A study published in the Public Library of Science�s genetics journal in 2006 suggested that long ago the ability to dance was actually connected to the ability to survive.

According to the study, dancing was a way for our prehistoric ancestors to bond and communicate, particularly during tough times. As a result, scientists believe that early humans who were coordinated and rhythmic could have had an evolutionary advantage.

The researchers examined the DNA of a group of dancers and non-dancers and found that the dancers shared two genes associated with a predisposition for being good social communicators. In addition, the dancers were found to have higher levels of serotonin, known to boost moods in humans and mice.

Early humans might have danced to attract a mate, as far back as 1.5 million years ago, according to Steven J. Mithen, an archaeologist at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom.

Pulled from:


Music is known to stimulate pleasure and reward areas like the orbitofrontal cortex, located directly behind one's eyes, as well as a midbrain region called the ventral striatum. In particular, the amount of activation in these areas matches up with how much we enjoy the tunes. In addition, music activates the cerebellum, at the base of the brain, which is involved in the coordination and timing of movement.

First, people speculate that music was created through rhythmic movement�think: tapping your foot. Second, some reward-related areas in the brain are connected with motor areas. Third, mounting evidence suggests that we are sensitive and attuned to the movements of others' bodies, because similar brain regions are activated when certain movements are both made and observed. For example, the motor regions of professional dancers' brains show more activation when they watch other dancers compared with people who don't dance.

This kind of finding has led to a great deal of speculation with respect to mirror neurons�cells found in the cortex, the brain's central processing unit, that activate when a person is performing an action as well as watching someone else do it. Increasing evidence suggests that sensory experiences are also motor experiences. Music and dance may just be particularly pleasurable activators of these sensory and motor circuits. So, if you're watching someone dance, your brain's movement areas activate; unconsciously, you are planning and predicting how a dancer would move based on what you would do.

Pulled from:


Dance makes all the troubles, pains and bad thoughts go away. When you are on stage, and your heart is pounding, your knees are trembling, your feet are throbbing, that's when i know that dance is for me. I wouldn't survive without it. I'm never truly happy when I'm not at my studio. I fake laugh my way through the week, and then I get to dance. Then I know I can relax and laugh so hard I feel sick. I know that my dance teacher is there to support me through dance. Without my friends and of course my dancing classes, I actually think i would break down. Dance is unstoppable. To start one class, you will never be able to stop. I started off with 45 minutes of street dance a week. Now on top of that i take 45 minutes of ballet, 45 minutes of jazz and 45 minutes of tap. I'm not even a teenager, yet i feel this amazing passion build up inside me, when someone mentions the word....DANCE!

Pulled from:

1. Trash all your Patterns and Variations and return to Basics. You will only be as "solid" as your foundations. Men should perfect their Lead and women should per-fect their Follow.

Male Lead: Draw definite lines with your (body and) arm(s), placing the lady in the exact place in the slot you want them in. Consciously hit your "entrance counts." Anchor and be firm on "four" ("six" on eight counts) to allow the woman to feel secure enough to do her playing thing. Don't forget about your feet &ldots; keep your motor going!

Female Follow: The worst sin is "anticipating." The greatest asset is sensi-tivity. Sensitivity comes from the "connection." The man provides the "perch." But the woman is the one who "sits" on the perch. A seat that "slips" is uncomfortable. "Air" between the man's palm and fingers as you sugar-push creates alternating connection/non-connection. The woman should he "rolling" her fingers on this perch creating a constant and se-cure connection. Once the connection is bonded, go where you "feel" him leading you. If his lead is weak you can try to "save" him. If his lead is pure he will he able to lead you through Patterns you've never known before.

2. Any screw-ups are ALWAYS the man's fault, UNLESS the woman "anticipates or "steals" the lead.

Men: The Universe is wide open to trap you in mistakes. Admit it, learn from it, try not to repeat it. Ask her, "how did I throw you off?" She will definitely tell you. Immediately try the move again. Sometimes the woman will be all wet with her answer, but most of the time she will help you a lot. Ladies respect men who show their vulnerabilities.

