What Makes People Dance?
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What Makes People Dance?

Believe it or not, rhythmic bodily movement is instinctive.

What Makes People Dance?
Gainesville Scene

When we dance, a passing sensation streaks through our bodily selves, producing a small hop, a shift in weight or a step forward. When suddenly propelled by rhythm, we spin and stretch along with the beat, letting our bodies respond to the music we feel. Anyone who has gone to a concert or club and felt the pulsing bass knows it’s hard to hold still when you’re feeling the groove!

Why do we like movement so much? Or better yet, what is it about music that makes us want to dance? Whether you have two left feet or are a break-dancing king, rhythmic bodily movement is instinctive.

Humans have been dancing since the dawn of creation; the ability to dance may have been a factor in survival for our prehistoric ancestors. Those who were well coordinated and rhythmic may have had a distinct evolutionary advantage.

Although we are no longer Neanderthals bustin’ a move around the fire, dancing is still a big part of our culture. The reasons why we have continued to dance throughout the centuries goes a lot deeper than just a catchy song. Music is known to stimulate pleasure and reward areas in our brains. The amount of activation in these areas matches up with how much we enjoy the tunes. In addition, music activates the cerebellum, at the base of the brain, which is involved in the coordination and timing of movement.

For those of us who don’t speak science very well, this might explain it better.

Some reward areas in the brain are related to motor areas. Gaps in the rhythmic structure provides us with an opportunity to physically inhabit and fill in those gaps with our own body movement.

People like dancing to a regular, predictable beat with some pauses or gaps. We like rhythms that fall between predictability and complexity.

When a rhythm offers enough regularity so we can easily perceive the underlying beat, participants are subconsciously encouraged to synchronize their bodies to the music by swinging their shoulders or bobbing their heads. This is why funk, EDM and many hip-hop and pop songs are very dance-able: They have easy rhythms to follow. Not too fast, not too slow, just right.

There are many scientific reasons and studies on why people dance, but what it all boils down to is people dance simply because it’s fun and a great way to socialize. No matter what kind of dancing you do – professionally, recreationally or in your bedroom when no one is watching – it is ultimately a shared human experience. Dance helps us better understand our common humanity and the people around us because it is something we can all relate to on one level or another.

Normal day-to-day life has restrictive movements. We sit in offices, walk our dogs and stand in lines. We don't let our bodies' movements stray far from routine activities, but when we dance, all that changes. When such an impulse courses through us, it relates us to ourselves in new ways.

Sometimes the movement that we are erupts in such spontaneous bursts it frees us. It is dance, and dance is essential to exploring how our bodies interact with the world around us.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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