Why You Should Be Dancing With Your Friends

July 24, 2016

Dancers are well-acquainted with the practice of egging each other on when confronted with challenging classes or repertory. Whether fluttering amongst a bevy of swans, working through contact improvisation or darting through a tricky combination in technique class, we know instinctively how to feed off of each other’s energy to execute the most daunting tasks. According to a recent article from three behavioral anthropologists, there’s a scientific explanation for the particular buzz that comes from dancing together—and for its positive impact on performance.

National Ballet of Canada dancers rehearsing Swan Lake, a ballet often acknowledged as a marathon for the corps. Photo by Karolina Kuras, Courtesy NBoC.

The article points out that coordinated movement and physical exertion in a group—or social motion—results in a sense of unity and euphoria as well as increasing the overall performance of the participants. Looking at multiple studies done in the cognitive and behavioral sciences, the authors argue that the combination of physical contact and moving together with the same intention leads to enhanced social bonding and cooperation. Not only does exercising together create chemical reactions linked to the euphoria colloquially referred to as “runner’s high,” but it also helps an individual’s brain to modulate pain and fatigue signals during exercise, an important factor in achieving peak performance. Much of this seems to be an evolutionary holdover from an earlier age in which social cooperation and physical exertion were linked to survival.

Translation: while taking company class or warming up with your colleagues is great for your body and technique, it is also important for strengthening the bonds amongst your fellow dancers. That way, when you get onstage you’re all at your collective best. Plus, working alongside one another toward a common goal enables you to reach greater heights as an individual dancer. So when the going gets tough, look to your peers—you’re each other’s best resources for conquering whatever challenges are thrown your way.


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