Actors dressed in cat costumes pose while they dance in CATS the musical

Dance For Your Health

While dance is something we can both do and watch for pleasure, the movement goes beyond entertainment.

It’s actually good for your body and mind.

“Dancing is excellent for your health, and it’s a wonderful example of an activity where art and sport meet,” said Dr. Joshua A. Metzl, MD, the head orthopedic physician for the Colorado Ballet, as well as an assistant team physician for the Denver Broncos, Colorado Rockies and Colorado Rapids. “Dance is a total body workout, including the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems, as well as the brain.”

Best part? You can dance just about anywhere, and for free-flowing movement no instruction is required. Of course it can help to take a class or become immersed in a great performance. No matter the path, now is the time to get up and shake your booty.

Why Dancing is So Good

Actors dressed in cat costumes pose while they dance in CATS the musical

Lexy Bittner, Chelsea Nicole Mitchell, Hyla Mayrose Perillo, Lauren Louis, and Alexia Waites in the 2021-2022 national tour of CATS (Photo By: Matthew Murphy, Murphymade)

Like with any exercise, dancing gets the blood and oxygen moving through the body, which can improve the condition of the heart and lungs. Building strength adds muscle tone, that in turn supports the bones, while giving the body more endurance and better range of motion. Stronger bones mean less risk of osteoporosis. And overall, dancing will improve coordination, agility and flexibility.

Let’s not skip the mental benefits. Exercise has long been associated with increasing serotonin, that hormone that makes us feel happy. It’s believed that dancing of any type helps the brain create new neural connections in the areas that control executive function, long-term memory and spatial recognition. Plus, it’s really fun.

Get Inspired

With Moulin Rouge! The Musical coming to the Buell Theatre, June 9-26, guests can not only bask in what Variety describes as “a spectacle that married different dance styles from the cancan and jazz to classic musical theatre,” but be inspired to find their own healthy movements. After all, any type of dance is good for the mind, body, and, said Dr. Metzl, social life.

A dancer wearing a leotard poses on a rock in a forest

Photo courtesy of the Colorado Conservatory of Dance

“I believe the dance community, including students, instructors, fellow dancers and dance enthusiasts, create a welcoming environment that benefits dancers and dance supporters alike,” he said. “Overall, the health benefits are tremendous.”

Moulin Rouge isn’t the only way to get inspired. There are dance performances and classes all over the city. The Colorado Ballet runs seasonally and has been inspiring future ballerinas since 1961. At the Colorado Conservatory of Dance in Broomfield, the program supports young choreographers, ballet and modern dance. And, of course, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Academy has been teaching generations of families about the fun and healing power of dance for 50 years.

According to Dr. Metzl all forms of dance are beneficial. Though, he adds, some styles like ballet require more rigorous and intensive training and preparation. But, no matter how it’s done, there is a benefit from dancing.

Prepare Your Body

While dancing is good for you and fun, it can cause injury. But don’t fear it, just prepare. “Most dance related injuries that present to my practice involve situations where a dancer has increased their volume too quickly without appropriate strength training or is simply dancing too frequently for what their body can tolerate,” advises Dr. Metz, who also works for UCHealth Steadman Hawkins Clinic Denver. “My best advice would be to consistently and regularly maintain core strength and to decrease dance volume or seek medical advice if discomfort persists.”

And stretch, lots of stretching. Be inspired by the feline movements in Cats after you see it May 24-29 in the Buell. Or you can simply add on a yoga routine before going hard on the dance floor, or perfect simple arm, leg and torso movements to get the blood flowing and muscles working.

Learn a New Step

No matter your preferred style of dancing, there are many great local schools and classes available.

A dancer poses while hanging from a harness above a Colorado landscape

Photo by Jamie Rifkin for Circus Collective

Burlesque Dance (ala Moulin Rouge! The Musical)

Circus Collective, a group of aerial dancers that offers acrobatic-inspired dance lessons.

Tease Studio, which offers burlesque, aerial and fitness classes

Ballroom Dance (ala My Fair Lady)

Hannah Kahn Dance Company, one of Denver’s finest professional modern dance troupes

Community Minded Dance, world-class arts education programs featuring global styles

Irish Dance (ala Riverdance)

Wick School of Irish Dance, run by champion dancer Linnane Wick since 1987

Celtic Steps Denver Dance Studio, run by Belfast-born Aisling Toal Casey and her husband Shaun Casey, who performed in Lord of the Dance in the late 1990s

Find Confidence

You don’t have to be a professional ballerina or have studied dance since childhood in order to reap the benefits of movement. Dancers come in all ages and sizes, the main point is to enjoy it and get your body moving.

“Dance is an art form that is beneficial from a very young age, to a professional level and even for senior citizens,” said Dr. Metz. “I would strongly encourage anyone that enjoys watching dance to participate.”

You don’t need a studio or class to start. Just throw on that track that makes your body want to zip around the kitchen or living room, and start dancing.