IT’S January, it’s grey, it’s cold, it’s S.A.D., and we take up a little more space than we did in November; what to do?

The papers are full of de-tox diets to get you over Christmas and lift your spirits, TV is awash with pundits talking about mood-enhancing vegetables and herbal extracts from Patagonia guaranteed to make you feel like the sun is always shining even when you’re actually stuck in a snow drift, and I’ve got a stack of holiday brochures filled with blue skies, sandy beaches and little pavement cafes (all of which are unfortunately a few hours in a plane and a few months in the future away).

But, before you head off to Boots and empty your purse into the till on Aloe Vera, ginseng, ylang ylang and paracetemol, remember, you can take a kind of happy pill any night of the week – all you have to do is put on your dancing shoes and mosey on down to your local salsa club (overdosed on musicals at Christmas, sorry..)

Dancing is Therapy – it’s a scientific fact!

Chris after dancing till 3 a.m. for three nights in a row at the UK Salsa Congress. And she looks like it, too.... - Salsa DiariesThroughout the ages, people have used dance to express emotions, tell stories and celebrate important events.

Moving to music appeals to our basic instincts and stimulates sight, sound and touch, and exercising per se can lift your mood and reduce the risk of depression.

Dance therapy is based on the idea that the body and mind are interrelated; the various forms of therapy use choreographed or improvised movement as a way of treating social, emotional and physical problems. Moving as a group brings people together, creates social and emotional bonds and generates the feel good factor you get from being with others.

From a physical point of view, moving rhythmically eases muscular rigidity, reduces anxiety and increases energy.

Also, research has shown that simply listening to music can cut stress, improve movement, and also boost milk production in cattle….

Modern day dance pioneers including Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham established the link between ancient folk and ethnic dance and dance therapy, and through their work promoted dance as expressive and healing.


For most of us, however, dance is a way of having fun and feeling good, rather than having therapy.

Personally, in my “disco days”, a bit of shoulder wiggling and a couple of turns was about as expressive and free as I got. I was stiff, self-conscious and a bit bored, because I didn’t know what to do….and that’s where salsa comes in.

You learn specific steps – so that’s what you are supposed to do, and you learn the styling, so that’s what you are supposed to do. Frankly, you don’t feel quite so “out there” and exposed as if you were dancing in an ordinary non-salsa environment (i.e. chucking yourself around a dance floor at a birthday party or something…).

You lose yourself in the discipline of the moves, and after you’ve stopped feeling self-conscious when you’re dancing, and styling, you stop feeling self-conscious again on another level, and start to move in your own way, i.e., you occasionally forget about what you look like and just allow yourself to be there, in that particular piece of music with that particular partner.


Chris at a Salsa Chillout Saturday party - she does have more than one outfit, honestly.... - Salsa DiariesWhen you are dancing you can participate in the music; you don’t have to be able to play an instrument, read a note, or be able to sing; you can be good, bad or indifferent; it doesn’t matter….

One of my old music teachers told me that the songs that get to you are the ones where the beat hits your pulse. Hence, when I’m in a good mood, and I put on Los Van Van’s Tim-pop-con-birdland (preferred it when I didn’t know what it was), and he’s off going YES, YES…I’m ready to leap into dance action right there (even in my car), although I have absolutely no-idea what he’s talking about! Similarly, just put The Manic Street Preachers’ La Tristessa Durera on, and it hits me right in the heart (although any song that begins “Life has been unfaithful…” ain’t a feel good song, whatever the tune…

So, you’re in a salsa club and you’re doing the warm up; your heart beat is getting faster, then they put on a tune full of different beats, rhythms, melodies, ups and downs, and you’re off….then you do the class and your pulse picks up, then more happy music, and everyone is smiling and laughing, dancing and releasing stress, learning something new, and not sitting at home watching TV programmes about how to beat the winter blues….Dancing is like a drug, but the only side-effects are blisters (and a bit of sweat)