Degree Name

BA

Department

Dance

College

Fine Arts and Communications

Defense Date

2021-06-02

Publication Date

2021-06-07

First Faculty Advisor

Shani Robison

First Faculty Reader

Rebekka Matheson

Honors Coordinator

Brent Keck

Keywords

ballet, dance, neuroscience, fixed ballet training, meditation, contemplative practice

Abstract

Why dance? This thesis investigates and provides arguments for prioritizing different dance training methods and styles across a person’s lifespan for maximum neurological and mental benefit. Beyond the interpersonal, motivational, and creative skills it delivers, dance training provides significant neural benefits for the developing adolescent brain (ages 10-24). Additionally, there are significant implications for dance’s aid in the prevention or delay of symptoms of healthy aging, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.

According to the synthesis of research provided in this thesis, fixed ballet training is an optimal form of ballet training for adolescents because of its features consistent with contemplative practice. Contemplative practice exercises volitional control to sustain focus on a particular subject or action, an optimal activity for developing focal networks in the adolescent brain. Furthermore, contemplative practice induces plasticity changes in the brain, which have shown to improve sustained attention, putting students on a better path for academic success.

On the other end of the lifespan spectrum, elderly individuals, aging either healthily or rapidly, can benefit significantly from social dance, which exercises the brain’s plasticity to create new, stable connections—allowing the brain to slow aging to a degree where quality of life is improved substantially. Further, social dance promotes a learning-filled, creative, and social environment optimal for aging individuals who typically lose access to necessary social and creative interactions. Thus, these dance-focused therapeutic activities, accessible to all, must be more widely encouraged for society’s youth and the elderly for the development and therapeutic benefits they provide.

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