Healing Through Dance


The text came through at 8:03 AM,  waking me on my one morning to sleep in.  It said “Btw, thank you for the incredible lessons(s) last night!!! Thank you for bringing it, the physical and mental challenges are truly what I need…my lessons with you are the highlight of my week…the best therapy possible!!! U the best!!!”  

He dances.  He has incurable cancer, and he dances.  Sometimes daily.  Regardless of sometimes debilitating pain in his feet, constant nausea, constant metallic taste in his mouth, blisters and sores popping up on his body from his “boutique cancer pill” that prevents the tumors from growing or spreading, he dances. 

This is his 3rd, and likely final, battle with cancer.  Yet he is enthusiastic and determined to improve, to give his best, to impress me.  Not because he wants to win (although he does), but because for those hours during the week, he’s not thinking about the cancer.

When my Mom was sick with cancer in 2005,  I was devastated, grief-stricken.   I flew home every Friday to be with her in her hospice care, and flew back to work on Monday or Tuesday.  Rarely out of bed, we didn’t talk about the cancers that were killing her.  “Metastatic Carcinoma of an undiagnosed primary.  We don’t recommend any treatment,” said the Doctor.  We didn’t know any of those words, and we certainly didn’t understand WHY you wouldn’t recommend any treatment.   No, we didn’t talk about the cancers.  We held hands and reminisced.  Leaving was impossible every week, but I left every week.  Every student asked me “How’s your Mom”.  “Dying,” I would think.  “Fine,” I would say.  Then I would turn my focus on them and forget about the cancer for a while.  Teaching kept me going, distracted me, gave me strength.  Teaching someone else how to love dancing made me forget my gorgeous Mother would soon be gone.

Depression is a condition that manifests when the problems or stress of your life are difficult to resolve.  It can be mild or clinical, diagnosed or just felt, it can be genetic or situational..   You can deal with it through therapy, medication, exercise, or a combination of therapies.  Dancing can help.  Through dancing you experience joy through movement, enliven your pulse, release endorphins that make you feel good.  You involve your mind in trying to think, remember steps.  You experience grace while listening to soothing waltzes or passionate tangos or the earthy rhythms of samba. You experience human touch.   According to THE BENEFITS OF HUMAN TOUCH by Carmen Jachmann

Touch can reassure, relax and comfort. It reduces depression, anxiety, stress and physical pain; and can be healing. It increases the number of immune cells in the body, and has powerful affects on behaviour and moods. Touch can be used as a form of alternative healing in the form of touch therapy.

The art of studying dance can bring you happiness, joy, confidence (the opposite of depression!).  When you do something and find you are improving, you feel empowered.  A good studio can help you feel part of something bigger, a community.  For a time you are transported out of your world and into the magical world of dancing. Dance therapy is a real form of therapy.  Dance lessons can serve as a form of dance therapy. 

Are you concerned for your child? Locked in front of the screen, learning to socialize digitally.  Are they at risk for depression, obesity, a lack of motivation?  Dance lessons can change that.  Discipline handed with a dose of glamour or companionship with a adult who is not their parent can change your child’s life.  Self-worth, confidence, exercise, accomplishment, who wouldn’t want these traits for their children?

Are you concerned for your parent?  Growing old, without exercise or a purpose.  Losing their friends, feeling alone, with no ambition?  Dancing is a cure for old age.  It’s been said to help stave of Alzheimers, keep the mind alert, provide a mild form of exercise, and it is a place your parents can share their lives.  It can help their posture, help strengthen their muscles and bones, help their balance, bring joy to their lives. 

Happiness, joy, community, escape, pride, accomplishment, grace, fun, balance, control, exercise, stimulation.   Who doesn’t strive for these things?  At any age, at any time.  Dance can help you heal. 


Dance can help heal your life.
Dance can help heal your life. Tim Emmott and Kaitlin Narlis.  Photo by Albert Parker @ParkWest Photography 2015