When was the last time you danced? As adults we tend to lose connection with moving our bodies through dance. Dance can bring joy and strengthen our connection to physical exercise, but did you know that dance sparks new brain cells?
Dancing combines the therapeutic power of music with physical activity and is now being studied as a pathway to enhance learning. As with any cardio-based workout, dancing causes the release of feel-good neurochemicals and endorphins. When combining dance and music, there is an added bonus of activating the primal reward centers in the brain. A Harvard study concluded that dance constitutes a “pleasure double play” in your brain.
During typical workouts, like running on a treadmill or spinning, your brain essentially turns off. And while these workouts provide physical benefits such as the release of feel-good, and stress-reducing neurochemicals, you lose out on cognitive gains because the brain is disengaged from actively participating.
Dance activates the sensory and motor circuits of the brain and also activates the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of the brain primarily responsible for emotions and memory. Whenever you dance, it can subconsciously remind you of good feelings at other times when doing it, thereby improving your sense of wellbeing.
Knowing the science behind the health benefits of dance, the Fine Arts Department is pleased to reinstate after-school enrichment classes in dance in partnership with the After-School Exploratory program.
Various classes will be offered this Fall on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays after school for students in JK 2 - grade 6 and will begin October 3rd (registration will be available soon). The dance classes will be taught by Missy Thompson, who joined the Fine Arts Department three years ago as Choreographer of the MS Musical and has been teaching dance in various capacities within the Fine Arts curriculum.
Missy is a graduate of Indiana University, and holds a B.S. in Kinesiology-Contemporary Dance. She performed eight seasons with Dance Kaleidoscope and attended the 2016 Martha Graham Summer Training Intensive in NYC on scholarship, nominated by David Hochoy. Missy choreographed several pieces, performed by DK, at the Indy Fringe Festival and Spirit and Place Festival.
Her dance training includes Modern Dance, Ballet and has performed works by: Paul Taylor, Martha Graham, Twyla Tharp, Martha Whittman, and Elizabeth Shea. She has studied under: Elizabeth Shea, Laura Poole, Gwendolyn Hamm, Roberta Wong, Jennifer Adam, Justin Zuschlag, and Selene Carter, among many other guest instructors at Indiana University, Texas Woman’s University and the Rhythm Nation Performing Arts Studio.
Missy was highly involved in the DK dance education program and taught classes in: Creative Movement (ages 3-5; Ballet (ages 5-9); and Jazz (ages 5-9). She continues working as an Independent Choreographer, Dance Teacher, and Movement Consultant, for high school music/marching programs, independent performing ensembles, and competitive Drum Corps ranging from local to international.
In addition to her dance expertise, Missy has an impressive breadth of skills in other performance areas, which includes: Colorguard – dance, flag and rifle; Competitive Gymnastics – training level 8; Vocal Training – classical and pop; and Instrumental Training – Oboe and English Horn.
Director of Fine Arts
2015. Edwards, S. Dancing and the Brain - Harvard Medical School. https://hms.harvard.edu/news-events/publications-archive/brain/dancing-brain#:~:text=Other%20studies%20show%20that%20dance,term%20memory%2C%20and%20spatial%20recognition. (site visited May 6, 2022)
2016. Hanna, J. D. PhD. What Educators and Parents Should Know About Neuroplasticity, Learning and Dance. https://sharpbrains.com/blog/2016/01/22/what-educators-and-parents-should-know-about-neuroplasticity-learning-and-dance/ (site visited on May 6, 2022)