Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Grace Overcomes, Grace Survives.

Do you want to maintain your love of dance? Then, I recommend that you dance for survival.  Dance to create the inner happy hormones, such as endorphins, for a lifetime of enjoyment.  From an evolutionary perspective, grace's link to survival has been overlooked by the scientific community. Unfortunately, the psychological research community also remains mostly in the dark to the importance of grace.  Yet, grace is necessary in every animal movement if the animal is to survive. Also, authentic grace--as all survival behaviors--belongs no more to females than males.  Primordial grace starts from its epicenter in the survival of all species, and although sometimes grace is beautifully represented in the arts, all too often the outward performance of grace creates an adrenaline "rush" and cortisol stress hormones, mixed with mood elevating and calming hormones.  I often hear people complain of a dancer who "looks good" but only causes their partners stress with a barrage of cool moves, or the outwardly "graceful" person feels strangely awkward.  I maintain that authentic grace creates mostly endorphins, the "happy hormones" which elevate our mood. Endorphins tell you that you are truly being graceful.

Grace is beautiful for a reason
So if grace's primordial origins are in survival, there is a reason why dancing tango feels to some as "addictive":  Nature wants us to keep practicing grace for our own survival.  The scientific research on exercise and the release of endorphins is terribly flawed.  You have heard it before:  "Exercise elevates mood."  But look carefully at any research article on this subject because the research has not separated the more important element of what is actually releasing the endorphins!  It is grace!  How do we dancers know this?  Slow, graceful movements release endorphins even while a person maintains a slow heart rate. Tango, tai chi, a meditative walk or some yoga stances--all can create a euphoria with these slow, graceful movements.  Sometimes the survival run of an animal happens to look graceful to those observing perfectly synchronized movements of an animal who has evolved to be graceful or die from lack of grace.  Of course grace can and often is paired with exercise; however, all of the Eight Elements of Movement can be done slowly and with grace to create the same cascade of endorphin release.  Why?  Grace is rewarded in order that we have a better chance at survival whether we are a cheetah or gazelle.  Do you want to "survive" as a basketball player, mixed martial arts fighter or a dancer?  Grace had better be on your side!

Psychotropic drugs are toxins; grace is not
I "prescribe" graceful movement for my clients as a therapist because their doctor or even psychiatrist too often has not even mentioned or even required them to seek therapy!  This, in my opinion, is medical malpractice in many cases!  Often a person could be treated for many psychological disorders without psychotropic medications at all, according to the American Psychological Association.  What patients with depression and many other disorders need is medication in support of therapy and daily practice of movement/gracefulness not the other way around.   A larger-than-prescribed dose of psychotropic medication is dangerous; the effects of grace are less likely to put you in the emergency room.

Look for a teacher of authentic grace
Even if uncovering latent dance talent is difficult and rarely done, at least, look for a teacher who is doing this.  Teaching grace is a high calling.  Why?  Graceful movement is extremely rewarding to people, and to anyone who is partnering with you in any tandem movement--especially tango. Elevated mood may save a marriage or even a suicidal person.  If one truly responds somatically to the music (dances) and does this gracefully, this is by far the most powerful method for the thinking animal to enjoy the ecstasy of movement.  Future brain scans will prove this.  But we don't have to wait for bumbling research scientists who still are in the dark about grace to prove this.  We know that the Three M's of tango (Music, Movement and eMbrace) allow us to resolve many of the psychological tragedies we all endure and remember.  Homo sapiens need to move gracefully for their own survival.  Dance is the highest expression of this uniquely human expression of grace. Dance is more than a hobby or an "addiction."  Dance is an expression of a need--the need to survive under the stress of physical and psychological stress.  The great genres of music and dance in the Americas, including tango, have their genesis from the oppression of slavery. Grace overcomes.  Grace survives.

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Photo credit of cheeteh/gazelle:

Practice challenge:  To prove for yourself the power of grace to positively elevate your mood, talk to a partner about going super slow while dancing tango at a practica.  No mirror watching!  Feel grace from within.  It may transform your dance after you visited the outskirts of Nirvana.  There, grace always starts within.

Other reading:  More on happy hormones: