Dance the night away! Explore the benefits of ballroom dancing

Faculty and staff in the Department of Medicine are taking a new activity for a spin to focus on their mental, physical and social well-being.

They’re participating in Discover Ballroom Dancing, sponsored by the department’s Vice-Chair Group for Faculty and Staff Development through its Wellness Initiative Supporting Health (WISH) grant. The grant provides funding for small projects that enhance well-being among faculty and staff.

Discover Ballroom Dancing introduces participants to partner dancing that can be enjoyed both socially and competitively. Dancers started out with on-campus sessions in January, and continuing this month, where they learned and practiced basic steps of the waltz, rumba, swing and foxtrot, taught by BCM faculty and staff. They’ll also attend an evening social dance at the Dance Place, a local studio, where they will get a lesson in quickstep. They’ll also have access to practice evenings at another local studio, DanceSport. Spouses and partners may participate with faculty and staff, but solo dancers also are welcome!

Dr. Sandra Haudek, assistant professor of medicine, leads the program and is one of the instructors as well as the grant awardee. She says there are plenty of benefits of ballroom dancing.

“Any type of dance is a multitasking activity. It requires mental, physical, emotional and social skills, and all of these work together simultaneously to benefit the brain, cardiovascular system and overall health,” she said. “Multiple studies have shown that dance can improve cognitive function, slow the aging process and improve posture, balance and movement. Besides, dancing is fun, social and may count, depending on the level of physical input, as ‘moderate to intense’ physical exercise.”

Haudek has been dancing since she was a teenager and met her husband through dance. They have been active in ballroom dance competitions, including being nationally ranked for their age group in 2015 – 2017. Today, their dancing is focused on exercise, enjoyment and social opportunities.

“Ballroom dancing is our passion, and we love to share it with others. That’s why I pursued this initiative through a WISH grant,” she said. “We hope to evoke enthusiasm for dancing and to provide information and networking possibilities within the Houston ballroom dance community so that department members may continue exploring dance on their own.”

Other BCM instructors in the program include Lee Leiber, vice president of information technology, and Dr. Jenelle Eden Little, assistant professor of pediatrics. Both are avid competitive standard and Latin ballroom dancers and well known in the Houston ballroom dance community.

For those new to ballroom dancing, it’s been a fun learning experience.

“My husband and I are grateful to our talented dance instructors,” said Nancy Wilson, associate professor.  “They have helped prepare us for an upcoming family wedding and reminded us how much fun you can have learning from Baylor colleagues who have ‘hidden talents’ and with other faculty and staff.

Robbie Rivera, HR administrator in the Department of Medicine, also participated with her husband.

“I was very excited when I read about the free dance lessons and immediately signed up with my husband,” Rivera said.” The instructor was informative, funny and easy going, which made the lesson that much more enjoyable. We were able to learn the waltz – what a beautiful and romantic dance! We are practicing our new moves at home and loving our dancing time together.”

-By Dana Benson