Dancing During Covid

Covid has now been with us for almost two years, and it looks like its going to be here a good bit longer. It has impacted dancing hard, especially for many in our group, but progress has been made during this time. We know a lot more about Covid, how it is spread, and who is most vulnerable to becoming seriously ill with it. We also now have tools that can be used to lower the risks it poses. We have an effective and safe vaccine, we have treatments for it that are improving every day, and we have masks that are an important part of confronting the virus.

As dance promoters of the Portland Dance Eclectic, we have adopted a policy that both represents the majority consensus of our group and follows guidelines recommended by the peer reviewed medical community…. Get vaccinated, get a booster shot, and wear a good mask. If you have symptoms get tested, and if needed, treated promptly. And stay healthy.

There is still risk involved, especially in a community like our group, but there is enough information that we feel people (who have followed the above precautions) can use to determine for themselves their comfort level of risk.

Our focus on this page is both the health benefits of dancing and the reasonable precautions we can take to lower the risk of covid.

Dancing Is the Best Medicine: The Science of How Moving To a Beat Is Good for Body, Brain, and Soul

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According to a Japanese proverb, “We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.” That proverb is so relevant during these “interesting” times we are currently facing. However, with everything going on, everyone needs a little break from reality. Done in a safe atmosphere and with proper precautions, the risks have improved to a point where many people can consider returning to Dancing.

Here’s a couple of excerpts from an interview in the Washington Post with the authors of the book:

Wouldn’t it be great if science could confirm what dance enthusiasts know in their bones: that dancing is one of the best things we can do for our heath, joyful well-being and even our brain power?
That’s what brain scientists Julia F. Christensen and Dong-Seon Chang set out to prove in researching their lively and enlightening book, “Dancing Is the Best Medicine: The Science of How Moving to a Beat Is Good for Body, Brain, and Soul” (Greystone Books).

We looked at studies where people have been assessed for 10 or 15 years on their hobbies, such as swimming, running, doing crossword puzzles and dance. People who dance have an advantage. They have less risk of developing heart disease or dementia. So what is it that makes dance so different? Three reasons: music, a social aspect and movement. First, music has really powerful effects on our neural architecture, our hormones and metabolism. All our biochemistry is influenced by music. And our brain is a prediction machine. It likes to feel safe. Anything that gives rhythm to our day gives the brain a sense of security and safety. Rhythm is a regularly occurring event that the brain can predict. So tied in with music is the fact that rhythm is very important to us, evolutionarily.

Second, there’s the social aspect of dance. Moving in synchrony with others bonds us together. Even our immune systems get regulated by doing movements together with others, when we’re in the presence of people we feel safe with. We produce oxytocin and prolactin, which can make us feel consoled.

Third, dance is a sport, an aerobic exercise. It gets your heartbeat up, keeps your muscles in shape and releases toxins from your body.
In addition to these, there’s the emotional component. We express ourselves when we dance. We don’t just make shapes. We can be authentic, and be what we feel. Sports have extrinsic rewards: to be faster, lose a kilo, get stronger. Dance can have these, too, but often the rewards are being with other people, having fun and mood management. If you run, you can still be thinking of all your problems. If you dance, try that and you’ll trip over your feet. So dancing brings you back to yoursel

Staying Safe

A WORD ON MASKS: Unfortunately, we’re not out of the COVID woods yet. Until the rules change, we may still be wearing masks for awhile. Since social dancing is risky during a pandemic, it is important that we keep our mouths AND NOSES covered while in the dance room. Your mask protects others in our community who may be at greater risk than you or have someone they interact with that is. For this reason, it is important to wear a good protective mask. I know it’s tougher to breath while fully masked, but there are options.
1. You can always step outside to remove your mask for some refreshing air and/or to drink water. (Socially distanced of course)
2. You can also invest in a mask that is effective AND is easier to breathe through. You can generally get a very effective mask for $1-$3. A small investment for a big payoff. (See links for info)
3. Please help remind each other to stay covered. No one likes playing “mask cop”, but if we all pitch in, it makes it easier and more expected.
More mask info:
1. The number one rule for effectiveness is GOOD FIT!
2. A good mask should cover your nose and mouth completely. They make masks in different sizes now.
3. A cotton or stretchy mask is only effective when you are also using a good filter or a second effective mask, such as a surgical mask.
4. A K95, KN 94 or KN 95 mask is the best. If your mask is not one of these, then water should never leak through your mask.
A GREAT place to buy good masks locally: PROTECTLY https://www.protectly.co. No account setup needed, no hassle, easy pay, quick delivery (some by Bicycle!!), LOCAL! Debra found this company after finding a mask that works well and looking for sources other than Amazon, which sells counterfeit masks that aren’t as effective and are harder to breathe through.
Through research to find a mask that is effective for both the wearer and others - and easy to dance in, we have found innumerable articles and videos on YouTube. One helpful mask nerd online is Aaron Collins. He has tested a lot of masks and provides great information, including a chart with specifications. Here’s a link to his most highly recommended masks (start at 4:59 to skip the intro & kids face masks) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JFed_ofCwM
and here is his data chart (in no particular order):
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1M0mdNLpTWEGcluK6hh5LjjcFixwmOG853Ff 45d3O-L0/edit#gid=1976839763 Basically, you want to look for a mask that fits your face, has high filtration efficiency (95% or better) and low pressure drop (easier to breather).
If you have time, here’s a 1/2 hr intro to Aaron Collins:
Other informative Links:
Double masking:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MaCrm4Cohgo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=giBSMUaaGmI
Why your mask might not be as protective as you think:
Real or Counterfeit? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miPH4F1YJJI Aaron Collins recommends NOT buying from ebay, Amazon or other places where counterfeits show up. