Line dancing isn't just fun, it's good for the brain too. Just ask Nancy Greene.
Imagine a rural community hall packed with the happiest people on earth, dancing in synchrony into the wee hours. That was the Masonic Hall in Baddeck at 2am on October 1.
From Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, Baddeck played host to 120 line-dance enthusiasts from Cape Breton, New England and everywhere in between. Tickets for the Cape Breton Line Dance Frolic sold out at the end of August.
“There hasn’t been an event like this in 20 years. I figured it was about time for one,” said event organizer Nancy Greene while taking a short break from the action on Sept 30. Greene is an avid line dancer and instructor at Black Rock Line Dancing in Big Bras d’or.
Line-dancing is experiencing a renaissance. The dance form has evolved beyond its stereotypical country-western roots. The recent frolic featured modern pop, jazz, blues, Celtic and Latin music with only a few country tunes thrown in the mix. It’s also popular elsewhere in the world. England is host to the annual Crystal Boots Awards. Tickets to next year’s award ceremony are already sold out. During a line-dance, people move in sync to choreographed patterns of movement set to music. Patterns are challenging for novice dancers but people quickly catch on. Jeannette Morawiecki of Big Bras d’or also took part in the frolic. She began line-dancing at Black Rock five years ago at the age of 60. Now she leads the group on occasion.
“It really helps with mobility. Once you start getting into it and learning more advanced dances, it exercises your brain and memory. I notice a difference. It sharpens you up.”
Morawiecki’s observation is backed by science. Neuroimaging studies reveal that learning and memorizing dance moves requires coordination amongst different areas of the brain. The brain’s circuitry strengthens as it learns and masters patterns, enhancing motor skills in the process. Dance therapy is now prescribed to dementia patients to slow its progression.
Greene understands the cognitive benefits of dance firsthand. During childhood, she was shy and had difficulty retrieving words when speaking. Her dyslexia went undiagnosed until after she completed university; however, she believes an early start in dance helped her brain rewire itself enough for her to attend university.
Greene also suffered a brain injury in a car accident 14 years ago. Instincts told her that the dancing’s fluid motion would help her recovery in ways that her physiotherapy regime could not.
“I really wasn't getting any better until I started dancing. It was a real struggle for me, at first, to dance. I had no memory whatsoever. Now, I lead classes. I can remember dozens and dozens of dances, and have them associated with the music, and it’s always improving.”
Greene and her husband, a fellow line-dancer, are soon headed south for the winter but will return in late spring. Anyone interested in joining Nancy’s line-dance class next year can email email@example.com to be alerted when classes begin.
Louis Moniz Jr. of Maine, better known as “Mad Louie” leads the 11am line-dance crowd to the country music tune “Vacation”. Photo by Andrew Brooks / The Victoria Standard.
Roy Gardiner and Nancy Greene run Black Rock Line Dancing and were the organizers of the recent Cape Breton Line Dance Frolic in Baddeck. Photo by Andrew Brooks / The Victoria Standard.