by Andrew Sullivan
via The Daily Beast
Patel took one of the tunes that Snowball was familiar with, a Backstreet Boys song called Everybody, and modified it so that the tempo could be sped up or slowed down from 86 to 130 beats per minute, without altering the song’s pitch. The researchers took video recordings of the bird’s movements while the songs were playing. After analysing their videos, they found that Snowball’s dance steps were synchronized to the music. The parrot had moves, after all.
Was Snowball an oddball, or is dancing widespread elsewhere in the animal kingdom? A second group of researchers ploughed through YouTube in search of data, and wound up with 1,019 uploaded videos that claimed to show non-human animals dancing. After a careful analysis, the researchers were left with evidence of dancing in fifteen species. Fourteen of those were, like Snowball, different kinds of parrot. The fifteenth example was an Asian elephant.
The reason? Parrots, humans, and elephants “are all vocal learners, meaning they can change the composition of the sounds they make, by changing pitch or the order of a song, for example.”
(Video: A remix of a mega-popular Youtube by another agile parrot, Frostie)
“When I’m dancing I really feel like I’m fully self-expressed. Like I’m totally in the moment and one with the music—and sharing the moment with my dance partner, whoever that may be. I’m very happy dancing with people of all ages, all levels, from wherever in the world, and I really love the challenge of being able to follow anyone, anyhwere, anytime.”
Fun fact: Myles and Tessa recently got married! Congrats to this amazing couple—they are truly picture-perfect.
Who: Tessa Cunningham and Myles Munroe
Number: ”Tessa Cunningham, Canadian West Coast Swing Champion”
Choreographers: Tessa Cunningham and Myles Munroe
Style: West Coast Swing
From: Year of Science (2011)
via Science 2.0
What makes dancers different than the rest of us? Genetic variants, says a researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
In a study published in PLoS Genetics, Prof. Richard P. Ebstein of the Department of Psychology and his research associates have shown, through DNA examination, that dancers show consistent differences in two key genes from the general population. Ebstein is the head of the Scheinfeld Center for Human Genetics in the Social Sciences in the Department of Psychology.
This finding is not surprising, says Ebstein, in view of other studies of musicians and athletes, which also have shown genetic differences.
Ebstein and his colleagues found in an examination of 85 dancers and advanced dancing students in Israel variants of two genes that provide the code for the serotonin transporter and arginine vasopressin receptor 1a.
Both genes are involved in the transmission of information between nerve cells. The serotonin transporter regulates the level of serotonin, a brain transmitter that contributes to spiritual experience, among many other behavioral traits. The vasopressin receptor has been shown in many animal studies to modulate social communication and affiliative bonding behaviors. Both are elements involved in the age-old human social expression of dancing.
The genetic evidence was corroborated by two questionnaires distributed by the researchers to the dancers. One is the Tellegen Absorption Scale (TAS), that correlates aspects of spirituality and altered states of consciousness, and the other is the Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire (TPQ), a measure of the need for social contact and openness to communication.
The genetic and questionnaire results of the dancers were compared with those of two other groups examined – athletes as well as those who were both non-dancers and non-athletes. (Athletes were chosen for comparison since they require a good deal of physical stamina like dancers.)
When the results were combined and analyzed, it was clearly shown that the dancers exhibited particular genetic and personality characteristics that were not found in the other two groups.
The dancer “type,” says Ebstein, clearly demonstrates qualities that are not necessarily lacking but are not expressed as strongly in other people: a heightened sense of communication, often of a symbolic and ceremonial nature, and a strong spiritual personality trait.
Others involved in the research with Ebstein were his Ph.D. student Rachel Bachner-Melman, as well as additional researchers from Israel and France.
The mindfulness required to master dance patterns and to move quickly and harmoniously in response to one’s partner can take your brain to a calmer, happier place. Good for your body, too!
via The Pacific Standard
by Tom Jacobs
Dancing around life’s inevitable difficulties while retaining mental and emotional balance can require some fancy footwork. For those suffering from stress and depression, newly published research finds a promising self-help program involves literally getting out on the dance floor.
It’s hard to feel blue while you’re doing the tango.
“Preliminary results suggest that tango dance is an innovative and promising approach, as effective as mindfulness meditation in reducing levels of self-reported depression,” writes a team led by psychologist Rosa Pinniger of the University of New England in Australia.
In the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine, Pinniger and her colleagues describe a study featuring 66 people, all of whom reported high levels of stress, anxiety and/or depression. They filled out detailed surveys to measure their emotional health at the beginning and end of a six-week period.
In between, a third of them took part in weekly tango lessons. Another third participated in weekly mindfulness meditation classes, based on theprogram formulated by Jon Kabat-Zinn. The others were placed on a waiting list and became the control group.
After six weeks, those who took the tango and meditation classes both showed greater reductions in depression than those who did neither. But the tango students lowered their stress more than either the meditation students or those on the waiting list.
And in something of a surprise, the tango students reported a greater increase in mindfulness than either the control group, or those who had specifically studied the Kabat-Zinn technique. Upon reflection, this makes some intuitive sense; one has to be fully engaged in the present moment to execute complicated dance moves.
Disappointingly, neither the meditation classes nor tango classes reduced anxiety much compared to the control group. But altogether, these results suggest that, at least for certain people, tango classes may be a more effective way of reducing stress than sitting still and meditating.
Why choose between two mental-health-boosting activities—vigorous exercise and concentrated attention—when you can simultaneously do both?
By Erika Eichelberger
via Mother Jones
“…I was therefore a little mind-boggled by Three Theories, the piece that her company, Armitage Gone!, just performed in San Francisco following shows in Chicago and New York. According to the program notes, the piece ‘looks at the poetry underlying the pillars of 20th century theoretical physics: Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics and String Theory.’ It goes on to explain that the choreography is derived from “scientific principles” and creates dance that, I kid you not, ‘reflect[s] the points of view held by physicists about the fundamental nature of the universe…’”
via the Huffington Post, via BBC