Tag Archives: dance

dancing around the world

Ballet. Tap. Jazz. Hip-hop. Ballroom. Contemporary. The list of dance styles goes on. The uniqueness of this art form unifies people across the world. The mere fact that I have traveled across the world and yet feel at home when I see the dancers perform speaks volumes to how unifying it is.

The fluid and intentional motions in contemporary paired with an intense emotional story characterizes the grace behind this style of dance. During the Fli dance spectacle in Paris, I was really reminded of how the style contemporary covers so many different aspects of dance. The combination of technique from ballet to the street steps of hip-hop in this performance really resonated with me. I remember when I would dance, contemporary was one of my favorites because of the style variation. This style pulls in aspects of almost all styles of dance to create an unique and open array of dance moves. One dance could incorporate numerous hip-hop moves and another could integrate jazz and ballet, but they are both constituted as contemporary. During this spectacle, all I could think about was how much I missed dancing up on a stage in front of numerous people.


A few days later we also saw a hip hop dance battle take place in the streets of Paris. I was ecstatic for this because hip-hop is my absolute favorite dance style! I think my favorite part aside from the dancing was that I was able to teach Dr. Frenzel a little about the different styles within hip-hop and how each dancer was incorporating different styles during their respective battle. We talked about how hip-hop has a rich history with high amounts of integrated technique from popping, break dancing, whacking, and more! As I was standing there watching these amazing dancers, I wanted to just scream out to cheer them on, and I would have loved to join them out on the floor, but the highly intoxicated man went ahead and did that for me. He was kind escorted away after his hilarious interruption.


The big take away from watching these dancers was their ability to move. I stood there and wondered, “How could I ever do that? Because I surely cannot even think about attempting some of these moves.” Since I have devoted my life to science since college has started, watching the dancers made me think of how their sensorimotor system works in producing dance moves. Their specificity and texture of movement holistically defines how dance is such an intricate art form. These artists really must have some enhanced connectivity that aide their precise, synchronized movement to the rhythm of the music.

One study in 2015 took the idea that musicians improved motor, perceptual, and sensorimotor skills compared to controls and applied it to dancers (Karpati et al., 2015). The dancers and musicians participated in different perceptual and sensorimotor tasks to determine who performed better in these tasks, ultimately measuring increased sensorimotor ability. The results showed that dancers showed better results in a dance imitating task while musicians performed better in a rhythm synchronization task, concluding that each artist has specialized sensorimotor skills (Karpati et al., 2015).

Building off of this study, another study conducted research to investigate if dancers with prolonged training have improved functional connectivity in the cortico-basal ganglia loops. (Li et al., 2015). Series of fMRI scans showed that long-term dancers (10 year or more) have increased functional connectivity densities (FCD) in the primary somatosensory and motor cortices which are involved in motor execution and learning. Additionally, increased FCD were found in the cortico-basal ganglia loops which indicate improved motor coordination and integration. There was also a significant increase of FCD in the putamen, which is implicated in the rhythm of dance involving controlled, metric movements (Li et al., 2015).  This study further implicated that dancers do have enhanced function in brain regions that are involved with sensorimotor function.

Although there is not much extensive research in this field, especially pertaining to dance, I agree with the fact that dancers have enhanced connectivity in sensorimotor brain regions to facilitate the movement that is being learned and executed. Maybe next time I see street dancers I’ll join in! Or maybe I’ll just stick to going to the studio to dance!


Karpati, F. J., Giacosa, C., Foster, N. E. V., Penhune, V. B., & Hyde, K. L. (2016). Sensorimotor integration is enhanced in dancers and musicians. Experimental Brain Research, 234(3), 893–903. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-015-4524-1

Li, G., He, H., Huang, M., Zhang, X., Lu, J., Lai, Y., … Yao, D. (2015). Identifying enhanced cortico-basal ganglia loops associated with prolonged dance training. Scientific Reports, 5(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/srep10271

All images were taken by me.


So You Think You Can Dance: Paris Edition

A hip-hop dance battle wasn’t on my list of places to go or things to do in Paris. But after watching my first live hip-hop dance performance, I can say that I don’t regret it one bit. As a dancer myself, I admire watching dance performances because I’ve been in their footsteps. However, the dance I do, which is called raas, a classical Indian dance where we spin dandiya sticks, is drastically different from hip-hop. Or so I thought…

Our team dancing at one of the competitions we attended.

