Everyone knows the benefits of dance to one’s body: strength, coordination, flexibility, stamina, and even bone density. But did you know that one of dance’s most important benefits is to the brain? We will explore in a three part series the many amazing ways in which dance affects the brain.
First we will explore the cerebellum, or “lower brain”.
This region of the brain handles our motion and muscular coordination. Beginning with dance as a toddler helps to develop the essential gross motor skills that pediatricians are urging parents today to prioritize. We have all heard the experts discussing the importance of “tummy time” and crawling. But your child’s movement requirements for proper development do not end at crawling, and we believe dance provides a rich environment to satisfy the developing brain’s needs for a wide range of movement.
Neural connections in the brain are strengthened when children meet new movement challenges, and variety matters. Just like your child’s diet requires balance through variety, her brain requires a wide range of “nutritious movement”, and dance is like a multivitamin of movement! Dance not only strengthens both gross and fine motor skills, but also vestibular health through spinning, rolling, balancing, and swinging.
Let’s break down this very important vestibular system for a moment. The vestibular system is the inner ear balance mechanism that tells your body where it is in space. It is an essential part of a healthy sensory system, and even helps with focus and attention. In a time when sensory and attention disorders are on the rise, a healthy vestibular system is more important than ever.
It is important to understand that if these early movement milestones are missed or underdeveloped, it is the higher brain, or cerebrum, which must divert precious resources in order to compensate. In the next installment of the brain series, we will learn more about the cerebral cortex.