The 30-Minute Dance Party Prescription


Life can be stressful. Really stressful. But I refuse to get stuck there. Want my secret prescription?

Busting some moves! The 30-minute dance party is my favorite way to lighten up when I’m taking myself too seriously…or when the weight of the world bears down hard.

My move busting days began as early as I can remember. My single mom, raising 2 kids in the early 1970s in a NYC housing project got me started. She’d come home after a long work day, kick off her shoes before she was even all the way through the apartment door, hang up her coat and then on the music would go while dinner was cooking. Not super loud. But cranked enough to make it an honest-to-goodness dance party. Usually 50’s music. Or Motown. We had loud dance parties most New Years Eves. I could shock you with how many 50’s and Motown songs I know. I’ve bet my husband on it before. He always loses. I know a lot of them.

Dancing figured into my pre-MD years as a midwife. Not only did I dance during my own labors, but I had a dance mix prepared for me by this fantastic Latino percussionist. Slipped into the mix were a few excellent baby birthing songs for those times when the energy and the labor got a little stuck. The Beatles Twist and Shout and UB40’s Red Red Wine were once instrumental in facilitating a stalled birth. The parents, my assistant and I were all about the hip opening moves one humid summer night around 2am in Atlanta about 15 years ago! That wasn’t the first or the last time a baby was danced outta’ the womb.

“Sling dance” style!

Naturally, my kids, and now my granddaughter, too, are no strangers to my dance party ways. I’ve danced my granddaughter to sleep in her front pack when nothing else would settle her. And how great is it that my daughter-in-law loves dance parties, too?!

My med school BFF for life, Michelle Collins and I took quite a few bootie shaking study breaks…often to Prince. Michelle is a radiologist who previously went to a performing arts high school for dance. She can move. Me? I’m just a girl who  took up belly dancing for a short time in second grade – I actually did a performance in the auditorium in front of my entire elementary school. And I once won a dance-contest to “Play That Funky Music White Boy.” I can’t move like Michelle. But I love to dance… Some of my best dance parties are solo. The first thing I usually do when I get some time alone is blast some music and dance until I’m pink-cheeked and out-of-breath! Then I settle down to write or study.

Music? I still love 50’s Rock ‘n Roll. That’s what’s playing on my Pandora as I write. My feet are tapping. But I also have a mean Led Zeppelin air guitar dance routine. And you should see my Aerosmith “walk this way” moves.Prince? MJ? The Stones? The Temptations? Chaka Kahn? Sister Sledge? Shakira? TLC? The Bee Gees? Michael Franti? Swing, Reggae, Hip Hop? Oh yeah. Bring ‘it on.

My med school BFF is, I am sure, reading this and groaning. She’s seen my air guitar. And my dance moves. I know she thinks I should enter a national contest (not!). She loves me anyway. So does my husband who is regularly subject (dare I say hostage?) to my modified car trip dance parties while I am the passenger and he the driver. It makes the miles pass faster! Did I mention that these dance parties are usually accompanied by my exceptionally loud singing?

Michelle and me during a dance party study break…I can only imagine what we were dancing to here…

Dancing is a common stress relief tool among doctors. When I was in Haiti, I worked with, a smart, elegant, skilled obstetrician who happened to keep his I-Phone in his pocket, music playing, during surgeries. All scrubbed in and focused, this mostly Haitian Creole- speaking doctor would operate while singing to Beyoncé.  And every now and again I would catch a glimpse of hip action or foot moves, in striking contrast to the steadiness of his capable surgical hands.

A surgeon I often assisted at Yale was all techno-boogie in the OR as he’d remove a sick gall bladder or a ruptured appendix. He told me that he dresses up in all black and goes to a Rave in NYC annually for a major de-stressing session. Major move buster!

And one of the most famous cardiac surgeons in the world, whom I had the honor to assist about half-dozen times during medical school, always had classic rock amped in the OR. He wasn’t dancing externally – he was replacing aortic valves – but I am certain he busts moves at home. Music helps with concentration. Dancing keeps the body relaxed and the spirit free.

