Dance Trance

April 01, 2007

Dancing is not a fun hobby for me - it's a passion. One of the reasons that I have continued the "habit" for over 25 years is to experience what some call a dance trance. It's also been referred to as a natural high, alpha state, runners' high. and probably some other terms that I haven't heard. I didn't attach a name to this phenomenon for a while but definitely felt it early on - and was hooked. While there are lots of variations among individuals, the most important common characteristic is that it's a feeling of euphoria. Everything seems right with the world, and there is no world beyond the dance hall - you're completely "in the moment."

Here are some other common aspects of this phenomenon that I've heard, read, and experienced:
• lack of inhibitions/self consciousness
• the sensation of floating
• feeling graceful/strong/beautiful/handsome
• being in a state of "no thought"
• "I could have danced all night" (and sometimes did)
• heightened awareness of the music
• a deep connection to the others sharing this with you.

So what makes the dance trance happen? Although there is some controversy about this, it's widely believed that the flow of endorphins enables these wonderful feelings. Endorphins are neurotransmitters found within the brain: prolonged, continuous exercise increases their production and release. They are chemically similar to morphine, elevating mood and reducing pain. When just enough endorphins are flowing, one feels naturally high.

And what about the individual differences? There are people who get a natural high from any kind of exercise, and others from specific types only. Some get into this state of euphoria every time they exercise/dance, some have never experienced it, and most fall somewhere in between. Many dancers have told me that the dance trance is most powerful during dance weekends and weeks. Some have noted that dance trances have different qualities depending on the type of dance - a contra trance is not the same as a waltz trance.

Although there may not be scientific explanations for these and other variations, people report that the nature of the music, their fellow dancers, ambiance in the hall and other factors affect their ability to experience the high. The actual experience is unique for each person each time.

I choose to believe that it's the combination of physical, social, and psychological conditions that allows dancing to be an incomparably joyous experience for many of us. As Janis Joplin said, "You know you've got it when it makes you feel good."

See you on the dance floor
Judith Muse

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