Honors College Students Learn through West African Dance

In Professor Frances Glycenfer’s seminar, “Move It”, students learn through active experimentation. Glycenfer recently brought in the group, Fale, an African drum and dance collective based in Fort Collins.

“I think it is essential for learning,” Glycenfer said. “You can only discuss so much regarding movement in dance until you eventually have to get up and do it yourself.”

Fale played the drums and taught the class a dance originating from the coastal region of Guinea. The dance is now commonly performed during celebrations in different countries in West Africa.

The honors students were apprehensive, but excited to try the new moves. Malia Desmarais is one of the students who participated in the class.

“Dance labs provide an exuberant and exciting start to Friday mornings,” Desmarais said. “They give us a sense of the history behind the motions of different types of dance.”

“We have found West African music to be a tremendous outlet to express ourselves.”

“The most impactful part of West African dance is learning the customs and exploring the culture,”



Fale started the class by teaching students how to follow the music by listening to the drumming call. West African dance does not use counting, but uses a distinct drumming cue to signal switching moves.

As the class progressed, even the hesitant students seemed to loosen up and fully engage in the expressive dance.“For college students to expose themselves to different forms of cultural experiences … it provides a wider perspective of the world,”

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MultiBrief: Dancing, sports share common ground

Footwork, tempo, rhythm, pivot, crossover. That terminology turns up regularly in sports practice. Or was it dance rehearsal?

The disciplines of sports and dancing share more than language, experts say. Each activity can benefit participants in the other field, according to Maria Royals, the Dance Department Chair at George Washington Carver Center for the Arts and Technology.

“Dance can help athletes develop flexibility, balance, rhythm and coordination. Athletics can help dancers develop cardiovascular endurance, spatial awareness, and is useful for cross training of specific muscle groups,” said Royals, who was recognized as the 2016 Dance Teacher of the Year by SHAPE America — the Society of Health and Physical Educators.

Numerous studies have proven the health benefits of dancing, including studies on specific forms such as salsa dancing. Similar results have been determined for athletics and physical activity in general.

Dancing and athletics share other common ground, said instructor Scott Williams.”I talk with my students quite often about how strategies, tactics and physical attributes cross over into various sports and exercise,” said Williams, owner and founder of Camp4Real. “This is true with dance as it promotes balance, flexibility and agility among many other attributes.”

“To me, an athlete is one who develops specific physical skills in order to compete with others. Athletes develop strength, endurance and coordination in order to master a specific sport or athletic endeavor. Dancers do likewise,” she said. “What differentiates dance from athletics is purpose. Dancers attempt to communicate an idea, event or emotion, while athletes attempt to win a game or overcome others.”

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Dance Returns The ‘Joy Of Movement’ To People With Parkinson’s : Shots – Health News : NPR

If you pictured a dancer, you probably wouldn’t imagine someone with Parkinson’s disease. Worldwide, there are 10 million people with the progressive movement disorder, and they struggle with stiff limbs, tremors and poor balance.

But over the past 15 years or so, a few thousand have taken dance classes that are part of a program called Dance for PD. It began in Brooklyn and has spread throughout the country and around the world. It has also attracted the attention of scientists interested in the ways dance might ease symptoms.The program in Venice, Calif., is in its fifth year.

NPR Interview

One recent afternoon, “Broadway Baby” blasted from the sound system as nearly two dozen people tried to imitate the movements of instructor Linda Berghoff. The students are people with Parkinson’s and their spouses or caregivers. For the moment, everyone was seated, but with bodies pulled upright, arms stretched and fists pumping in time to the music.

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Does experience with music enhance other areas of the brain?

Do we still want to remove music from our public education?

I selected this study to point out the benefits of tonal music study on the brain as corollary conclusions below . If tonal languages improve music abilities, music can work the other way, improving the brain in the process. If so, this study implies that the music development should be done simultaneously with other brain activities, like learning tonal skills in language to force the different brain areas to work together during learning.

“Mandarin makes you more musical – and at a much earlier age than previously thought. That’s the suggestion of a new study from the University of California San Diego. The implications of the findings go beyond determining who may have a head-start in music, the researchers say. The work shows that brain skills learned in one area affect learning in another.

“A big question in development, and also in cognition in general, is how separate our mental faculties actually are,” said lead author Sarah Creel of the Department of Cognitive Science in UC San Diego’s Division of Social Sciences. ”

For instance, are there specialized brain mechanisms that just do language? Our research suggests the opposite – that there’s permeability and generalization across cognitive abilities.

