Why do we dance Salsa?
Why do we choose a partner dance over a dance we can do on our own?
Why do we travel into the next city, the next county and beyond to get our “fix” of dancing?
And we all know Salsa is addictive. We crave it…we NEED it in our lives.
Not just because we have a passion for the music and moving our bodies.
Ask any regular dancer. It’s so much more than that.
It feels like like a compulsion…a drug
Well…to your brain it actually is!
When we dance we trigger an array of chemical, hormonal and physiological reactions which give us that dancer’s “high”.
There are the endorphins from physical movement.
There’s also Dopamine (our goal achieving, thrill seeking hormone) – In a brain sense, this works the same way and in the same place as cocaine and other narcotics. This gives us those high-flying, invincible, go-getting feelings – triggered by the pursuit of success in a skill.
There’s also oxytocin. This is our partner bonding “hugging” hormone – stimulated by physical touch and closeness.
It’s these chemical reactions and these feelings that we chase
And the reason why we crave social Salsa dancing so much.
But there’s more…
Human beings are wired for connection. Our brains need it to feel safe and secure, healthy and whole.
Specifically the anterior cingulate cortex (the evolutionary mammalian part of our brain) craves acceptance from other mammals. This is a deeply rooted primal herding instinct, as an animal alienated from the protection of the pack will most likely die. If this need isn’t met, a threat response is triggered in the amygdala (the brain’s panic alarm) which sets off a very real physiological stress response.
This isn’t to say that everyone who dances is socially isolated or inherently lonely – just that when we dance we connect with other people in way that’s physically real and very much in the present moment…not intertwined with the stories we’ve built around our real-life relationships or the pressures and expectations of other people in our lives.
When I was married, up until two years ago, our jobs meant that my husband and I were ships that passed in the night. The only time we really connected was on the dancefloor. Ironically, it was when I stopped dancing to work more in an attempt to rescue our finances that things went downhill.
The last two years for me have been pretty stressful and it’s only been the Salsa that’s kept my brain happy and connected enough to work through all the mundane and difficult stuff that’s been necessary to establish my new life as a single woman.
After the disconnect from many of the social circles that came as part of the original deal when I first got married, I realised that my social network was tiny…at least those I could call real friends.
Salsa has enabled me to establish a new social network based on people who like and respect me for who I am, and the way I show up on the dancefloor – fully engaged in the dance and giving the best of my real, authentic self.
I believe that’s ultimately why we dance – so we can be ourselves, express what we feel, and throw off the burdens we carry around with us during the day as we enjoy the rush of a heady cocktail of happy hormones!