WHY DANCE – Study by Tehila Tessler and Gitty Hershfeld

Abstract

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nDance classes can help children develop work and learning skills that will help set them up for success for their entire life. Both physical and mental gains are made by taking dance lessons, making dancing an attractive sport for girls. Girls experience a full body exercise so vital for their development. Benefits in the areas of poise, strength, and coordination prove essential in the scholastic, social, and physical elements of a young girl’s life. They also gain social skills, self-expression, new friendships and other relationships that are essential for girls of the elementary/high school age. For the many talented, yet insecure, children and teens, dance offers an outlet that can become a safe space for positive self expression which allows young girls to grow into confident adults. Studies have shown that girls who dance are better off in many of these areas than those who do not dance.

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Intro

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nDance has proven to be a strenuous, but enjoyable, physical activity for children, especially because exercising can be a challenge in today’s technologically focused world. A love and appreciation for dance from a young age can help motivate children to stay active as they grow into adults. Dancing can increase flexibility, range of motion, physical strength and stamina, as well as promoting overall health. Enhanced development in these areas can help children with sports and other activities, both within school and beyond. By taking dance classes, girls strengthen their physical and mental development, which not only helps them in the present, but it allows them to grow into physically fit and emotionally equipped adults. Dance offers invaluable physical and emotional benefits for young people.

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Material and Methodology

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The goal of this study was to prove the hypothesis that dance benefits children emotionally, socially, physically, and mentally. In order to do this, a survey created with the intention to receive answers that would give targeted data to either prove or disprove the hypothesis. The subjects were girls because that was who participated in the experiment.nThe questions are as follows:

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1. Dancing makes me happyn2. I have made great friends through dancen3. Dancing makes me feel strongn4. Dancing gives me confidencen5. I focus better after dancingn7. What is the biggest thing that you enjoy about dance? (a short answer question).n

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Each true or false statement given targets a different aspect of the hypothesis.

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In 2013, psychologists at the University of Örebro conducted an experiment with a group of teenagers who suffered from anxiety, depression and stress, in addition to presenting psychosomatic symptoms such as neck and back aches. Half of these teenagers were told to attend two dance classes a week, while the others continued with their daily routine.n

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After just two years, those who attended the dance lessons, where emphasis was on the enjoyment of the moving rather than the performance, showed a significant improvement in psychosomatic symptoms, and reported to feel happier.

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nIn another study done at the University of Derby, the psychologists worked with people who were experiencing depression. These individuals received “salsa” lessons for nine weeks. The improvements began to be appreciated after four weeks and, after finishing the course, the participants admitted that they had fewer negative thoughts, enhanced concentration and a better sense of peace and tranquility.

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A study at Deakin University revealed that dance has a very positive effect on our day-to-day lives. These Australian researchers interviewed 1,000 people and discovered that often those who were dancing not only stated that they were feeling happier, but also more satisfied with their lives, especially in relationships, health, and their goals achieved over the years.

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nInterestingly, the psychologists at the University of New York noticed a similar effect in children. These researchers worked with 120 children, aged 2 to 5 years old, who were exposed to different types of sound stimuli, some were rhythmic and copied the rhythm of the music while others were totally arrhythmic. They could appreciate that children who were moving following the rhythmic movements displayed more positive emotions and felt happier. Therefore, the researchers concluded that not only do people tend to move to the beat of the music, but also that dancing improves our mood.n

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Why does dancing make us happy?

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When people dance their brain releases endorphins which are hormones that can trigger neurotransmitters to create a feeling of comfort, relaxation, fun and power. Music and dance do not only activate the sensory and motor circuits of our brain, but also the pleasure centers.

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Indeed, neuroscientists at Columbia University say that when people move in tune with the rhythm, the positive effects of music are amplified. Therefore, a small tip to make the most of the music is to synchronize one’s movements with the beat, so he will be doubling his pleasure.

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nHowever, the magic of dancing cannot be reduced to brain chemistry. Additionally, dancing is a social activity which allows people to connect with the others, share experiences and meet new people, which has a very positive effect on their mental health.