TV docs boogie down, too. I was watching Gray’s Anatomy recently. Yes, I watch Gray’s Anatomy. Please don’t judge or be disappointed in me. It’s the only TV show I watch. I’ve never missed an episode. A different medical school classmate got me into it during our first year at Yale. [It’s your fault, Esi]

At that time I could relate to Gray’s (that’s what us regular viewers call it). Not the sex in the call rooms. Nobody ever really goes into call rooms to have sex. Rarely even to sleep, for that matter. I could relate to the fatigue, the vulnerability, the losses and grief, and the small triumphs of the characters. And to the dance parties. In a recent episode, Meredith Gray, a serious Type A character after whom the show is named, has a triumph during a stressful surgery. She suddenly stops what she’s doing, mid-surgery and asks the interns, who are terrified of her, if they know what comes next. They look perplexed and anxious that they don’t. Suddenly she smiles and says “30-second dance party. “And she makes them do-it. And they laugh. I totally got it.

If you’ve never treated yourself to a dance party, I highly recommend it. Consider it a prescription if you’re otherwise healthy. 30-minutes gives you a fantastic total work out. Burns calories. And lifts the weight of the world. Even 30 seconds helps!

I hope I’m dancing into my centennial years. I suspect that doing it regularly now will increase the chances of that! It’s my therapy and cardio work out all at once.

I’m so eager to hear what you do to REALLY relax and let loose. Ever bust a move? Do you have a favorite dance party story? What’s your favorite dance music? Do tell all in the comments section below!

 

 

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Linda Ursin

I used to go dancing before I met my husband, but since then I dance on my own. The last five years I've had the lovely company of my daugther. We dance spontaneously a couple of times a week, when dad's not there.

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Laura

My co-workers get a big laugh when I "dance" :) One younger very kindly encourages me when I am actually with the beat.

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Bonnie Kavanagh, R.N/Herbalist

Hi Aviva: It's the "herbal nurse" giving you a shout out to say what a great article! I have done "dance parties" since forever as it's a great way to make yourself feel a lot better. I remember one time I was very distraught about a relationship I was in that had ended. I was listening to some pretty sad love songs when a friend came in, shook her head and said, "oh no, we're going to dance" and she put on some funky African music and made me dance for about 20 minutes. I started out crying and ended up laughing. So wonderful! Our paths have crossed in the past at the WHC when it was in Peterborough, NH and we may cross again if they ladies organizing the MidWestern Herbal Conference in June agree to pay my air fare as they have selected two of my classes "All the berry best of health to you" (while I am known as the herbal nurse, in these parts (NE) I'm known as the "Cranberry Lady" as I've published a cranberry cookbook and do pr and marketing for a cranberry farm) and "The Nurses Garden" which takes a look at the history of nurses using herbs and questions the reasons why more don't today. Thanks for sharing about Gray's Anatomy...I watch it too and get a lot of grief from my nurse friends as they really don't show too many nurses on the show. My response, "it's a doctor show!). Keep up the great blogs. They are wonderful and your recipes sound delicious! All the berry best to you! Bonnie K

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    Shannon Steffler

    I LOVE this article because I totally crank up the music and start dancing and it generally makes everyone happy! I'm a Mama of 5 girls from 8 years old to 5 months. Sometimes there is crying, but only because everyone wants to dance with MOM! Thank you for the reminder to let loose and to not take exercise so seriously, hence I don't do it much :-P Just need to do this some more. BONNIE! I'd love to pick your brain about being a nurse and also being 'herbal.' I'm still learning about natural health, but it's all I consume. I day dream about becoming a Holistic Nurse Practitioner and/or midwife, but I just don't know what the reality will be like with being so 'crunchy' if you will. If you're open to sharing your experience, I'm all ears! [email protected]

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David O'Daniel

Love it. Long before becoming a nurse I ventured into performing arts, including dance. Loved to dance since childhood. Since I've gotten older, I don't dance so much anymore. However, when I'm feeling stuck and a piece of music gets under my skin, can't help but move........ energy flows and I feel very alive. Need to make more time, feels like the years melt away.