Ladies: By concentrating on the sensitivity of your follow, you will never be at fault. So when a man does throw you off and "invites" you to help him improve never tell him he is "wrong." Rather, suggest to him that it could he "better," or "easier communicated." Give us one or two "helpful hints" at a time and take the long-term approach with us. A woman who has one dance with a man and hands him a laundry list of improvements will find herself sitting, while the woman who gives a man one tip per night will he dancing with him far into the future.

3. Dance with lots of different partners. Experience is the best teacher. Challenge yourself to Lead (or Follow) strangers flawlessly. I love to travel and walk into a venue unknown and dance with all shapes, sizes, and ability levels. When I get back to the partners I like to dance with at home my lead is improved and I appreciate the "feel" of those I am accustomed to. And ladies, dancing with a variety of men will force you to become a more sensitive Fol-low since you won't have a clue as to what to anticipate.

4. You can never learn all the patterns and variations that exist in West Coast Swing. Since you trashed them all in suggestion #1 above, go back over what you already know and like. Pick the ones that really turn you on and leave the others in the trash. Focusing on Basics will allow you to learn new moves quicker and easier. But only learn new moves that you really like, ones that suit your body style and vision of the dance. I see moves all the time that I love to watch other people do and know that they just aren't for me. At other times I'll see something that I know is just right for me. So through time I've developed a wide range of patterns and variations that are exactly my color and flavor.

5. Don't he intimidated by moves other dancers make. You can admire them with the understanding that those moves are right for THEM but may not he right for you. The moves that are right for you IS your style. This will make West Coast Swing a lot easier for you and give you the confidence to dance with anybody.

6. Limit the number of times you say "sorry" to once per dance. This will force you to save your one "sorry" for when you really need it. After a while you'll find yourself making it through entire dances without saying "sorry" once! If you keep saying "sorry" with every little flaw it's very likely you will be perceived as a very "sorry" person, indeed. Are you as tired reading "sorry" in quotes as much as I am typing "sorry" in quotes? Get my ("sorry") point?!

7. Take a little time to learn the opposite side of the dance. Take someone you enjoy dancing with and teach them your part and ask them to teach you their part. Not only will you gain a better understanding of West Coast Swing, but also open up new areas of fun for the two of you. I discov-ered that the female part is a lot of fun because you can "cruise" if you feel like it or you can "ham it up" if you're so inclined. It's also hilarious watching the females panic their way through the male leads as you "faultlessly" try to save their ineptitude!

8. View all lists of advice on "how to improve your West Coast Swing" with many grains of salt. Take what you like, forget the rest. Ultimately, you get better by dancing.

9. Dance more.

10. Have fun.

Pulled from:

Suggested Guidelines for Lifts, Dips, And Aerials  

WHAT: Acrobatics in swing dance date to Lindy dancer Frank Manning's adaptation for a dance contest at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom in the '30s. They derive from acrobatics which date back well in the B.C. era. In dance, lifts, dips, jumps, and drops are special moments of intimacy, & intensity in partner dancing. One or both partners are closer to the floor, or ceiling than usual. (In some cases, lots closer!) More acute sensitivity, partner awareness, and trust are necessary. Throws constitute a whole other level of skill, and are definitely for stage-only. Any kind of showy partner dancing (ballroom, latin) incorporates moves of this type.

WHO: Work with a practice-partner. On the social floor, do these moves only with your practice-partner. In general, beyond a few simple dips, NEVER try these moves someone you just met on the social floor.

WHERE: Practice at home, not on the social floor. Teaching a Low-Risk Lift/Dip "off to the side" at a dance is fairly common practice. However, more than a minute of "off to the side" teaching is considered gauche. Observe Swing Club policies. (California swing clubs seem to considerably more liberal in this respect than clubs in the Northeast.)

