In line at a store, we click away on our smart phones, never looking up to lock eyes with another person. In elevators and hallways, we avoid eye contact. In this digital age, we spend more time staring at screens than into the eyes of a living, breathing human.
The impact, say researchers, is potentially devastating.
Touch is the first of the senses to develop in a human infant and remains one of the most emotionally important throughout our lives. In fact, the effects of human touch – or lack thereof – are profound. Without it, people are more inclined toward violence, are less successful and are more frequently ill.
Studies show that physical touch is the foundational element of human development and culture. If we want to develop overall well-being, not to mention closeness and trust, it’s imperative to be around other people, interacting with them, and feeling comfortable in close proximity.
Ballroom dance is a great way to achieve safe human touch and interaction, promoting feel-good endorphins and creating a viable sense of community. With the abundance of dance reality TV shows and the growth of the ballroom dance instruction industry, these benefits of increased human interaction, eye contact and safe touch are coming to the fore.
In our digital economy, increased distance creates need for safe touch, friendship & interaction opportunities.
Dance gives us all that and more.
We have students who insist that dance helps them feel included in society, part of a community, no longer alone. Students such as…
- Melanie Howard, 54 and a Rochester resident: The single mother of two grown children sought dance as a way to embark on a new life post-divorce. “It’s a place I go to feel good and be surrounded by people who care,” she says. “I have made friendships that will last a lifetime.”
- Tony Su, 36 and a Shelby Township resident: Traveling for work every other week makes it hard for Tony to make time for friends. He’s found that built-in camaraderie by dancing at FADS studios here and in California when he’s there on business. He joins dance classmates after class at a local restaurant and says there is “definitely a community environment” that has helped him feel connected.
- Dan Rutherford, 51 and a Waterford resident: After losing his wife, he began dance lessons as a way to find new outlets as a widower. “Dance makes me happy,” he says. “Everyone is warm and welcoming. I’ve made a lot of friends.”
We see it all the time in our dance lessons – this is a safe place to meet nice people. It’s fun and easy, with no pressure, unlike going to a bar or high-powered party. In a dance class, people can focus on learning the steps and they get to switch partners frequently, so they get to safely connect hand to hand and eye to eye with another person without demand of expectation to take it elsewhere.
This year, FADS is partnering with several dating organizations to offer dance classes as venues to meet prospective mates. Collaborating with Match.com and SpeedDating.com, both online dating sites offer exclusive events at FADS as a way for digitally-connected singles to meet face-to-face.
More than dating, many people who start dance lessons at FADS make new friends, which can also be a challenge during adult life. As people become busy with careers, kids and other obligations, the world can become a lonelier place. Dance lessons provides a ready-made community of kind, caring individuals in a safe setting.
We have a group of students that comes for a dance party Friday night and then goes out to a local restaurant together to continue the conversation. They feel close and safe with one another thanks to the dance lessons, and they tell me time and time again that they feel part of a real community. You can see the happiness on their faces.
In this digital age, it’s harder than ever to find a way to meet people in a setting that promotes feelings of contentment.