Beyond the Tendu: Looking at Dance Beyond the Red Curtain

April 24, 2015

Here at Steps on Broadway we mostly cater to the performers—to those who have performed, and to those just embarking on their careers. But look around, those are not the only dancers in the room. We have many adults trying out dance for the first time and we have many older adults, who are regulars, dancing everyday without any goal of a performance career—[and clearly without a background in dance.]


I am interested in this particular group of dancers; the group that is outside the performance realm. People refer to this group as “hobby” dancers, or those who use dance as exercise. This group is actually quite smart, as research shows that dance goes beyond the Tendu. Dance has benefits that far outweigh the producer’s accolades and a name on the marquee.

A 21 year study led by Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City objectively measured mental acuity and rates of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. They studied cognitive activities ranging from reading, writing, crossword puzzles, and playing cards and also studied physical activities like playing tennis, swimming, walking, bicycling, and dancing. Almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against Dementia—yet, one important exception remained… frequent dancing. This, coming in at 76%, was the greatest risk reduction of any activity studied—cognitive and physical.

Now, though tempting, I won’t rant on the fact that the scientists categorized dance as “physical” when we all know it is both cognitive and physical. Perhaps it is this overlap in the mind/body connection that breeds progress and provides a barrier against our minds deterioration.

Other spheres of society are also picking up on the “dance fever”. With organizations such as Dance for PD in full swing, and conversations intensifying about kinetic engagement in education, I can’t help but feel that dance is on the rise.

I don’t know about you, but as both performer and human—I am excited that I fell in love with a pastime and profession that moves beyond the stage and has the ability to influence healthcare and education. Dance, though often categorized as “cultural”, as a luxury instead of a necessity, and as fine art to be had and to be funded when times are good—has moved outside of confinement. Open your eyes to the wild version of dance. To dance as art form, dance as therapy, dance as pedagogy.

Dance beyond the tendu can reach more than ticketed audiences. It can reach the older adults holding on to his or her mind by a thread, and it can reach the ADHD child who cannot learn by sitting still and putting pen to paper.

Dream big dancers, both for you and society. And yes—also go for your name on the marquee.

More about the study: New England Journal of Medicine

Kylie Michelle Phillips
Operations Manger, Steps on Broadway

Beyond the Tendu: Looking at Dance Beyond the Red Curtain