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Diane

Aviva, I want to meet you one day and see you in action! Lol! I seriously hate exercise but do it anyways. Need to loosen up and bust a few moves!

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Falan

Dance parties nearly every day, with the kids, in my home! Love it :) Thank you, beautiful Aviva!

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Jessica

Ever tried ecstatic dance? If you haven't, you should! It's amazing! No words, just movement! It's the best!

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Carla

And if you add some singing along things get really fun! Love it!!!! Thank you so much for so true-fun post! I usually try to dance my way to life 30 seconds or 30 minutes, more if possible. Sometimes I do forget about such a powerful natural medicine. Were I come from, Brazil, we dance a lot! Is so good! My family loves, and is such a great, fun way to connect, loose up, smile...

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Fatima

Hi Aviva, I'm a recently-joined student of HMW. My background is Indian and your article got me thinking about the days when I used to excel at school. I used to do the same thing. Any Indian music with beats. Dance party solo or with my mom (LOVE my mom). I really did feel alive. Totally de-bloated stress off my operating system and made it run faster and smoother. After marriage (living with in-laws - very traditional) I had lost touch with the person I was. The dancing to music. The going for a jog before sunrise. I was left with stress building upon itself and little to no release. Needless to say, your article took me back to all the music (Indian and non-Indian) which used to give me that boost to release and keep going that I must say I have missed and even longed for. Thank you for your post Aviva - you've revived a lost memory. Fatima

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Steffi Dotson

Yes! I have a dance party every morning while getting ready. It makes my day sweeter. And my favorite Pandora channel is Olivia Newton-John! Woot woot!

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Irene

my husband was a DJ and used to take me to parties with him because I would always be the first to get up and move. When I was little my Mom would tell me to sit still when the music was on but I would tell her I couldn't because I was 'allergic to the music'. I have to say--- I still am! I will break out in dance any place at any time. (My kids have been known to walk away from me at those moments)

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Dr Erika Siegel

Add another dancing doc to your list. I go weekly to an ecstatic dance gathering in Portland Or. It is my church, my medicine and the best one hour therapy session you can ask for. Thanks for your great post Erika Siegel ND LAc

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Elizabeth

I just started hula hooping classes once a week at Five Branches Wellness in Greenport, NY. It is so much fun and a great workout. It makes me feel so good!

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Lisette

Aviva! You don't know how well this article is coming to my attention. Very good timing! I use to dance a lot and become addicted to it. Then, i met my lover and kindda stop dancing... I'M reading it from others too that they don't dance when daddy is there or would dance less being in a relationship. WHY? I do want to dance alone or not. With the kids caus he has 4 ! Dancing is therapeutic and a beautiful mean of expression . Thank you so much for writing this because it seems it has been written for me!! Happy dancing ! So

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Munna Cleland

Thanks for this awesome post Aviva! Dance parties are indeed a key part to happiness and exercise in my world! I love dancing and watching other people dance too. It's so beautiful how everyone has their unique movements and styles! <3

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Rachel Hernandez

I've been dancing since I was 3 and have never stopped! It is my soul savior, stress reliever and bliss maker! Living room dance parties are a staple with me and my two boys (7 and 2) and the easiest way for Mama to shake off any stress or uneasy nerves! Thanks for sharing your perspective!!

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Lydia W

I couldn't agree with you more! I've gotten into Zumba over the past few years, thanks to an excellent teacher here in Philadelphia (and I was so lucky, happening upon her with my first try -- because now I know that excellent teachers are very rare)! Sometimes I cry with joy when dancing alone (not in group class) -- I call it "Zumba Therapy"! Now I'm considering taking a formal Latin dance class, after not having a dance class since I was a little girl in ballet classes! Thank you for this reminder to follow our bliss, and shake our booties! :-) -Lydia

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