by Saturday, March 26, 2016


When we start doing new movements, they require us to compensate. The illusion of perfect balance and grace in the most of the cases demands the creation of muscle imbalance and attention refers to the brain mechanisms that allow us to focus on particular aspects of the sensory environment to the relative exclusion of others. We act as a ‘detector’ we detect points in the space-enviroment to balance the body, we choose some parts of our body to involve more than others, we modulate  sensory attention processing the rhythm and the speed. Maintaining selective attention is difficult and our brain does not respond in a consistent way, muscles follow the brain. I start to think that is all about connections: we need one simple message, that comes from the brain to the muscles and we can not handle many inputs such as head+arms+legs+feet. Simple input message—> output movement. There is not art in this. The art arrives, if arrives, when the movement brings a emotion in the environment.  This is why we need to find our way to do the movement. We modify the movement in the best way our body can perform. Sometimes in class, i do a movement and I modify progressively with the class until everyone can do it and until looks esthetically and emotionally beautiful. At the list beautiful in my eyes :-).  As we dance we detect and map and out-put emotions/mq in the environment. Generate emotions trough the body movement is complex and it is a process feel genuine and look natural. Under a ‘thoughtful’ workout the brain constantly maps and re-maps his own body  and constantly adjusts the positions and the alignment in the environment, therefore is possible to experience ‘limitations’ around us. The playful part comes when we try to use the environment and what is in it: hang, squeeze, resist, bound, rebound. Not always we ‘act’ in a confident way, especially in the new movements. Why? Unfortunately ‘bad habits’ are in us, part of our fabulous imperfection and limitations. Our posture constant change from teenage years:

“Hey, this position feels bad, but it looks pretty nice for me, so I’m gonna keep doing it!” or “I know that sitting at a desk and using a mouse is bad for me, but what I can do? its my job!”. We all do. Those thoughts are not wise. I don’t know how we can become aware about our body and then forget…But it happens. We easily  accept the limitation of our bodies on the contrary we have difficulty to handle the freedom, free to move is scaring, because all the emotions comes out from the skin and we see ourselves as we are.


Changing long-formed habits requires clearing the compensation patterns we apply to ourselves. The challenge here is to be aware of what we are doing and reverse what is not good for us.  Why try to reverse something if I do not have pain? If you want to shape your body differently, it is safer and more productive to perform compensations starting from a more neutral state than from a position with muscle imbalances and dysfunction. Reversing postural dysfunction and movement compensation patterns happens, if you understand and you are motivated to do it,  just add a few specific exercises to your routine warm-up/cool-down, and embracing a balanced full-body training program. Dance helps with memory and repetitive moves calling the brain executive functions include the abilities to inhibit unwanted responses of the body, to plan ahead a sequence of mental steps or actions, and use and changing information for brief periods using the working memory. Like attention, executive function abilities provide a critical platform for the acquisition of domain-specific knowledge and skills in an discipline. Patterns: music patterns, movement patterns, small phrases of same movements combining in a different sequences is the key to re-programme the body and the postural habits. Dance can be performed as ‘exercises’ with a constant cognitive engagement and this improves strength, balance, flexibility as well as their cognitive performance.  I came across, thanks to Nicole (one of my dancer) to Alexander Lowen and his Bioenergetics book.  Bioenergetic Analysis is based on the concept that a person is a unitary being and that what happens in the mind must also be happening in the body. So If a person is depressed with thoughts of despair, helplessness and failure, his body will manifest a similar depressed attitude, evident in decreased impulse formation, reduced mobility and restricted breathing. All bodily functions will be depressed, including metabolism, resulting in lowered energy production. It is possible in some cases to improve one’s bodily functioning through a change in one’s mental attitude, but any change so induced will be temporary unless the underlying bodily processes are significantly changed.  Directly improving bodily functions such as breathing, moving, feeling and self-expression has an immediate and lasting effect on one’s mental attitude. In the final analysis, increasing a person’s energy is the fundamental change which the therapeutic process must produce if it is to reach its goal of freeing an individual from the restrictions of his past and the inhibitions of the present.  There is a direct correspondence between body and mind: if we re-organize the body, the mind can benefit and eventually the whole apparatus can act in sink. The brain become busy to organize the different input and eventually a new exploration will bring the dancer to use the body and the mind in a different way.


