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Positive Psychology

The Positive Psychology of Dance

Do the brain dance

The brain dance is better than the twist, the macrena, the Texas 2-step, the cupid shuffle, or the 'YMCA'.

Children of all ages have been doing the Brain Dance since 2000. Anne Green Gilbert developed it while she was the artistic director of the Creative Dance Center where she taught 10,000 dance students over the course of 30 years.

I learned about Anne's pioneering work from the dance students who take my human development classes. Those dancers, and their primary professor, are enthusiastic advocates of her work.

Her first book was Teaching the 3 R's through Movement Exercises (1977) and in it she suggested a radical idea: teach content lessons through dance. Creative Dance for all Ages (1992), her second book, tackled the rigidity of traditional dance instruction methods by describing a new method that was "generous and joyous" and without "fear or threat." In essence, she was desribing the positive psychology of dance long before the new age of positive psychology had dawned.

In 2006, Anne also incorporated the emerging neuroscience in her work and published the book, Brain Compatible Dance Education, spreading her "brain dance" even more widely.

All dancing oxegenates the brain, exercises the muscles, releases 'feel good' chemicals, and connects the cognitive and emotional mind to the conative body. Dancing builds and reinforces neural connections between the vast circuitry of the brain. Dance expresses what we know and what we feel wordlessly.

From the latest dance craze to cultural folk dances, your brain on dancing is a more fluent, flexible, creative, and original brain. Whatever dance you choose to dance, do not dance only on Satruday night. Dance in the around the in the classroom with your students every day.

So what is the Brain Dance?

The BrainDance is an exercise I developed in 2000 comprised of eight fundamental movement patterns that we move through in the first year of life, from touching and squeezing to creeping and crawling. These movement patterns wire the central nervous system by laying the foundation for appropriate behavior and attention, eye convergence necessary for reading, sensory-motor development and more (Green-Gilbert, 2006).

Brain Dance 8 Benefits

1. Oxygenates the brain.

2. Creates bonding and sensory integration.

3. Promotes Self and other awareness and interaction.

4. Develops spine and neck flexiibity.

5. Practices Dominant side transfer and emotional grounding.

6. Articulates phsycial laterality and horizontal eye tracking.

7. Articulates physical laterality and vertical eye tracking.

8. IMproves balance

Brain Dance in Action

1. Choose a song. Any song. Cultural folk songs and familiar family songs work well. Inspirational songs work well. Lively songs best. You can find some pre-recorded brain dance music clips that work (with and without instructional narration) here.

2. Start the dance using the 8 movement sequenced patterns. Dance to the beat.

Warm Up: Breathe.

1.Tactile. (Brush it off)

2. Big/Small. (Curl and uncurl core)

3. Head/Tail. (Wiggle)

4. Right/Left Body. (Move right and left side separately)

5. Upper/Lower Body. (Move upper and body separately)

6. Cross-Lateral. (Elbow to knee each side)

7. Eye Tracking. (Follow thumb to body center and back moving right, left, up and down)

8. Spin (Clockwise. Counter clockwise)

Cool Down: Freestyle

3. Brain Dance 10 minutes a day to energize your brain and body.

4. Watch the Brain Dance Instructional video.

5. Watch the Brain Dance Demonstration video.

For more information about the value and benefit of the brain dance read the John Hopkins University article, Brain Compatible Approach to Studio Dance (2004). For more information on how social dance makes you smarter, read Professor Power's (Stanford Dance) article on how social dance makes you smarter.

Or maybe you would just like to try the twist or the Texas 2-step or some other dance craze. Go dance crazy - it's good for your brain.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: We should consider every day that we have not danced at least once...a lost day (Nietzsche).


You can also teach low-tech traditional folk dances or use the high-tech Just Dance Now to dance your way to happiness and well-being.

If you are not yet convinced of the benefits of the positive psychology of dance, check out the IDMS bulletin article and then enjoy Dancing for Brain Health written by the same creative mind that drew the pictures on this blog.

A special thank you to Jill H. Anderson of Ann Arbor, Michigan for granting me permission to use her charming artwork. I hope to feature more of her original drawings in future posts and to collaborate with her in other ways, too. Jill is a recently retired university-level science educator specializing in public outreach. She is also a maker of captivating drawings and dolls.

READ MORE IN MY BOOK: Positive Psychology in the Elementary School Classroom (W.W. Norton & Company, 2013) is intended to help teachers build positive psychology classrooms consistent with affective neuroscience.




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