormones into the bloodstream. They asked Brazilian high school students to dance in groups of three to fast-paced music, finding that those who synchronized their movements had an increased pain threshold (as measured by inflating a blood pressure cuff around their arm). This suggests that there were more endorphins in these dancers’ bodies, so the researchers speculate that we might get a social ‘high’ from dancing with others. That would explain flash mobs, at least.

Dance is one of the most important activities we can do. We are born to groove. It’s what our brains are wired for and it helps us bond. Dancing is good for you. So this Christmas, throw caution to the wind and get your body moving to all those cheesy festive tunes!

The Science of Dad Dancing
The concept of dad dancing gets a bad press. Even its dictionary definition is disparaging: “Awkward or unfashionable dancing to pop music, as characteristically performed by middle-aged or older men.”
In 2011, I carried out a survey of almost 14,000 people (including over 8000 men), looking at dance confidence and dancing styles at different ages. I found that men’s dancing confidence typically starts at a very low level in the early teens, steadily increasing with age, peaking and plateauing in the mid to late thirties before coming down again after 40. At the same time, their freestyle dance movements tend to become larger, less coordinated and more random the older they get. Eventually, it’s like they’re dancing to music that only they can hear.
This slightly awkward dancing style may be evolution’s way of signaling reduced testosterone levels, warning younger women that the dancer is past his sexual prime and that they might be better off looking elsewhere.
But men, don’t let any negativity put you off. The benefits of dancing are enormous. In the name of science, we should reclaim dad dancing, rebrand it and embrace it.

5 Reasons why Dancing is Good for you
1. It boosts self esteem
Several studies have shown that dancing can help to increase feelings of self-worth. In one 2007 study, researchers from Laban and Hampshire Dance found that children aged between 11 and 14 who took part in creative movement classes reported improved self-esteem, motivation and more positive attitudes towards dance, as well as better physical fitness.

2. It helps you find a mate
It was Charles Darwin who suggested that dancing can act as a form of sexual selection, and research suggests that we are indeed communicating to potential mates when we strut our stuff. A 2011 study asked women to rate men on their dancing prowess. The winning formula? Head shaking, torso bending, and twisting of the right knee, apparently.

3. It tackles depression
Dancing has been shown to reduce feelings of depression. But different dancing styles have different effects. In a study led by Andrew Lane at the University of Wolverhampton, dancing characterized by relaxed, free-flowing movements helped to improve mood, whereas dancing in a physically contracted way had the opposite effect.

4. It helps solve problems
Just five minutes of freestyle dancing is enough to increase your creativity, according to researchers at Sheffield and York Universities. In 2014, participants were asked to either dance, cycle or sit quietly while listening to music, and it was the dancers who showed improvements in both mood and creative problem solving.

5. It relieves pain

Rugby is a tough game played by tough people. But some rugby players will dance before a game – just think of the New Zealand team’s haka. In 2015, researchers at the University of Oxford found that group dancing can increase a person’s threshold for pain. Dancing, it seems, can release endorphins, helping to take the sting out of a full-contact tackle.

You have raised your children, are getting close to retiring (or are already retired), and it happens. You look across the breakfast table at your partner and think, “We haven’t done anything together in ages. It’s time we get to know one another again. To fall in love again, to rekindle the fire”.

The problem is finding something that you can both do together at the same time that invites romance. There are many things that couples can do together, but finding something that is both active and romantic is getting more and more difficult.

There was a time, not so long ago, when couples went dancing EVERY week. There was always a place you could go, where couples would whirl around the dance floor, creating an enchanting, lively scene. Dances like that are more difficult to find, but they are in fact out there, some of them right here in town.

 Now imagine yourself taking your partner onto the floor and being able to move with confidence and poise. Picture how great it would feel to sway with the music, you and your partner in tune with one another. When you learn to dance in an environment that is fun, exciting and makes it easy, you become involved in an activity that exercises your body as well as your mind in a way that few other hobbies allow. Dancing with each other, you will find that you also learn to co-operate and encourage one another. Spending time together; and bonding with your partner while engaging in a new and entertaining pastime.