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https://psychology-spot.com/dancing-makes-me-happy/

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Questions number 1 and 2 were written in a way that would focus on the emotional benefits that the above research supports. If the answer is yes, then it is clear that dance evokes a positive emotional response.

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nThe second part of our hypothesis, which is that dancing benefits individuals socially, is supported by the fact that 57.1% of our surveyed participants agreed that they have made great friends through attending dance class. When people dance with others, they create relationships and hone their social skills.

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https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/dance-health-benefits#health-benefits-of-dancing

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nQuestion number two reflects the social benefits. It was written such that if the answer would be true it would prove that dance can become an essential social experience for young, eager, and impressionable girls as supported in the above research.

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The third part of our hypothesis, which is that dancing makes children stronger, is supported by the fact that 85.7% of our surveyed participants agreed with this statement. Dancing improves the condition of ones, heart and lungs, and increases muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness. It also increases aerobic fitness while improving muscle tone and strength.

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https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/dance-health-benefits#health-benefits-of-dancing

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The last part of our hypothesis is that dancing benefits children mentally is supported by the fact that 85.7% of surveyed participants agreed that they gained increased confidence through dancing and 73.1% agreed that they had improved focus after dancing.n

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The success and sense of achievement students feel as a result of dancing gives them self-confidence and motivation to focus on and master other challenges in school, for example. First, self-confidence comes from knowledge, skill, and practice. “The more experience you have, the more confident you will become” (Ellsworth par. 3). Self-confidence also deals with intrinsic trust and the ability to succeed in new challenges, tasks, and opportunities (Ellsworth, par. 4).

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Salo, Amber, “The Power of Dance: How Dance Effects Mental and Emotional Health and Self-Confidence in Young Adults” (2019). Master’s Theses. 133. https://digscholarship.unco.edu/theses/133

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Questions number three and five gives the researchers a chance to assess whether the girls feel more physically equipped after dancing based on the above research.

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nOverall, if the hypothesis is supported the girls will respond appropriately to the questions posed to them. Question number seven was left open ended to give the girls space to express their knee jerk reaction when asked about dance. Hopefully a full picture based on their answers will result.

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Our hypothesis that dancing benefits children emotionally is supported by the fact that 100% of our survey participants agreed that dancing makes them happy.

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nResults

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nWe surveyed roughly 50 young Jewish girls in the community and asked them the following true or false questions:

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n1. Dancing makes me happyn2. I have made great friends through dancen3. Dancing makes me feel strongn4. Dancing gives me confidencen5. I focus better after dancingn7. What is the biggest thing that you enjoy about dance? (a short answer question).n

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We hypothesized that dancing offers girls benefits both emotionally, socially, physically, and mentally and we aimed to prove this through our survey’s results.

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Our Results:

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n1. Dancing makes me happy-100% Truen2. I have made great friends through dance-57.1% Truen3. Dancing makes me feel strong-85.7% Truen4. Dancing gives me confidence-85.7% Truen5. I focus better after dancing73.1% Truen7. What is the biggest thing that you enjoy about dance? (a short answer question).n

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And our results for the short answer were answers such as:

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CartwheelsnTurning off the lights and having the special lights on and dancing like goldfish.nTwirling like a ballerinanThe feeling of accomplishment and feeling free while letting my body let loose.nGetting the treat after dancenMovement and musicnFun expressionnThe recital dancesnJust being myselfnI love learning dancesnDoing movement to songsnFriendsnUsing our body and use our energy for something so fun and different than sitting in schoolnMoving aroundnFun outlet, seeing I can do things I never knew I can do.nLearning cool moves!nI like to do balletnGetting to practice for the recital

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Author’s note:

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nWe chose to conduct this survey because of our shared interest in dancing and how it affects children. We created a survey in order to prove our hypothesis that dance can offer numerous emotional, social, and physical benefits to children. After collecting and organizing the data, we were very pleased to find that our hypothesis was very much confirmed. We appreciate the incredible opportunity we were given to take part in teaching in the Ralla Klepak performing Arts program and to be immersed in such an incredible environment with a strong work and artistic ethic. We hope that we can continue to spread the joy and love of arts to more and more children in the community, because after having conducted this research, we now know just how important dancing is to them.

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