Friday, July 11, 2008

Dance Even If Nobody Is Watching

Following up on my recent posts on the amazing dancing of Katee Shean and Joshua Allen from So You Think You Can Dance, here is a fascinating post on the amazing benefits of dancing. In it, Tara Parker-Pope talks about Matt Harding, possibly my favorite dancer of all.

I am late to the Matt Harding fan club, but like four million other viewers before me, I can’t stop watching this man dance.

Mr. Harding is a 31-year-old YouTube sensation featured in The Times this week for an uplifting video that shows him dancing a sort of a jig, described by my colleague Charles McGrath as “an arm-swinging, knee-pumping step that could charitably be called goofy.” Mr. Harding dances alone, and he dances with lemurs, underwater and with children and crowds at various locations around the world.

While Mr. Harding probably isn’t the most graceful dancer you’ve ever seen, his video is a happy reminder that the benefits of dancing aren’t limited to physical exercise. A telling 2003 New England Journal of Medicine report showed a lower risk for dementia among people over 75 who regularly danced during leisure time. But what was so surprising about the report is that other types of physical exercise didn’t affect dementia risk — dancing was the only physical activity that made a difference.

Other studies have shown music plays an important role in depression. Dance therapy has been used to relieve anxiety about taking tests, and researchers are studying the tango to help patients with Parkinson’s. Dance therapy has been shown to improve the quality of life for breast cancer patients as well.

In addition to taking you on a gorgeous tour of some exotic and not-so-exotic locales, Mr. Harding’s video will leave you envious of his lightness of spirit. And it might even make you want to dance. To learn more about Mr. Harding, read the full story here, and watch his video below.

I've posted this video before, but here it is again:

Visit Matt's website, see this video interview where he describes how he came to dance around the world, and another video showing how he was able to dance with the Huli Wigmen in Paua New Guinea.

And don't forget to get out there and dance! This weekend is as good a time as any to start.

P.S. -- In writing this post, I just discovered Katee Shean attends Chapman University where GMU profs Vernon Smith and Ronald Rotunda have recently joined the faculty. As I wrote a month ago, all roads lead to Chapman.

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