Endorphins can make a brutal ballet still feel beneficial
It’s not unusual for a ballet dancer to sustain injury while performing. Women’s pointe shoes aren’t designed for ergonomics, leaving dancers with bruises, bunions, cramps and fractures without any breaks in their performance schedule. While dancers resort to a variety of pain management techniques, the rigorous dancing itself may help them feel better, especially if they get along with their peers in the process.
Elevated by endorphins
Dancing in a group seems to trigger endorphins, which elevates mood while lowering one’s sensitivity to pain. A recent study found two main factors in determining how much of a boost a person got when dancing- how connected they felt to their fellow dancers, and how much exertion they put into their movement. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a world-class dancer performing Swan Lake to benefit from these pleasant neurotransmitter, as even students in groups of three experienced a measurable change after a fairly basic dance party.
Participants were interviewed about their perceptions of their relationships with other participants, and given a pain sensitivity test before dancing. Since endorphins are hard to measure directly, pain and a sense of communal bonding were used as proxy measures. The groups were then asked to participate in a variety of dances, such as full-bodied movements or reduced movements while sitting in a chair. They were also dancing either synchronized as a group, or purposely synchronized from each other. The more effort and coordination, the more people’s pain tolerance and sense of community increased. On the opposite end of the spectrum, small, seated movements apart from one’s cohort actually lowered participants’ pain tolerance.
We’re suckers for socializing
Aside from making dancing en pointe slightly more bearable, this may also explain why many popular dances resonate with people. Doing the YMCA or Macarena, or anything as a group seems to play off our bonding instincts as a social species. As a reward for this pro-social behavior, our brains get a buzz, while wallflowers may be missing out on more than they realize.
Source: Rhythm without the blues: how dance crazes make us feel a step closer by Ian Sample, The Guardian