Pilobolus is a dance troupe that I have long wanted to see in person, having caught glimpses of them on television. Saturday evening I had the pleasure of seeing them perform at the SUNY Purchase Performing Arts Center. In addition to sharing some of their shadow performances (see the video below for further explanation), they also danced in front of the screen.
Pilobolus is a troupe that utilizes a combination of acrobatics, contortions, and a variety of dance steps to create their form of modern dance. Creative, risk taking, trial and error, daring to be different – all of those describe a process that uses improvisation as a major tool in their dance development.
I have previously written about mirror neurons, and also about visualization. It turns out that, according to research on dance discussed in the DANA Foundation article listed below, “…learning by observing leads to action resonance and prediction that is the same as occurs with physical learning.” In other words, watching someone dance (this is where the mirror neurons and visualization kick in) can produce the same impact in the brain as trying to do the dance yourself. And the combination of observation followed by practice leads to the strongest learning. If you have ever taken a dance class then you know exactly how this plays out.
I have ALWAYS loved to dance. Our older son manifests this same love of dance movement. Give us a beat and we move our feet. Provide rhythm and the only work we have is to try and stay still. Two weeks ago I started doing Zumba, a combination of dancing to Latin beats while getting one heck of a cardio workout. Talk about releasing endorphins, and the benefits of learning new steps while coordinating body movement to music. Yup, Saturday mornings I get those neurons firing!
For more on dance and the brain:
- The DANA Foundation, 2008: Dance and the Brain
- Scientific American, June 2008: So You Think You Can Dance? : PET Scans Reveal Your Brain’s Inner Choreography
- New Horizons For Learning, June 2004: A Brain Compatible Approach to Studio Dance