The hip-hop battle, called Onze Bouge, which translates to 11 moves, took place at Place Léon Blum on a Saturday night. When we got there, the dance battles already started, and we squeezed into the crowd to watch. Right next to the speakers, I felt my heart pounding but watching the dancers reminded me of when I was on stage, dancing in front of hundreds. However, even with the stress of competing in front of others, I always thought of dancing as a stress reliever. Interestingly, there has been research conducted on the role of dance reducing some types of stress. In one study, researchers looked at how dance or movement training (DMT) in older adults influenced their cortisol, a well-known stress hormone. They found that the DMT group compared to the control group, the adults that didn’t do any DMT, had lower cortisol post training. (Vrinceanu et al 2019)

Another similar study had the same group, DMT, but the researchers studied the effect of dance and movement on declining cognitive abilities and depressive symptoms. The sample of older adults was randomly organized into DMT, exercise, or control groups. The main findings were that DMT significantly decreased depression, loneliness, and negative mood while improving daily functioning and cortisol levels. These findings suggest that dance can be a therapy for older adults to improve daily functioning in aspects where depression and stress might impact them. (Ho et al. 2018) I, for one, know that I definitely feel my mood lighten and my stress levels subside after dance practice.

Dancers’ brains were also active when watching other dance performances more than non-dancers’ brains. A study states that dancers’ brains did differ in function and structure, but only in areas where the dancers’ used their brains more. Their results showed that dancers themselves had activated an area of the brain called an action observation network (AON) more than non-dancers when viewing dance. The AON is a network of brain regions that are involved in motor and sensory skills. (Burzynska et al 2017)

The areas of the brain that were active in dancers watching other dancers perform.

Other than the connection between the brain and dance, another fascinating characteristic I noticed that overlapped between the battle and my experience with raas competitions was the judging. Some of the stress, or at least the stress I experience, comes from this aspect of competing. However, I tend to notice that the judges tend to usually pick the teams with the most elaborate steps or at least the steps that look externally impressive, which intuitively makes sense. And there’s science behind it to prove this. A study looked at hip hop dance and how expert vs. non-expert dancers’ range of motion influenced the judges’ scores. The researchers found that the range of motion of the dancer’s body was highly correlated to a higher judging score, stating that scores are usually based on outwardly appealing elements. The (Sato et al. 2016)

A young hip-hop dancer performing a move that requires a high range of motion.

Based on all these research studies on dance’s impact on people’s bodies, brains, and how it influences the judges, I was surprised to find that dance has been a popular topic in a lot of science research! As a dancer and someone who loves watching dance performances, I was intrigued by all the science on how dancing impacts your brain and body. France is a center for all things artistic from dance to paintings to architecture. Getting to watch dance in Paris was unexpected but rewarding because I got to experience a taste of hip-hop in France. However, I learned that, for me, dance is universal, and whether it’s in Paris or Atlanta, dance has its appeal all around the world.


Vrinceanu T, Esmail A, Berryman N, Predovan D, Vu TTM, Villalpando JM, Pruessner JC, Bherer L. (2019) Dance your stress away: comparing the effect of dance/movement training to aerobic exercise training on the cortisol awakening response in healthy older adults. Stress. :1-9.

Ho RTH, Fong TCT, Chan WC, Kwan JSK, Chiu PKC, Yau JCY, Lam LCW. (2018) Psychophysiological effects of Dance Movement Therapy and physical exercise on older adults with mild dementia: A randomized controlled trial. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci.

Sato N, Nunome H, Ikegami Y. (2016) Key motion characteristics of side-step movements in hip-hop dance and their effect on the evaluation by judges. Sports Biomech. 15(2):116-27.

Burzynska, A. Z., Finc, K., Taylor, B. K., Knecht, A. M., & Kramer, A. F. (2017). The Dancing Brain: Structural and Functional Signatures of Expert Dance Training. Frontiers in human neuroscience11, 566. (2nd image from figure within article)

Watson, Galadriel. “Dancing Hones Your Body, But What Does It Do to Your Brain?” Dance Magazine, Dance Magazine, 30 Jan. 2018, www.dancemagazine.com/dancers-brains-2523641417.html.

First and last images were taken by me