You might not think of yourself as a dancer. Even the mere thought of dancing may cause your palms to begin to perspire. But growing scientific data indicates that getting up and dancing with others has many benefits. We recently found that dancing to the beat of others increases pain tolerance. Additionally, it made them feel closer to other people. This may be advantageous for dance movement therapies, which are already showing promise in the treatment of dementia and Parkinson’s disease. In addition to the music-based therapy presently provided to autistic children, synchronized and physically taxing dance therapy may also promote social engagement. Humans have a natural sensitivity to music; when we hear a fast beat, we want to get up and dance. At a concert or while listening to music on the radio, you could find yourself bobbing your head in time. Even babies carry out this action. Humans have engaged in group dances for a very long time. With the popularity of dance events like Zumba and flash mobs, collective dancing—an activity that requires syncing with both the musical beat and other dancers—shows no signs of slowing down. Significant debate surrounds the question of whether our affinity for dancing has an evolutionary basis. It definitely affects how we select our romantic partners and interact with other groups, particularly those who are rivals (think of the highly synchronized Hakka). One of the most frequently cited justifications for why we dance is that it gives us opportunities to interact socially.
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