WHEN: If the floor is crowded, hold off. If it looks like you have some safe space, exercise more-than-usual awareness. Floor conditions change quickly. You won't be able to live with yourself ever again if during your beautiful dip, your follower has her teeth kicked out by a suddenly appearing Lindy kick (it happened). Occasional collisions and kicks on a crowded dance floor are a reality, and forgivable after the usual apologies and expressions of concern. Leaders should maintain a protective (rather than a cavalier) attitude towards the follower at all times during these moves. Collisions during lifts & dips are very bad.

HOW: Beyond a simple dip, partners MUST inform each other what move is coming up! AND to verify agreement! Many of these moves require advance prep signals. Things can go pretty bad if the leader goes for one move, while the follower goes for another. It definitely happens.

HOW MUCH: Showy moves like lifts & dips are fun and impressive a few times a night. Your fancy move becomes exceedingly ho-hum by the fifth time (or the fourth. or the third...).

OOPS! In your practice session, if one of these moves gets off to a bad start, abort it. Don't try to fix it on the fly, because you are then really asking for trouble. Stop, figure out what went wrong, and start again. It's not like reading music, where you just keep on playing through the mistakes. In a performance, it's probably best to just let it go. (But I once saw well-loved top USA dance stars try again THREE TIMES in a row, until they finally got it right. When they did, everyone in the nervous crowd cheered wildly. It was just one of those things...)

JAMS: When dancers form a circle for couples to show off, now's your chance. But your risky move had better be good, or you'll really look stupid (is that so bad, after all?) If an injury occurs (THAT is bad), everyone will be horrified, and you will be stigmatized and guilt-ridden.

OBJECTIONS: Concerning Lifts etc., no other topic in social dance draws as much fire from conservative types. This is as true now as it was 70 years ago! If a dancer is comfortable with basics, is attracted to these moves, and observes the guidelines suggested here, why not? Issues of personal psychology disguised as "real" objections (I CAN'T do them, so YOU CAN'T do them," or " I CAN do them, so YOU CAN'T do them" and other such identity issues) are sometimes discoverable upon reflection, a fascinating topic in itself!


1. Low Risk: Leader has two hands always on follower. Follower has both hands on the leader, although she really doesn't need to do so. Wide margin for error. Mild average worst-case scenario. Abortable. Examples: Sit Dip, Deep Dip, Back Fall, Leader's Back Dip, Straddle, Back To Back Dip, Wing Jump, ...

2. Medium Risk: Leader has two hands on follower, but less margin for error. More precise timing & leader's back alignment. More strength required of the follower. More strength and coodination required of the leader. Average worst-case scenario isn't so mild. Abortable up to a point. Examples: Pull-Through, Swing, Side Cars, Straddle Jump, Shoulder Sit, Roo, Airplane Spin, Back Flip, ...

3. High Risk: Throws. Leader has one or no hands on follower after lift-off. Follower assumes sole responsibility for landing safely. Not abortable (once airborne). Narrower margin for error. A third person (spotter) highly desirable for practice. Average worst-case scenarios include severely pulled muscles, and torn ligaments, ankle and knee injuries: stuff requiring surguries. Responsible for most professional dancer injuries. Examples: Jump-over, Roo With Throw, Belt With Throw, ...

4. Very High Risk: More throws, but from higher altitudes. A third person (spotter) highly desirable for practice. Average worst-case scenario includes broken bones. Examples: Running Overhead Leap, Headstand Pull-Up To Overhead Throw, ...

5. Ultra High Risk: Follower goes upside down in the air. Catastrophic worst-case scenarios have been recorded (reincarnation). Examples: Vertical Down The Back Dive: appropriately nick-named "The Death Dive", Aerial Somersault, ...

Pulled from

Why Men Should Dance?

I was driving into Toledo, Ohio for the first time while on a tour to promote my book, and I didn't know a soul in town. The local newspaper mentioned a dance in a church with a twelve piece band. That sounded promising. So I bought a map and headed in that direction. The church was big with bright lights and good sounds coming from the community hall. I took a deep breath and walked in.

There, before me, were more than a hundred people who liked music, dancing, a clean environment, and a man who could dance! In almost all of the hundreds of dances I have attended around the country, there have been extra women waiting for a man to ask them to dance. Had I been married, I would have brought my wife and had a great time. I paid my seven dollars and began a very satisfying evening full of fun, conversation, making new friends and dancing.