There are benefits for both gentlemen and ladies in dancing.

For him, it’s the ability to take your partner onto the dance floor, and have her thrilled to be there; while most men are not motivated by the promise of feeling “light and free and floating”, if a lady wants to feel that way, and you have that ability to give her what she wants, she will be happy. If you don’t have a clue as to how to move your hips like a Cuban, that’s still quite ok. But, if you can get a woman to move her hips, and put a genuine smile on her face while doing it, why wouldn’t you?

For her if it could be summed up in one sentence; because it makes her feel beautiful. Despite what you might think from watching movies and television, dancing is not about just looking like a fairy-tale princess or movie star. It’s about feeling like one. The promise of a gentlemen making you feel like the most beautiful lady on the dance floor is one of the most magical aspects of couples dancing. No amount of makeup, botox, spandex, hairspray or airbrushing can make a lady’s eyes light up from the inside, or put a genuine smile on her lips like moving with a partner while he twirls and sways with you to the music.

Many couples that begin dancing make it a weekly “date night”, and some have been dancing together for many years. All of these couples are in long term marriages, with some having over thirty years together.

Frank and Marian O’Connor have been attending their weekly dance lessons for over 13 years. When they were asked by a group of young people how they managed to stay married for so long, when so many marriages are ending, Frank simply responded “I take my wife dancing every week”. As expected, the youths responded with many “awwwww”’s, and “that’s so sweet”. The couple just looked at each other, and smiled knowingly.

Never danced before? Don’t worry. Once you get the first steps of a dance under your belt, the rest is like learning to walk – one step at a time.

Soon you’ll find yourselves caught up in a whirlwind of romance, sharing, working together, and gliding across the floor. If you are looking to reconnect with your spouse, dancing together may just be the ticket.

For Ballroom, Latin and fitness classes in town, as well as monthly dances, please visit AIM Dance’s website at, or call 519.720.0379


Have you ever wondered why there can be such a difference in the fees charged for what seems to be the same class? What you'll find is that Zumba classes are not all the same. There are some fundamental health and safety issues that contribute to the fees. Here are some of the questions you should ask before joining a class.

1) What is the floor like?

Doctors are reporting more and more injuries from Zumba classes. When attempting any kind of physical activity on a hard tile, brick or cement floor, it can cause serious and permanent injuries to your feet, knees, hips, and back  from the constant jarring effect of landing on an immovable surface. The chance of injuries are greatly reduced when there is a "floating floor" and reduced even further with a "sprung floor". AIM has 3 different rooms, all with dance floors installed.

2) Are the instructors upgrading their skills?

Training and experience are an essential part of an instructor's routine. When your Zumba teacher comes from a dance background, you can be assured that you are doing technique that reduces the chance of injury, and increases the fun of the class.

3) What is the average class  size?

When the classes are kept small, you will have more room to move, offering you a better workout. You should not been constricted by space when doing a Zumba class.

4) Is there Air conditioning and/or dehumidifiers?

Keeping the air cool and the humidity levels low allows you to breathe easier during a class. This allows a more efficient exchange of oxygen, which in turns allows you to work your muscles more effectively, without the breathing problems that can occur during extreme heat..

5) Can you see the instructor? Can you see yourself?

Most dance studios have mirrors, so that you can see your instructor from many areas of the dance floor. This also means that you can see yourself. While this can be intimidating at first, you'll find that it's easier to make sure you're doing the steps properly when you can see how you're moving.

6) Is there free water available?

Keeping your body hydrated is a fundamental aspect of ANY fitness regimen. Fluids must be replaced in order to keep yourself cool and functioning at an efficient level. There are always water coolers making water available for free, all the time.

7) Is there parking available?

Parking on the street, or in a "bad" area of town is always risky. Make sure the parking lot is lit, and has a direct pathway to the facility.

8) What is the sound system like?

Most portable sound systems are designed with two speakers. What that means is that you are either blasted with sound because you are standing right beside the speaker, or have a hard time hearing because you are too far away from the speaker. At AIM, the speakers are placed in each corner of the room , allowing all participants to hear the music, yet not be blasted into the next room.

9) How long has the class been offered at the facility?

