Dancing as a Group

There is some interesting research done on dancing in synchrony with others and the health benefits it may have. This is an excerpt from an interview with Shankar Vedantam, a social science correspondent for NPR: Mini lyrical

“…here’s what the researchers think is going on. When experiences feel good, that’s usually a signal that they have served some kind of evolutionary purpose. So the brain evolved to find certain kinds of food tasty because it eating those foods had survival value for our ancestors.

As a social species, being part of a group has survival value. Evolution also may have adapted the brain to experience a sense of reward when we did things with and for other people. Dancing together, especially in the synchrony, can signal that you are actually simpatico with lots of other people. The researchers think this is why so many cultures have synchronized dancing and why it might have health benefits.”

Interested in reading the whole article? Click here!


Dancing Improves Memory

We’ve written many blog posts about the mental, physical and emotional benefits of dance, but one very specific way that dancing makes you smarter is by improving memory. todd class 1

The way that dance encourages progressive learning and memory influences both the long term and short term memory capacities. Dancers will learn a few counts, go back and repeat those counts, then go on and add a few more counts, go back and review all the counts, then be expected to remember those counts the next time they are in class in order to add on. Even at a very young age (our 3-4 year olds learn routines this way!) dancers are expected to commit movement to memory.

Beyond building those cognitive blocks in children, dance has been proven to improve memory in adults and the elderly. Research has been done comparing dancing to other aerobic exercises, and mental decline is not nearly as aggressive for those who dance (see research here!). Interested in starting your dance journey? Click here for a free trial coupon!

No Equipment Necessary

Dance is a marriage of the body and the soul. It is cathartic and moving as an organic method of self expression. Also? It’s great exercise! Dancing can be done anywhere without any equipment. It’s a fun, accessible method of increasing your heart rate and burning some calories. You don’t need any sports or workout equipment; you only need a song that makes you want to move your body. lex pic 4

The kind of workout you get depends on the kind of dance you do. Lyrical or Ballet will undoubtedly stretch your muscles and strengthen small muscle groups you didn’t even know you had, but a night out on the dance floor with your friends will raise your heart rate for a long period of time. Dance is great for all ages, and encourages longevity of joints and muscles.

In my social life I feel like I hear all the time, “I can’t dance.” Wrong! ANYONE can dance, and its accessibility is one of my favorite things about it. You don’t have to dance for anyone else but you; just lock yourself in a room with your favorite song and get to it!

5 Tips for your Collegiate Audition

pom endzone

So this blog is normally an insightful look into what I feel dance has taught me, and not an opportunity for tips or advice, but today I wanted to share some tips that we give each spring during our University of Texas Pom Prep course. Do you have a dancer in high school or college who is interested in joining a collegiate team? Share these tips with them!

#1 Do Your Homework

Visit the squad’s website, watch YouTube videos, Google them! At what events do they appear or perform? What is the time commitment? Know as much as possible.

#2 Look the Part

If the team wears their hair teased and half up, half down, then wear yours the same way at auditions. Pay attention to if they look tan (get a spray!), what colors they wear in their make up, and if they wear any consistent jewelry.

#3 Practice Learning Quickly

Whether it’s taking a dance class or learning from your favorite choreographers on YouTube, practice learning choreography quickly. Auditions move at a fast pace; be sure you can learn, retain, and perform a piece of choreography over a short amount of time.

#4 Be Prepared to Interview

Know a little bit about which sports (if any) the team supports or what competitions (if any) they attend. Be prepared to answer questions about your strengths, weaknesses and why you are the best person to add to their team.

#5 Have Fun!

Keep in mind WHY you dance. Don’t let this audition define you; they are likely looking for something specific in each new member. If you go in, have fun, and show them your personality you can walk away feeling confident, no matter the results!
Interested in joining our pom prep class? It isn’t too late! Check out the details here!

Interested in joining our pom prep class? It isn’t too late! Check out the details here! 

Giving Constructive Feedback

It’s no secret that a lot of people have a really hard time with criticism. Not just receiving it, but knowing how to give it. I have blogged before about the importance of being “coachable,” but today I take it from another side. How does one learn how to coach? Eventually some may make it a focus or track at school or major in education in college, but those are some of the rare people who are taught, from a course, how to “teach.” The truth is, many others in many industries need to learn the skill of how to coach, teach or manage. That is a hard task for someone who is uncomfortable giving honest feedback.

IMG_9461At Lonestar Dance we start this process early by watching each other perform in groups and giving feedback. The rules may change for different age groups, but starting as early as ages 7-9 we ask children to give constructive feedback to their peers. We encourage them to communicate both compliments as well as areas that need work and try to help them articulate the specific ways in which a peer may improve. We always remind them to speak with love and kindness, and we moderate the comments as needed, but it is an important skill to start building.

This is just one of the many lessons learned in the dance classroom. Are you ready for your child to start their dance journey? Click here for a free trial coupon.

Lifelong Learning

I come from a family of educators, and I have always been encouraged to be a lifelong learner. My favorite days of each vacation we take are often the ones where I learn something new. I believe it is important to set this example to our young people and show them that adults don’t know everything; adults can still learn new things and push themselves to new limits daily.

IMG_6420This is just one of the reasons why I encourage our instructors to continue to take class, whether that is at a convention or hopping into the studio when we have someone come from outside to teach a master class. Even if there is no “teacher room” and it means taking class with some of our older students, taking class as an adult sets such an amazing example.

