In this interview Lasma Araka will share her experience as a dancer, and why she feels dance is a great way to stay healthy!
- when did you start dancing (age)?
I started dancing at the age of 3.
- Where did you dance
I took classes with a ballet school in Latvia and also danced with a very large and well known Latvian Folk dance group called “ TDA Dzintarins”, later on with other various schools in Latvia, Ireland and the UK, and finally receiving my Degree in Dance.
- Who did you dance with (like did you dance with friends, in a dance group etc)
Mostly in a class group setting with other people of the same ability level/age group. Later on in a more professional setting.
- What styles of dance did you practice?
Started initially with Latvian Folk dance and also Classical Ballet (Vaganova method) and later expanded into Character dance, Contemporary, Modern, Jazz and Acrobatics as well as other styles of Ballet.
- How did dance make you feel when you were a child compared to how it makes you feel now, the same or different? If the answer is that it makes you feel different please explain in what way and why. As you grow up doing dance, your relationship with dance and your body changes and as a result the way that it makes you feel changes too. Personally, it does feel different, I find that the connection between mind and body is a lot stronger now that I am older compared to when I was a child; however there are moments during performances and sometimes classes/workshops when a feeling of freedom takes over and it feels like the body is taking a deep breath for the first time in a long time, and that’s how I remember it feeling when I was a young child.
- In your opinion, what are the main physical health benefits that dance has for a person?
Other than the obvious (increase in strength, flexibility, balance and endurance) there is also an increase in lung capacity, a boost in your immune system, higher spatial awareness, increase in pain threshold, and regulation of hormone production. (Obviously this is all provided that the body is supplied with enough and the correct nutrition and sleep)
- In your opinion, what are the main mental health benefits that dance has for a person?
Other than the release of endorphins (chemicals produced by the body that relieve stress and alleviate pain) that happens during exercise, there are also many other benefits to your mental health that can come from dance. As dance is generally a social activity this can help people with social withdrawal (which is a leading cause of depression) and anxiety. Generally speaking the dance community is becoming more and more close-knit and inclusive, providing people with a support network from their peers and teachers. Dance being a form of exercise also improves self-esteem and cognitive function. In the older generations dance is a fantastic way to break down the social isolation and loneliness that people feel later on in life. In children there have been many studies that show a direct link between children who participate in dance or gymnastics (both forms of exercise that require a lot of movement and balance) and better academic performance, specifically in mathematics, spatial reasoning, reading and behaviour/discipline.
- Can anybody take a dance class, or do you have to be a naturally talented dancer?
Absolutely! Dance is for everyone. There are so many different styles of dance that one can take classes in. Realistically speaking “talent” (I prefer to say natural ability) is only required in those wishing to become professional dancers, and even then that natural ability only counts for maybe 10% of a professional dancer, the rest is a combination of hard work, dedication, determination and luck!
- Are you ever too old to start taking dance classes?
No. Noone is ever too old to take dance classes! Where there is will there is a way. There are many different classes geared towards different abilities and ages from ballet, to acrobatics to modern dance to hip hop and more! There are also specific classes in integrated dance that are geared towards people with disabilities or mobility issues as well as more gentle classes for those of advanced age.
- What would your advice be for someone who wants to start dancing, but feels too self-conscious?
Go for it! It may feel daunting at first but it gets easier every time you go and pretty soon you will be hooked (let’s face it there are worse things to be addicted to!). Take a friend or a family member with you if you wish and it can become something that both of you do together, or go alone and trust me you will make friends at the drop of a hat! My biggest advice is try a class, but give it a good try, maybe 3 or 4 weeks, as you will not actually know whether you like it right away. It will be hard at first but if it’s something you wish to try, do it! Because even the smallest dream that you try to make happen is worth so much more than the biggest dream that you never attempt!
Lasma teaches ballet and Acro at Aislingi Dance Academy in Stranorlar. Check out their facebook page for information on other classes.