So, last weekend I was out. Because of my background and upbringing, St. Patrick’s Day is right up there with the major holidays of the year, and there are plenty of opportunities to celebrate here in the Midwest, so celebrate I have, and will continue to do. But this was last Friday. After meeting with some friends I stopped at Crowley’s Highland House, a local Irish pub which is, for better or worse, literally 2 blocks from my new place. I have a beer or 2, talk to some folks, play with the dog ( there constantly seems to be a resident dog at Crowley’s, though not always the same dog). Then I figure it’s time to head home. So I’m walking down the street and in one of the bars I haven’t visited yet, there’s some fairly loud, very funky music playing. I actually walk past about 10 yards. Then I think..
“Do you have a curfew?”
“Is there someone waiting at home?“
The answer to both of these questions is no.
So I turn around and head into this small, dark, crowded bar.
A word about me and dancing.
I really like to dance. Really. And as long as it’s just me, moving to music that I like, life is good. And if that’s all it is, I tend to surprise people. It’s like if you met a dog that could count to 5, but got “3” wrong. You wouldn’t think “This dog sucks!” You’d think “that’s amazing that he can get 1,2,4 & 5 right!”
That’s how people feel about me and dancing. On the sliding scale of expectations; older, white, straight & male may be the lowest possible bar as regards dancing. So when I show some rhythm, and, as my friend Pat , who has danced with me a fair amount, calls them “My 5 moves”, people tend to be surprised.
Now, if you try to teach me dance steps or, heaven forbid, call it choreography, all rhythm, coordination and most other brain functions leave my body. Don’t take my word for it. I can refer you to a number of excellent choreographers who will attest to that…
….but I digress….
So, I walk into this small crowded bar. My thought is “ go to the bar, have a beer, listen to the cool music, watch the dancers, go home”. But, as usually is the case when it comes to dancing, there are WAY more women than men, and an attractive women approaches me right away and asks if I want to dance. I decline, the first time. But the music is REALLY good, so the 3rd time someone asks…?
Yup. That’s me on the dance floor.
Folks, I had a ball.
Friendly people, who seemed to know each other. Nobody judging, or acting snotty. Just a really cool hang. I stayed until they closed the bar at 2-ish and then, happily tired and exhilarated, headed home.
As I found out as we danced and talked, the style of dance is called Kizomba. It originated in Angola and is gaining popularity in the states. It’s couples dancing with it’s own style. Now, was I doing that? No, not really. I was doing some simple couples dancing, and more or less being led through it by the ladies. Again , they were very kind. Now, did I go to the Kizomba basics dance class the next day? Yes, yes I did . And Lisa & the folks at CinciKiz were very cool & patient with me as I stumbled through the steps.
But I’ll learn.
Because I REALLY want to have more nights like last Friday.
Good music. Good people. & dance.
OK, so from a Wellness perspective, why dance?
Let’s list just some of the benefits of cutting a rug, shall we?
- Increased aerobic fitness.
It’s aerobic activity, people. Whether it’s high intensity or low, high impact or low, it’s cardio. And you’d be surprised how quickly time passes when you get lost in the music.
- Better coordination, agility and flexibility
All 3 of these things go away as you age. And anything that challenges you along these lines is a very good thing.
- Weight management.
Heck yeah. In fact, a study in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that an exercise program of aerobic dance training is just as helpful for losing weight and increasing aerobic power as cycling and jogging. That’s right, I said Physiological Anthropology. So there.
- Stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis.
Weight bearing activities help retain bone density, which is something else that decreases as you age. Brittle bones rare no joke, folks..
- Better Brain Health.
According to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine, dancing may boost your memory and prevent you from developing dementia as you get older. Science reveals that aerobic exercise can reverse volume loss in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory. The hippocampus naturally shrinks during late adulthood, which often leads to impaired memory and sometimes dementia.
- Improved condition of your heart and lungs.
In an Italian study, people with heart failure who took up waltzing improved their heart health, breathing, and quality of life significantly compared to those who biked or walked on a treadmill for exercise.
In addition, dancing has been shown to minimize stress, fight depression and enhance social connectivity. In other words, you get to meet some pretty cool people.
Quick shout out to Lisa Butts & the fine folks at CinciKiz for their hospitality. As it happens, I’ll be traveling for a few months, starting in early April. But when I get back you people will have to put up with me again because I WILL learn the right way to Kizomba, no matter how many women have to suffer in the process.
To the rest of you,