At first, I was shy. I wore long-sleeved shirts and avoided bright colors to try to remain inconspicuous. I hovered in the back, not daring to go up front. It had been years since I participated in any form of dance class…But then, the music started, my feet started to move, I loosened up and let go…
This past year I’ve been attending dance classes every week — whether it’s downtown at a studio that holds free classes for students, or any variation of dance at the campus gym. I hadn’t even heard of some of these types of classes — Zumba I was familiar with, but 305fitness and Oula were new to me. It wasn’t until some medical school friends told me it was fun. On a whim, I decided to try it out, and I’m so glad I did. I ended up making new friends, released some stress, and felt good both physically and mentally after each dance class.
Here are my three takeaways from dance:
Amidst the rigors and challenges of medical school, I’ve had to find ways to release stress. I was never one to go to the gym much during college (I figured ‘traveling from my dorm to the farthest building on campus constituted as exercise’); plus, during third-year rotations, ‘taking the stairs’ instead of the elevator and ‘walking around the grocery or outside in the neighborhood’ were my forms of exercise. During my gap year, I finally took the time to check out dance classes at a downtown studio and my campus gym. 305fitness, hip-hop, contemporary fusion, and Oula became my stress releases. Physiologically, serotonin and dopamine levels do go up after exercise, and I truly did experience feeling better afterwards.
Strength and Confidence
I not only gained some muscle and physical strength, but also mental strength, too. Some of the dance moves were difficult to follow at first, and it would take me a few times to get the rhythm and steps down. But the more I returned to these classes and kept on practicing and practicing, the easier the rhythm and steps came to be. Even the dance instructors would encourage us by saying “great job!” or “keep it up!”, and these words empowered me to continue. This nurtured confidence in me that I could try something new and keep going with it. That kind of ‘practice and persistence’ mentality seeped over into my academic life. Even at home, if I came across writer’s block or felt like a research project was hitting a wall, I would put on some music in my own room and dance it out.
Ultimately, though, the thing that I am most grateful for is the sense of community I found through dance. The more I showed up to these dance classes, the more I saw the same recurring group of people – medical school classmates, old friends, other graduate students, and even a fellow who has now become one of my close friends. The more we saw each other and danced together, the more we anticipated each other’s presence – we even made a group text to notify each other if schedules were changed or if there was a new dance class to check out. We supported each other and laughed together.
Now that gyms are closed due to the COVID-19 crisis, I miss dancing with my friends, but I’m grateful for the time that we did have and we’ve also found ways to navigate this. My roommate and I had danced in our living room to YouTube videos of the videogame “Just Dance.” At home with my parents now, my mom and I put on Zumba videos in the living room. The fellow who became my friend has even met up for virtual prayer on Zoom and to chat about life beyond medical school. Who knows the kinds of people you’ll meet at the gym – they may become some of your closest friends. I look forward to the day when we can go back to dancing together in person.
Anna Delamerced is a medical student at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, she enjoys exploring the crossroads of writing and medicine, and listening to patients tell their stories. Anna is a Doximity 2019-2020 Fellow.