Who benefits more, women or men?
In social dancing, the Follow role automatically gains a benefit, by making hundreds of split-second decisions as to what to do next, sometimes unconsciously so. Women don’t simply follow, they interpret the signals their partners are giving them, and this requires intelligence and decision-making, which is active, not passive.
This benefit is greatly enhanced by dancing with different partners, not always with the same one. With different dance partners, you have to adjust much more and be aware of more variables. This is great for staying smarter longer.
But men, you can also match her degree of decision-making if you choose to do so.
- Really pay attention to your partner and what works best for her. Notice what is comfortable for her, where she is already going, which signals are successful with her and which aren’t, and constantly adapt your dancing to these observations. That’s rapid-fire, split-second decision making.
- Don’t lead the same old patterns the same way each time. Challenge yourself to try new things each time you dance. Make more decisions more often.
- The huge side-benefit is that your partners will have much more fun dancing with you when you are attentive to their dancing and constantly adjusting for their comfort and continuity of motion. And as a result, you’ll have more fun, too.
Those who fully utilize their intelligence in dancing, at all levels, love the way it feels. Spontaneous leading and following both involve entering a flow state. Both leading and following benefit from a highly active attention to possibilities.
That’s the most succinct definition for intelligent dancing: a highly active attention to possibilities.
The best Leads appreciate the many options that the Follow must consider every second, and respect and appreciate the Follow’s input into the collaboration of partner dancing. The Follow is finely attuned to the here-and-now in relaxed responsiveness, and so is the Lead.
Once this highly active attention to possibilities, flexibility, and alert tranquility are perfected in the art of dance partnering, dancers find it even more beneficial in their other relationships, and in everyday life.
Studies make another important suggestion: do it often. Seniors who did crossword puzzles four days a week had a measurably lower risk of dementia than those who did the puzzles once a week. If you can’t take classes or go out dancing four times a week, then dance as much as you can. More is better.
And do it now, the sooner the better. It’s essential to start building your cognitive reserve now so don’t wait — start building it now.
-From Richard Powers, Stanford Dance