If you're going to begin a fitness program, one of the primary factors is being able to continue it for a period of time. AIM has been at the same location since 2000, and has been offering Zumba classes since 2008. This gives you the benefits of knowing that we will be here tomorrow, and that the instructors are some of the most experienced around.

10) Is there a sense of community and friendship at the facility?

It's much easier to reach your fitness goals when fitness is fun and friendly. In a class of 60 or more people, it's difficult to make new friends, and the instructor cannot be in tune to that many students' needs. Our students are the friendliest, & most encouraging that you'll find anywhere!

These are the top ten reasons why some Zumba class fees are higher than others. All of these reasons contribute to your enjoying your classes more, and getting a great workout at the same time.


We've all seen it. We may have even been through it ourselves. There you are on the dance floor, moving gracefully across the floor, you and your partner enjoying every minute of the music and atmosphere. And then, there it is.

A couple, who are at the beginning of their dance journey trying a step that you have mastered years ago. What is the right course of action? Do you stop and offer them help, so as to speed their journey along? Or would you just keep dancing?

If help is offered, you run the risk of explaining the step in a way which they wouldn't understand, and it could possibly make the situation worse. There is also the risk of offending their sense of their ability (i.e. making them feel like lousy dancers). I think we can agree, none of these scenarios create the desired outcome.

There may be a way to solve it.

Try this. As you dance by a, start by giving them encouragement by saying "I remember learning that step - it's a tough one", or "I had trouble with that step when I learned it". Say something that lets them know they are not alone in their struggle, and that may also invite them to say "How do I do this step?".

Always encourage them to ask an instructor first, and then if they still ask, briefly explain the step.

There is no hard and simple solution to this problem, and every situation is different. Please take this little lesson on etiquette with you the next time you're on the floor.



This weekend, my wife and I went dancing two night in a row; it seems odd to say that, considering that we dance every day for 5-6 hours, but we rarely get the chance dance with each other anymore.

I was reminded of how great dancing can be, when you are in tune with your partner, and things just go really well, and the most important thing - how happy it makes her.

If you have the chance - dance! You will both feel better......


There are many ways to describe foot positioning. Some methods involve describing the angle or position of a single foot, while others describe the positions or angles of the feet relative to each other. This will give you a basic understanding of the most common methods for describing the various positions of the feet.

The basic method is to refer to one of five basic foot positions:

1ST - Feet are together, directly under the body

2ND - Feet apart, side by side

3RD - Feet together, heel to instep

4TH - Feet apart one in front of the other

5TH - Feet together, one foot in front of the other, toe to heel

Turning Out is when the feet turn outward to an angle, so that the toes point away from each other. The angle that results between the feet is known as the degree of turnout. When the feet are held without any turnout, they are referred to as parallel.

Turnout in the Latin and Rhythm dances is recommended. The desirable amount of turnout is between a minimum of45 and and maximum of 90 degrees. Ballet dancers strive to achieve turnout through the rotation of the legs so that the knees always point to the same angle as the toes. Latin dancers, on the other hand, will allow the feet to turn out at the ankles; the knees, when bent, point straight forward (or even roll slightly inward) in spite of the turned-out angle of the feet.

The rolling of the foot toward the inside or outside edge is known as pronation and supination, respectively. It is very important to become aware of these positions, even if you don't remember their names.

The pronated position (weight on the inside edge) is used quite frequently in the Latin and Rhythm dancing. When the body weight is held over the outside edge, the foot has rolled out into a supinated position A supinated position is undesirable, and should be avoided at all times.

You'll also find that supination of the foot tends to promote a "turning in" of the feet, rather than the desired "turning out".


Twinkles & Grapevines!

Waltz Exercise

Stand with your feet together, toes pointing forward, and knees slightly bent.. Picture yourself in front of a clothesline. Rise and fall is the ability to go underneath it without ducking or bending at the waist. stepping forward with your left foot, bend your knees to clear the clothesline; but you've got to keep your back and neck straight!. You are now beyond the clothesline, so you can straighten your knees and step with your right foot to the side and draw your feet together on “3.” Do this several times, in order to get the feel of it.