Brain dancing with Annemarie Cabri

annemarie1-1At a BIST community meeting last month, Annemarie Cabri, founder of Cabri Creative Dance, led BIST members through the steps of “BrainDance.” She took part in a Q&A with BIST to explain the benefits of dance for our brains.

BIST: Can you describe what “brain compatible dance” is?

Annemarie Cabri: A brain-compatible dance class is a method using 10 basic principles developed around the neuroscience findings of how the brain learns best.

One of the principles is that we physically ‘DO’ the lesson for high-lesson retention and high engagement for all learners and abilities. A traditional dance class has a focus on learnt steps, teacher-driven delivery, with little directed exploration and self-found expression. These would be the opposite in a brain-compatible class where discovering self-expression, movement exploration, student-driven exercises and a multi-sensory environment are present.

In our culture we tend to separate things we do for our body, from things we do for our mind, and both from things we do for our soul or emotional health. A brain-compatible dance class can address all of these in one.

BIST: Has there been a proven benefit to dance for people with acquired brain injuries? Can you describe some of these benefits? What is it about dance that helps with brain function?

Cabri: Yes, dance that incorporates the work done by neurological reorganization has benefits for people who have been hit by a car, spinal cord injury, memory and cognitive problems, stroke victim, post traumatic stress, head injury from industrial accident and the list goes on from small children to people in their nineties.

Movement has benefits to better learning as described here :

‘Every time we move in an organized, graceful manner, full brain activation and integration occurs, and the door to learning opens naturally. Howard Gardner, Jean Ayres, Rudolf Steiner, Maria Montessori, Moshe Feldenkreis, Glenn Dolamn, and many other outstanding innovators in the field of learning espouse the importance of movement to the learning process’ (Hannaford).

So once we are learning, we are living fully, are able to engage successfully, and keep our whole body healthy. This learning can take place in dance.

Click here to see Cabri teaching Brain Dance to students.

Dance taught in a brain-compatible method combined with BrainDance goes one step further, helping with brain function as it can address issues in the lower brain, mid-brain and upper brain. Our lower brain function controls circulation, respiration, breathing, heart rate, wake and sleep patterns which can be improved with dance. The mid-brain is known as the emotional and social brain, stimulating or inhibiting activity in other parts of the brain. Dance helps with this stimulation or control of stimulation increasing emotional social intelligence. Memory is also increased in dance which is governed by the hippocampus in the mid-brain. The upper brain among other things will be exercised in creativity, problem solving, verbal expression and planning all found within a brain-compatible dance class.

BIST: Is this a routine you recommend people do everyday? Can it be done on their own?

Cabri: Yes, BrainDance is the sequence I do in every class at the beginning, taking us through a full-bodied movement series that benefits brain activation. The BrainDance is a rich multi-layered warm-up that sets the tone for the entire brain-compatible dance class. The video is somewhat flat and two dimensional (which is not so brain-compatible) and not very full-bodied, but gives people the wording and basics. People attending my workshop might remember we started our BrainDance on chairs and then moved all around the room including some partner work.

The BrainDance was developed by Anne Green Gilbert as well as brain-compatible dance education.

You can do the BrainDance once or many times a day to boost and awaken or settle and de-stress activity to the brain. I know these are complete opposites but such is the case.

To benefit further of course would be to do the BrainDance in a brain-compatible class where group work, on-going variations, tactile stimulation through the use of props and partner work is explored. Anyone with a brain injury of any kind would do well to learn the BrainDance on the floor version.

I am passionate about why this method touches people in a way that many exercise and therapy programs do not.

I love seeing in my classes the power of quality arts education where the sciences meet the arts.

Find out more about Annemarie Cabri at her personal website.

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