Dance Psychology

Looking at dance and dancers through the lens of psychology

Why Do You Dance? It seems you're lost in music

"I got the music in me."

You don't need bits of fancy scientific kit, a psychiatrist's couch or a brain scanner to get to the heart of basic human nature, all you have to do is to ask one simple question, stand back, and wait for the "whoosh" as the flood gates open. I asked people what I thought was a simple question, "Why do you dance?" and the responses I received were over-whelming in their sensitivity and honesty. They were beautiful, heart-breaking, surprising and funny.

Hundreds of men and women from 13 to 77 told me why they dance, or why they don't. People told me that they dance because it makes them feel sexy, or that their girlfriend makes them dance, or they dance to get in touch with their body. Some people told me that they only dance when they are on their own, and for them dance is a secret guilty pleasure that nobody else knows about. For a large number of people music played a central role in their reasons for dancing.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

For some dancing is not only a natural response to music, they report feeling compelled to move when they hear certain music or rhythms and they tell me that the act of dancing connects them with the music in a completely unique way. People have told me that when they hear certain songs they have to move and dance, and this act of dancing helps them make sense of the music. This feeling, and compulsion to dance, is so strong that, as one man wrote, "When I dance I become part of the music and the music becomes part of me".

When people connect with music through dancing it can affect their body, their thoughts and their mind. A woman wrote that she loves to move around and feel the music flow through her and another women wrote that she feels enveloped by the music, writing that dancing makes her feel as though she is "inside" the music. Indeed, there are many examples of people being moved by the music. One shy young man wrote that he dances because the power of music gives him wings to fly away from everyday life. For him the combination of dance and music facilitated an escape, the kind of escape that other people have experienced, such that when they dance to certain rhythms they go into a trance-like state. But, of course, we don't always dance alone and the connection between dance and music can also enhance the connection between dancers. A 39 year old woman wrote, "I love the additional sense of connection to the music that I get from dancing close with another person. There's a real sense of being able to hear the music the way that other person hears it - and to share how I hear the music with them."

There are many reasons why people dance and there are lots of reasons why people don't dance. In my next blog entry I'll outline the reasons people give for not dancing. If you would like to tell me why you dance, or don't dance, please go to my website: www.dancedrdance.com and click on the big yellow square. You can write as much, or as little, as you like. No need for a brain scanner.

Peter Lovatt is a psychologist and dancer based at the University of Hertfordshire.

more...

Subscribe to Dance Psychology

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.