Dance connects us. It connects us physically as humans moving together, it connects us to ourselves and our bodies, thus connecting us to others based on empathy (mirror neurons).
To truly understand empathy we must first understand mirror neurons. They allow us to have empathy for another human being through the imitation of movement or behavior (Chaiklin & Wengrower). This makes it possible to pass on behavior through generations, but is also seen in how we can feel for another person by imitating and physically moving in proximity to them. Neurologists have validated empathy as a physical phenomenon (Helen Pain). It is rooted in interactions with each other. When we understand a person and ourselves through reflection while interacting, we can gain caring and connection with people. This then makes us (not everyone) feel compassion and empathy. It also builds confidence and the ability to be vulnerable, which in turn, allows us to feel supported and strong in situations. Our ability to be vulnerable is directly linked to our ability to feel strong or confident. So in situations that you feel vulnerable, that you are supported or cared for, you can gain confidence in as well.
Photo by: Graf Kirk
How does this then benefit the dancer? By feeling that you will be understood by a group of people, then gives you the emotional strength and motivation to one; show up and be present in the group, then the strength and empathy you feel is then validated and reflected back to you by the group. This is then reflected back to you as a participant, and the loop just keeps compounding. The more the validation of confidence and empathy the stronger the connection becomes. This creates a wonderful environment for freedom of expression, tremendous happiness and incredible bonds that will last the participants lifetime. Moving and dancing together in a group is one of the most uplifting activities you can do. It is ageless and timeless. It doesn't matter your age, your differences in movement, or even your ability to conceptualize movement. Dance is a an incredible empathy and community building activity. In my opinion, it should be implemented in any place or organization where social connection and empathy is essential for the success or the organization. Places for human mental, physical and emotional health, learning and the care of human beings. For example: schools, all grades, in Senior Centers and community centers, hospital patients and workers would benefit from movement. Teachers, caregivers and people who work for social services would benefit and so would the people they work with. Basically, anyone who works with people would benefit from a dance or movement class. Society as a whole would gain better understanding, greater compassion for itself and others through a dance and movement initiative. Period.