As a dancer and a person sensitive to the arts, I understand that using imagery and creative processes enables me to internalize movements; the abstraction tricks the brain and avoid the explicit control. Movement+visualization+props become a multi-disciplinary work and can include, dance, neuroscience, interactive digital media,  kinesiology/biomechanics, biomechanical engineering, experimental psychology, rehabilitation science…  Within the human body sensory feedback informs motor receptors, perception and cognitive while endocrine outputs impact neural responses and tissue degradation. Infact, evidence is growing that cognition is fundamentally embodied at all age levels and stages of development.

Who have experienced a neural system issue: a stroke, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, Parkinson disease, Multiple Sclerosis, cerebral palsy, or emotional issues such as neglecting, abandon, repression, depression  express the dis-connections of the cognitive system with paralysis, spasticity, postural control, complains, incapacity to organize the movement. Listing these deficits makes us aware about the strong presence in dance of cognitive deficits that impact impulse control, decision-making, and motor planning.

A 2003 study in the New England Journal of Medicine by researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine discovered that dance can improve brain health. The study investigated the effect leisure activities had on the risk of dementia in the elderly.

The researchers looked at the effects of 11 different types of physical activity, including cycling, golf, swimming, and tennis, but found that only one of the activities studied—dance—lowered participants’ risk of dementia. According to the researchers, dancing involves both a mental effort and social interaction and that this type of stimulation helped reduce the risk of dementia. In a small study undertaken in 2012, researchers at North Dakota’s Minot State University found that the Latin-style dance program known as Zumba improves mood and certain cognitive skills, such as visual recognition and decision-making. Other studies show that dance helps reduce stress, increases levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin, and helps develop new neural connections, especially in regions involved in executive function, long-term memory, and spatial recognition. Dance has been found to be therapeutic for patients with Parkinson’s disease, as optimize and re-organize the link between cognitive system and motor planning. As a personal experience both my grandmothers died with Parkinson and also my father in law, and as Parkinson’s disease progresses, an increasing number of these cells die off, drastically reducing the amount of dopamine available. Dance as form of rhythmic stimulation and as a pattern repetition helps your body to keep the coordination, even in lackness of dopamine. In routines, a series of fixed rhythms are presented and we move to the rhythms, sometimes we work same routines in different speed, to let the body perform a different experience and environment map. Sound and rhythmic technique has on people with movement disorders significant improvements.

Dopamine, serotonine, speed, understanding, knowledge, emotions, Dance requires a great degree of coordination not only between the different limbs of the body but also between the individual and fellow dancers, perception and action, and time and space. As an example, most dancers can relate to the experience of showing up to a technique class in a new studio, progressing with ease through the warm up or barre exercises, and then being expected to perfectly perform long and complex sequences of steps that have been rapidly demonstrated in the most cursory manner. Dancers’ ability to transform  visual or verbal information into highly sophisticated and executed movements has potential value to scientists and to us when we get older and start to fight with our memory. Both novice and highly experienced dancers are related with complex movements. Movements are learned, remembered, and reproduced.


The study of dance improvisation provides another fruitful paradigm for investigating action production as the brain works to explore properties of the motor system with principles of aesthetic experience to create movements with no predetermined motor program.  Not only can scientists learn about the coordination and expression of complex actions by quantifying dancers’ behavioral performance, but also careful measurement how the human body is capable of  performing such complex movements with limited information. This way to work provides a great benefit to the learning-memory capacity of everyone. Repeat new moves and explore new sequences can change your attitude and your mind. You can stop to ‘hang up’ shoulders and have less fear, use the hips and the core in your life rather then close and protect, shift your weight in the space feeling the sense of appartenance and use of the environment.

I like to thank you all my dancers for the fantastic opportunity I have to research movements and emotions… THANKS to have the joy of dance together!

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