Music with a beat has always made me want to dance. But I never followed up until three years ago when I began taking group lessons at a dance studio called Paradise Dance in Northampton, Massachusetts. Group lessons include an instructor and about a dozen men and women with similar dance knowledge working together on a specific dance. An hour lesson cost me $5 if I took enough of them each month--and I took a lot of lessons. I learned so much, so fast, about partner dancing--and about myself--that I took as many lessons as my 62 year old body could handle.

I had thought that I was too old to learn anything as complicated and physical as dancing. It was a bit of a shock when I began, but what a refreshing awakening.

My behavior around women also improved. I usually don't like small talk. But, here in this wholesome setting, the emphasis is on dancing which begins with the physical connection. That really eases conversation. Also, in group lessons dance partners change continuously; a big help in learning social and dance skills. I learned that the man's role is to lead the dance partnership, suggesting steps in a way that makes the dance an enjoyable experience for his partner. I was also nervous about looking ridiculous in front of men and women I didn't know. But they were in the same boat, and we could all look ridiculous together.

Most of us beginners stayed at it, and within one year we were reasonably accomplished in Swing dancing as well as Waltz, Texas two-step, Rumba and Cha Cha. Learning to dance also proved a relaxing and up-beat outlet for dealing with life's problems. Focusing on my partner's well being and on learning new skills helped lift me out of feeling frustrated and stuck. I also found a few married men and women, whose spouses were elsewhere, enjoying and improving their dancing--and maybe their marriages. Partner dancing was looking like a pretty healthy avocation. Yet, since men are still generally expected to lead in partner dancing, our stereotyped focus on winning can get us into trouble.

Strength and control must become balance and support in a dance partnership. Talk about two left feet, I was like a bull in a china shop. Learning the art of graceful invitation started to benefit my whole life. I was learning to redirect confrontational energy to produce harmonious, forward progress for a partnership--and do it to music, no less. The power methods that I had previously used to succeed, and which had become second nature to me, were being replaced by a better way.

When a man leads a dance partnership, he offers ideas to his partner rather than demanding specific behavior; gentle, confident guidance rather than pushing and pulling; patient and considerate support rather than criticism. Learning to dance, a man has the opportunity to learn how to create and maintain a harmonious partnership. And, at $5 a lesson surrounded by beautiful music and other men and women with similar goals, it's hard to beat. Plus, the skills are applicable at home and at work. Gracefully leading a partnership works better to increase my assets and peace of mind than winning an argument.

Because men who can dance are in short supply, I received lots of support and reassurance from my instructors and partners. Learning the dancing and leadership skills was easier than I expected because I was appreciated just for being there. Consistent encouragement made the learning almost enjoyable. And, I was feeling better and better emotionally as well as physically.

The physical nature of partner dancing makes for great exercise. Learning the leadership techniques energizes the mind, while repetitively moving through the dance steps stimulates the body through cardiovascular and muscle restoration and training. As a former Marine, I can say that partner dancing is the most pleasant and effective exercise program I have experienced. And I could exercise almost any day of the week at dances near where I live.

Dance clubs across the country are seeking more men. Country-western, Latin, swing, and ballroom lessons and dances are available. Dancing is, for men, one of the best places to learn how to lead a partnership. It's fun, you are appreciated, and it's never too late to begin. You will love it. To get started check with a friend who dances or look in the yellow pages or search the internet for ballroom or swing dancing near you. Give them a call about group lessons.

Karl Kehde is an amateur dancer who belongs to the Blue Springs USABDA chapter in Daytona, Florida. While his home address is in Northampton, Mass., he travels extensively and attends dances throughout the United States. Karl is the author of "Smarter Land Use," a conflict resolution guidebook for neighborhood groups, developers, environmental groups and planning boards. His cell phone is (908) 625-0638 and his website is You are welcome to make copies of this article and have them available at your dances.

Pulled from: