We chose to teach veterans and active military personnel Salsa dancing for a variety of reasons: it’s fun, it’s young, and, when patients leave treatment, they’ve developed a skill that they can take with them wherever they go - it is easy to use the dance skills learned in classes anywhere in the world. We expand beyond salsa into various other dances such as Merengue, Bachata, and Cha Cha so that when our patients go to a local salsa dance venue they will be able to actively participate. Many times classes will request other dances, so you may see us dancing Foxtrot, Tango, or Swing!
From a therapeutic standpoint, there are many health benefits associated with learning to dance. Imagine that you have been fitted with a prosthetic leg. You would have to learn balance and control on that new limb, and dancing provides a fun way for a patient to challenge himself while picking up a new skill at the same time. Over the years, we have also had several patients come in with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), and while they also need to work on balance, memory recall is an equally important skill dance can address. Learning a new dance pattern and being able to repeat it, not just in that class but in future classes, is a benchmark we look for within this group.
One of the most common diagnoses we see is post-traumatic stress (PTS) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Like with a TBI, a patient with PTS has the added challenge of the “invisible injury” - something we can’t see from the outside but has multiple internal symptoms. Being in a crowd with strangers can be a major issue, and salsa dancing will expose you to both of those things. Through dance, patients have access to a safe social environment where they can apply the skills they’ve learned in our class in their local community when they attend classes and social dances.
Below we’ve highlighted some of the benefits our participants have shared with us:
Social benefits may include:
- Increased communication between spouse/partner
- Increased socialization
- Community re-integration
- Ability to interact comfortably with strangers
- Exposure to multiple distractions, within a safe environment
Physical benefits may include:
- Increased endurance
- Aerobic activity
- Increased balance and coordination
- Progressive and lateral motion
- Spatial awareness
- Advanced agility and muscle control
Cognitive benefits may include:
- Increased memory recall
- Ability to follow process functions from mental to physical