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Press / 2016 / The benefits of dance
The benefits of dance
On the occasion of International Dance Day, on 29 April, six Greeks involved with dance explain its importance and why dance should constitute a part of our lives.
by Maria - Christina Doulamo
29 APR 2016
American choreographer Martha Graham had said, “dance is the hidden language of the soul”. All those who dance testify to this: to how muchdance can be a vehicle of expression, of optimism and hope, and how it has become an intrinsic way of life.
“Greece is deeply-rooted in the dance culture, and has always been dancing,” says Vasia Motsakou, a young dance teacher in Athens. “Proof to this are the ample traditional dances we have from every region,” she continues. “We are a people who is hospitable, cheerful, who has always known how to entertain and have fun”. This continues to be one of the positive aspects that Greece projects abroad, amidst the negativity and misery of the country’s financial and political situation.
It is perhaps not a coincidence that the President of the UNESCO International Dance Council (Conseil International de la Danse - CID), based in Paris, is Greek. Alkis Raftis holds this position for 15 years now, having been re-elected four times as head of this official organization for all forms of dance in all countries of the world. He is the highest-ranking Greek internationally who heads a worldwide organization. "Greece is a superpower in dance," says Mr Raftis. "Everyone knows that the Greeks dance a lot, that they are good at dancing. And that is something that elevates the country’s image".
But why do we choose to dance?
"Dance exists within man," says Philippos Tragas, dance teacher and special educator at AMIMONI Panhellenic Association. "Rhythm is an integral part of us, it is in the way our heart beats; we possess it regardless of whether we want to or not. We consist 70% of water, which is a good conductor of sound. Thus, humans have a natural propensity to exploit sound and noise in general,” he explains. Beyond this, however, dance functions as psychotherapy. And this is something everyone agrees on. Because, just like with any other intense physical activity, dancing increases the brain levels of serotonin and endorphin, lifting moods and energy, reducing anxiety and depression.
"Dancing is life, vitality, creation, inspiration, dreams," lists TheognosiaCharalampidou, dance and English teacher. It helps you meet other people, have fun, defuse daily tension. "Dancing is an entertaining psychotherapy," Vasia adds, smiling. Each person chooses to dance for different reasons: to socialize, as a hobby, to exercise in order to improve health, to boost self-confidence, to externalize their feelings, among many others.
"Dancing offers everything," says Mr. Raftis, “wellness, combating loneliness, it is healthy and pleasant; I think it is the most ideal. I can not imagine anything else that offers you so many things together, both for the body and the soul”.
"Through dance, you can escape,” says Michael Gkousis, director of theLatin4U dance studio franchise. "It's something you can do anywhere, at anytime," he says and adds that many go for dancing instead of to psychologists to be able to find the strength to cope with all of life’s difficulties. "I strongly believe that all my problems have been solved through dance," he says and his eyes glow as he describes how dancing enables him to forget everything. This may be a feature of those who dance – they allow the music to sway them, to clear their minds and let colour diffuse into an otherwise mundane daily routine. This is why people choose to dance: because they enjoy it, because we need rhythm in our lives. We dance above all to experience everything we so often suppress inside us and to feel more alive.
Adamantia Koutoulaki, science teacher into amateur modern dance and ballet, agrees: "When I dance, I feel free, that I am able to express my feelings". "I like the form that you can mould your body into when you dance," the theatricality of becoming something else, she adds. "I love the feeling I have when I leave, this relief and tranquility".
“In the difficult times we live in, people are seeking a way out of all of their problems. And they find this in dance,” says Theognosia. Vasia adds that whatever the personal situation, all emotions can be expressed through dance, bringing joy, serenity, soothing, and strength.
According to Mr. Raftis, this is one of the reasons why dance is one of the few things that survived the crisis. "The crisis has brought even more people to dance," he says and adds that according to the CID’s Global Dance Directory statistics, although many businesses and shops closed down because of the crisis, no dance school in the world has closed. On the contrary, even more have opened. This applies not only to countries that are experiencing a financial crisis, such as Greece, Portugal and Spain, but even in those with a political crisis, like Ukraine. "The only way to endure the panic and fear is to dance," he states, recounting how during many turbulent times people danced even underground. "Dance is an antidote".
According to CID statistics, the dance industry is growing at 35% worldwide, "something that is really astonishing."
In Greece, there are about 1,000 dance schools, with the same proportion (one school per 10,000 inhabitants) generally applicable worldwide. According to the same statistics, one in every 1,000 residents is a professional dancer.
For most people, making their hobby a profession was something that came gradually, as their love for dance evolved and grew. Michael tells how he worked from a young age and how he always desired to launch his own business. The Latin4U franchise thus emerged from his and his colleagues’ passion for dance, the vigour that distinguishes their work, and the enthusiasm they have for what they do. The first dance studio opened in central Athens in September 2012 and since then counts another six branches throughout the city, as well as a Cultural Association.
They all unanimously state thatit is never too late to learn to dance. All it takes is the will to do so. And with the first step in the right direction,dance can equip you with confidence, strength, and vitality, together with a thirst for continuous learning that can be extended to all parts of life.