I’ve been dancing since I was five years old. I was never the best in my class, nor did I compete, but from a young age, dance has been a passion of mine. Like many other girls, I once dreamed of performing centre-stage in front of a huge audience. However, while my friends were buying tutus and signing up for movement classes at the local community centre, my mother enrolled me in COBA—Collective of Black Artists—a dance company that specializes in West African and Caribbean dance and music. I still go there today, and for me, it is what keeps me sane.
Dance is my escape from stress. We’re already into the New Year, and tests and assignments are piling on like no tomorrow. Students are starting to panic (if they haven’t already), and before we know it, it’ll be exam time again! This all leaves us with barely any time to kick back and relax. However, finding a few moments a day for yourself is incredibly important (and no, watching reruns of Modern Family at 4 in the morning does not count). Stress can lead to eating disorders, sleeping disorders, panic attacks, and—in worst-case scenarios—suicide among teens. Between 1960 and 1991, the suicide rate in Canada for youth aged 15-19 years has had a four-fold increase for males and a three-fold increase for females. If every teenager found an outlet for their stress, these rates would rapidly decrease.
Dance is the perfect outlet. It allows you to use your body in physically demanding ways, while also giving you leeway to channel your emotions into the movement. It can take you into a separate world, leaving you completely tangled in a web of stories and steps. Tamar Tabori, a grade 10 student says, “Sometimes I wish I could just go to dance class and not do anything else.” Dancing has been her stress-buster for the past 11 years, as well as one of her biggest loves in life. Dance has been used as a natural therapy for as long as humans have been around, giving people a way to express their strongest feelings, from anger to passion to joy. The endorphins your body releases during this exercise have a wonderful, positive effect on you, improving your physical, mental and emotional health.
Although enrolling in dance classes is a huge commitment, both financially and time-wise, the benefits it provides outweigh every inhibition you may have. And, even if you can’t fit classes into your hectic schedule, take a minute to close your math textbook, get out of your chair and move around a little. Or, rather than slouching on your couch in front of the newest episode of So You Think You Can Dance, go out and do it yourself! Turn up your favourite song and let yourself go, and, once the music stops, I can guarantee you that some of the stress you were feeling before will have lifted off your shoulders. While some say that “brushing it off” is the best way to let go of things, I beg to differ. The best thing you can do is dance it off.