In a tone language, the tone in which a word is said not only conveys a different emphasis or emotional content, but an altogether different meaning. For instance, the syllable “ma” in Mandarin can mean “mother,” “horse,” “hemp” or “scold,” depending on the pitch pattern of how it’s spoken. Mandarin-language learners quickly learn to identify the subtle changes in pitch to convey the intended outcome, while “ma” in English can really only mean one thing: “mother.” It’s the linguistic attention to pitch that gives young Mandarin speakers an advantage in perceiving pitch in music, the authors conclude.

“Both language and music contain pitch changes, so if language is a separate mental faculty, then pitch processing in language should be separate from pitch processing in music,” Creel said. “On the other hand, if these seemingly different abilities are carried out by overlapping cognitive mechanisms or brain areas, then experience with musical pitch processing should affect language pitch processing, and vice versa.”

Co-author Gail Heyman, of UC San Diego’s Department of Psychology, who specializes in development, added: “Demonstrating that the language you speak affects how you perceive music -at such an early age and before formal training – supports the theory of cross-domain learning. “Tone languages are common in parts of Africa, East Asia and Central America, with estimates that as much as 70 percent of world languages may be considered tonal. Other tonal languages besides Mandarin include Thai, Yoruba and Xhosa.

Absolute pitch is the relatively rare ability to recognize a musical note without reference to any other notes. Relative pitch, or understanding the pitch relationships between notes, is the focus of the present study. Relative pitch allows you to sing in key and be in tune with other people around you.

“We show for the first time that tone-language experience is associated with advanced musical pitch processing in young children,” the study co-authors write. “There are far-reaching theoretical implications for neuroscience and behavior, and our research has important practical implications for designing early intervention programs, or ‘brain training’ regimes.'”

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Being A Musician Is Good For Your Brain | The Huffington Post

“Science has shown that musical training can change brain structure and function for the better, improve long-term memory and lead to better brain development for those who start in childhood.

Musicians may also be more mentally alert, according to new research. A University of Montreal study, slated to appear in the February issue of the journal Brain and Cognition, shows that musicians have significantly faster reaction times than non-musicians.

The findings suggest that learning to play a musical instrument could keep your brain sharp as you age, and may help to prevent certain aspects of cognitive decline in older adults. “As people get older, for example, we know their reaction times get slower,”

Simon Landry, the study’s lead author and a Ph.D. student in biomedical ethics, said in a statement. “So if we know that playing a musical instrument increases reaction times, then maybe playing an instrument will be helpful for them.”

From Ted Ed Lesson: How playing an instrument benefits your brain 

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Rhythm on the brain, and why we can’t stop dancing

Music and dance are far from idle pastimes. They are universal forms of expression and deeply rewarding activities that fulfil diverse social functions. Both feature in all the world’s cultures and throughout history. A common feature of music and dance is rhythmic movement, which is often timed with a regular pulse-like beat.

But the human capacity for rhythm presents something of a puzzle.Even though rhythmic coordination seems fundamental to human nature, people vary widely in ability. Some have the machine-like precision of Michael Jackson, others are closer to the case of “beat-deaf” Mathieu.What are the underlying causes of these individual differences? By looking at the way the brain responds to rhythm, we can begin to understand why many of us can’t help but to move to a beat.

Results indicated that the strength of neural entrainment was related to people’s ability to move in synchrony with the beat. Individuals with strong neural responses were more accurate at tapping a finger in time with the beat of the two rhythms.

We also found individual differences in brain responses to the two rhythms. While some individuals showed a large difference between strength of entrainment for the regular rhythm versus the syncopated rhythm, others showed only a small difference.

In other words: some people required external physical stimulation to perceive the beat, whereas others were able to generate the beat internally.

Remarkably, people who were good at internally generating beats also performed well on a synchronisation task that required them to predict tempo changes in musical sequences.

So the capacity for internal beat generation turns out to be a reliable marker of rhythmic skill. This adds new meaning to Miles Davis’ reported maxim that “in , silence is more important than sound”.

But we still don’t know why individual differences in the strength of neural entrainment occur in the first place. They may reflect the efficiency of neural responses at early levels of auditory processing, such as brainstem responses. Or the degree of connectivity between higher-level auditory and motor cortical regions.

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Western v Indigenous Medicine – A Thought Visualization

In the process of understanding my approaches for using music (and now dance) for health and healing, I came up with a simple thought visualization diagram appearing on my home page. I have added some prose to the diagram explaining the need to find the right balance between indigenous and western medicine when we develop health-based practices.

See my new: wellness-balance-diagram