DECATUR – Although the exercises were set to music, these dance moves were designed to be more than just fun.
Brain Dance imitates a series of movements the brain goes through during early development. These developments start before birth, and the dancing uses a specific system similar to what babies experience, including breathing, head movements and tactile awareness.
“The list of movements goes through the exact things that babies go through while they are still in the womb,” said Ariana Shelton, dance instructor with Dance Centre in Decatur.
At the Children's Museum of Illinois on Friday, instructors for Brain Dance encouraged children to dance through jumping, spinning, hopping and tiptoeing. They used their imaginations by imitating trees, splashing in puddles and popping bubbles.
Lillian Randall, 6, was one of the children waving her arms around the classroom pretending to be a tree.
“And I got to hop up and down like a frog,” she said.
Families bring their children to the museum for Brain Dance on the second and fourth Fridays of the month. Instructors from the dance center encourage children to move, providing exercise for the brain.
“We give them guided movement, but they get to improv too,” Shelton said. “They get to decide how they are going to use that movement.”
Dance Centre instructors have seen growth in their student's awareness, too, Shelton said. The students have found confidence to move outside of their comfort zones.
“And it's been a lot of fun seeing them grow as dancers,” Shelton said.
The class coordinates all parts of the brain, including emotional, social and cognitive balance, and Brain Dance is now being shared with the community.
“Because this doesn't just help dancers, it helps all children,” Shelton said.
The Dance Centre has implemented the 30-minute dance session into classrooms, as well as at the museum. Shelton recommended the dance be done at the beginning of the day.
“It gets their brains ready to learn,” she said.
Instructors from the Dance Centre are available to train teachers in implementing Brain Dance into their classroom.
Jessica Randolph visited the class with her daughters Cora, 3, and Vivienne, 1.
“It's nice to see it available in community programs here,” she said. “And the kids are also adorable.”
With a career in exercise science, Randolph is familiar with the scientific benefits of Brain Dance. She said similar movements are often used to teach her college-age clients.
“Exercise in general keeps your brain healthy and young,” Randolph said. “We can make those connections by making exercise fun and engaging for all ages.”
The effects of Brain Dance appeared beneficial for Friday's group of children.
Although Lillian was nervous before the class, she was ready afterward to take on the rest of the museum with her three brothers.
“They've already asked to come back,” said her father, Roger.