There is a moment in a lot of teenagers’ lives where they start to think they know better, or know more, than their instructors. I have found that when I admit openly to not knowing something, or hop into a classroom and take class alongside them and bare my flaws and hang ups, they respect me more. It encourages me to find ways to do this in other areas of my life as well, and I’m grateful to this experience as a mentor and instructor for giving me motivation to continue to learn.

Interested in starting your child’s lifelong learning with dance? Click here for a free trial coupon.

What if I’m Not Ready?

Our Energy Dance Company competes for the first time this weekend, and I’m pumped! Even though I’m not performing, it’s a similar wave of nerves and excitement to watch these dancers take pieces to the stage that they have been learning and cleaning for months. Monday evening we did our annual “Here’s What We Expect from You” speech with the girls, and many of them were a tizzy with questions and clarifications to make sure they were mentally and physically prepared.

edc 2018One of the questions we get every year, from both dancers and parents, is, “What if the dance isn’t ready?” I have hard time with that question as a teacher and director. It is my job to teach and clean the choreography and to ensure the dancers are properly motivated to put in the hard work required to succeed, but how do you define “ready?” Does ready mean perfect? Because, in that case, the dance may never be “ready.”  Does ready mean they will win? Well, that is always an unknown due to the nature of different competitors at each event, and dance judging is very subjective, so that can’t be the meter for “ready.” Does ready mean memorized and [mostly] clean? In that case, they are “ready!”

We attend competitions as both a means for feedback and an opportunity to perform. If you are constantly waiting for a routine to be “ready,” you may never perform it. Sometimes you just have to jump in with both feet and be willing to fail in order to gain the feedback and perspective needed to continue to grow and learn. It’s the same with life, no? What if I’m not ready to start a new job? What if I’m not ready to have kids? What if I’m not ready to start my fitness journey? Trust yourself, trust the journey, and jump in.

Interested in starting your dance journey? Click here for a free trial coupon. Spring enrollment is open now!

Taking it One Step at a Time

I can be a somewhat anxious person; mostly it stems from a type-A personality and the desire to have a sense of control. The best tool I’ve discovered when I’m feeling overwhelmed is the idea of taking things “one step at a time.” I just focus on the task I am doing currently, mark it off the list, and move on to the next task. Dance teaches this lesson, pretty literally, and I think it helped shape a lot of the way I look at tackling large projects today. IMG_9554

When you see a dance on stage, with the complicated formations, parts and steps, it is the culmination of hours of progressive learning. You learn 4 counts, then you practice that a few times, then you learn 4 more counts, then you go back and review the first 4 counts, then you put it all together. But if you try to learn too much choreography at once, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. That’s when you go back and review again, add on slowly, and then eventually add formations, complications, staging, etc. If you let your brain think about what the finished project is supposed to look like, when you are struggling with the current step you are learning, it can seem like an impossible task.

I am grateful to my dance teachers for helping me learn this skill of breaking things down into palpable chunks. I’m eager and happy to pass along this lesson! Interested in joining us? Spring classes start January 8th! Click here for a free trial coupon.

Different Kinds of Coaching

One of the best things about really getting into dance as an extracurricular activity is that you rarely just have one teacher (unless you are in combination classes or are enrolled in just one style). I’m mainly speaking about dancers like our Energy Dance Company members, who are required to take dance in multiple styles throughout the week. Not only is this exposing them to the many facets of the World of Dance, but it is exposing them to many different kinds of teachers and coaches. lex pic 1

While we make it a priority to hire teachers who care deeply for our mission of building confidence, our teachers range in levels of strictness, style of communication, behavior modification tactics, etc. A dancer may LOVE one teacher, but be scared of disappointing another. That’s ok. A dancer may click with an instructor’s personality, but have a hard time picking up her choreography. That’s ok too.

Throughout a person’s lifetime he or she will be exposed to different kinds of “coaches.” This could be teachers, professors or bosses. Team leads, project managers, etc. It is an important lesson to learn how to work well with and flourish under different types of personalities. We are all human, and we are all different. That’s what makes each of us special.

Interested in joining our studio? Spring classes start January 8th. Click here for a free trial coupon.

Dancing Can Improve Mental Health

It’s a crazy, upsetting time in our country, and around the world. We can’t seem to go just a few days without stories of useless violence, and, the politics of gun control or mental health services aside, most would agree that it takes someone of an unstable mental health to perform such heinous acts.  I wanted to highlight excerpts from an article put together by the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard University regarding dance and mental health. brain-dance

“Millions of Americans dance, either recreationally or professionally. How many of those who are ballroom dancing, doing the foxtrot, break dancing, or line dancing, realize that they are doing something positive for their bodies—and their brains? Dance, in fact, has such beneficial effects on the brain that it is now being used to treat people with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurological movement disorder.”

“In a 2008 article in Scientific American magazine, a Columbia University neuroscientist posited that synchronizing music and movement—dance, essentially—constitutes a “pleasure double play.” Music stimulates the brain’s reward centers, while dance activates its sensory and motor circuits.”

“There’s no question, anecdotally at least, that music has a very stimulating effect on physical activity,” says Daniel Tarsy, MD, an HMS professor of neurology and director of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC). “And I think that applies to dance, as well.”

Interested in reading the full article? Check it out here!