Dancing is good for the mind, body and soul

No matter what your age or physical ability, taking a turn on the dance floor can help you gain physical and mental health.

According to a scholarly review in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, there are several benefits to older adults regularly dancing. Benefits include better balance, increased aerobic power, lower body muscle endurance and strength in addition to better flexibility, agility and gait.

And, it’s fun.

John Millar, owner of Newport House Bed and Breakfast in Williamsburg, could not agree more. He dances and hosts regular Scottish country dance and English country dance sessions in the Newport House’s ballroom every Tuesday.

Research shows that English country in particular could help deter Alzheimer’s disease because it uses spatial concepts, he said.

“When dancing it, you have to thinking where you are going to be next. This is good for the brain. There is a study that showed very few people (who dance English country) are coming down with Alzheimer’s disease,” Millar said.

The 72-year-old historian said English country dancing appeals to him “because it is fun and it goes way back to the Magna Carta in 1230 A.D. Imagine the historic continuum.”

It is also good for the soul, he said.

“It picks up your spirits being in that type of social environment,” Millar said.

Millar and his wife have been dancing English and Scottish country since 1974. But he said anyone can get started at any age.

“We have a man in his 80s who comes,” he said.

Retired science librarian Karen Berquist, 68, followed a slightly different dance routine. Her love for Contra dancing started with her love for folk music.

Contra dancing gets its roots from English country dance, Scottish country dance and French dance styles. Some say it is similar to square dance. Five couples dance and a caller directs dancers through a series figures, all set to folk music, she said.

Berquist dances on the first Saturday of each month at Norge Hall, but the group takes July and August off.

“We start with a walk through of every dance. We have different levels people can chose. This makes it accessible to everyone. All they need is to be able to follow directions and have a sense of the music,” she said.

“The goal is for everyone to have a good time,” Berquist added.

She enjoys the physical benefits, but mostly, Berquist enjoys the multigenerational social aspects.

“We have folks in their 80s, in their 30s and in between. We also have a lot of dancers who have their grandchildren dancing with them. There is such joy in the room filled with music and dancers,” she said.

Give it a try

English country dancing and Scottish country dancing takes place from 8 p.m-10 p.m. every Tuesday at The Newport House Bed and Breakfast, 710 S. Henry St.

Contra dancing takes place in Norge is the first Saturday of the month — except July and August — at 7:30 p.m. in Norge Community Hall, 7402 Richmond Road.

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