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Ballet benefits brain activity, taken to the extreme.

Ballet requires intricate planning of the sequences of movements, integrating music and expressing feelings. In addition, it causes pleasure to those who look at it, as it activates mirror neurons.

One of the greatest qualities of the great world ballet dancers is that when they dance they seem to float on the music, in a perfect fusion that depends on brain work taken to the extreme, since it requires planning a sequence of movements, integrating auditory information, activating the long and short term memory, but also to express sentiment, that is, to translate movement into art. In addition to having a slim, strong and flexible body, the good dancer must be an intelligent person, with superior neuropsychological development.

Dr. María Corsi Cabrera, professor at the Faculty of Psychology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), who in addition to practicing classical dance, studies that art from neurosychology, states: “I would dare to say that there is no activity that stimulates the brain more completely than ballet. A pianist, for example, uses only his hands to play his instrument, while the dancer requires the whole body, that is his instrument, which he has to learn to move with knowledge of the facts to project the sensation he wants to the audience. transmit ”, he affirmed.

Why is it said that ballet is a developed act? Because it is learned. Moving, dancing, is an innate ability, but also a form of expression of cultures. That is why ballet requires training, to refine the movements through a technique and thus provoke aesthetic emotion. Likewise, it can be said that it is a developed act, because dancing involves many functions of the nervous system, whose work is decisive in controlling the varied and complex body movements that dance requires.

Ballet is an art that involves attention, memory, will, sensitivity, emotion, and many sensory modalities in addition to movement.

Explain that the cerebral cortex is the layer of nervous tissue that covers the hemispheres. There are the frontal lobes, which contains neurons, which control muscles, reproduce speech, elaborate thought and modulate emotion; parietal, which receives sensory information and influences spatial location; temporal, which has to do with sounds and memory, and occipital, which is what interprets images. In addition there is the cerebellum, which is related to the control of the body and balance, fundamental in dance.

The brain performs its complex work supported by the mental representation of the body, on a perfect map of the position and location of each of its parts, to produce movement through the muscles. In the specific case of dance, the parietal lobe also intervenes in the movement on the stage to achieve integration between the dancer and the space – which is static -, but it must also calculate the spatial relationship between him and his companions, who they are also on the move. All of this requires a high degree of concentration.

This map is found in the somatosensory cortex, located in the parietal lobe. Before starting a movement, the first thing our brain does is plan the sequence of movements based on the information represented in that map about the angle or degree of contraction and stretching to achieve the desired end.

For example, and specifically in the field of dance, planning a grand jetté implies knowing the distance of the route, the time, the force, the acceleration and the height required, as well as the correct position of the head, arms and legs. In addition, another map is already represented in the frontal motor cortex, by means of which the brain knows which muscle has to take action.

The order to do this comes from a previous region: the premotor; Furthermore, the frontal lobe has the task of monitoring and verifying that this order has been carried out correctly.

As can be seen, brain work is intense and constant.

To that planning of sequences that end up being harmonic, the Russian neurologist Alexander Luria, author of the essential book The Brain in Action, called kinetic melodies, “which in dance – added Dr. María Corsi – are taken to the extreme, because they are not abrupt, as in a march, but soft and melodious ”.

Once the body moves when dancing, it is necessary to learn those movements, for which the long-term memory comes into play, where the ballet steps will be recorded, to make a concert with the body.

II / This learning is supported by so-called working memory, which is the brain’s ability to store information for short periods. “This is how we arrived – added Corsi – to the musicalization of the movement. In this stage, the temporal lobe and the auditory cortex intervene, the latter will allow the integration of sound information to the rest of the senses. “

Balance and temporality are fundamental elements, and these depend on the cerebellum, which, together with the basal ganglia, acts automatically, that is, independently of the will, to adjust and correct movements. “The culmination of this complex brain work is what gives the quality of feeling, which is expressed through the body. There, in the limbic system, is where the emotions reside, which are the ones that come to grant the emotional and artistic quality to the dance; because you can be a great virtuoso, but not express anything.

“Classic dancing is thought to be very easy. What is wonderful about this work is precisely the appearance of simplicity and naturalness that the dancer projects when executing his movements, but this is only possible when mastery of these brain processes and technique is achieved. “

Ballet also gives pleasure to those who watch it, through aesthetic emotion, since in them so-called mirror neurons are activated, which make the spectator equate to the dancer.

In his book Emotional intelligence, Daniel Goleman affirms that these neurons capture the emotions of the people whom we see and re-send the detected state in our brain, creating an emotional contagion.

To conclude, Dr. Corsi pointed out: “ballet, like other art activities, is a personal achievement, achieved through discipline and effort. And, in addition to its artistic value, it promotes brain development and intelligence ”. www.jornada.unam.mx

  • Dr. María Corsi Cabrera, professor at the Faculty of Psychology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).