Dance vs. Brain: FIGHT!

by Megan M. on February 6, 2009 · View Comments (Blog) |

Wednesday night at Body Choir I had some pretty fascinating trains of thought.

For instance, I tend to repeat a lot of the same motions with my hands, or turn in the same direction (mostly left) when I’m dancing. Furthermore, I often make the same motions with my hands while turning in the same direction—something in my brain is predisposed towards that combination, for some very interesting but unknown reasons.

I wonder if anyone’s ever done a study on free form dance patterns—especially of people without any organized dance experience—and the relation of certain movements to certain ways of thinking, predispositions, personalities?

What do my dance patterns say about me?

Shiva Nata greatly affects the brain’s ability to build new pathways, make new connections. Obviously movement has to do with mental process. Even better—what if I work to change my dance patterns, become a “better dancer”? The better I am at my Shiva Nata practice, the better I am able to think. If I change the patterns of my free form dance, do I also change my way of thinking? My predispositions? My personality?

If I make a point of turning to the right (instead of the left) or of dancing in a clompy tribal fashion instead of a flowy belly-dancer fashion, what happens to my brain when I do it? Sure, I get better at dance—that’s about my brain. But what happens to everything else my brain does, after that point?

Thoughts? Resources?

  • Havi Brooks (and duck)
    Wanted to add that one of the weird/uncanny effects of doing Shiva Nata is that it brings soooooo much awareness to how you move. And doing it can really bring attention to just how many movements you (I mean, all of us) do in sort of a rote way.

    Something I've experimented with ...

    I teach an exercise in some of my workshops where we do five minutes of freeform dance, five minutes meditation, five minutes Shiva Nata, five minutes meditation, five minutes freeform dance, five minutes meditation.

    And in the second set of freeform dance, everyone finds that they're doing completely different movements, and also that they have an easier time "surprising" themselves by letting their bodies do something new and unexpected.

    In terms of your smart question, yeah! Every time you challenge a pattern in one plane (for example, your free-form dance), you're making space to let patterns shift in other areas. In your brain, but also in your relationships/encounters with people, concepts, time, space, etc.

    The only other thing I'd add to that is that the value of "challenging a pattern" is so strong that even thinking about challenging the pattern without taking action on it is actually already challenging the pattern.

    Because you're bringing conscious awareness to your thought process, which is naturally going to spiral out into everything else. Yay, brains.

    far-away hug!
  • Michael Vanderdonk
    Some points for your own research:

    Brain Gym by Dennison
    I seem to recall Mead and Baetson commenting on some of this in relation to their research on tribal dance. I don't have the references unfortunately.
    Casteneda talks about this: You are being hunted by your own habits.
    Do some research on the mind/body split - or more specifically the errors in that thinking: Philosophy_of_mind on wikipedia...
  • Jeremy Meyers
    That's what dancing in your apartment is for. Preferably in your underwear.
  • Becky Blanton
    Actually, something as simple as changing the way you write can change your brain. Graphologists have found that forcing yourself to change the way you write - for instance, making your letters more vertical than right-slanting, etc. actually affects behavior and outlook, making you less emotionally impulsive (if your handwriting tends to slant naturally and extremely to the right). Our brains react to our physical movements and vice versa - so definitely - all kinds of things could happen if you explore odd movements! Try it! Yoga changes us, calms us - the body is so delightfully complex! How exciting you noticed! See!? You're very aware!
  • Megan M.
    YES!! We need a bird poop chip and a dance movements chip! YES!!

    I'm so glad you understand.

    I've been finding Shiva Nata creeping into my free form dance in Body Choir... who knows where that will go! It's way fun, regardless!
  • James | Dancing Geek
    We need a chip to monitor people's dancing and answer these questions!

    I would definitely recommend doing movement that feels odd or awkward, often it looks the most interesting to anyone watching and it provides a completely different experience of the situation. Keep breaking and rebuilding those movement patterns: it's whole body Shiva Nata!
  • Green

    Maybe it's something like that? Only you ARE the dancer?

    I also seem to recall a brain exercise my ASL teacher in high school used to make us do at the beginning of class every day- we'd cross our arms over our chest with our main hand (right-handed/left-handed) on the inside, and spin in the opposite direction. So I would cross my left arm over my right arm on my chest and spin to the left, right?

    She said it was a brain exercise and I can give credit to it helping me wake-up on tired days. Maybe that's it? Maybe your body found a spinning-source of brain-chemical energy, and is helping you to access it by nudging your spinning in that direction?
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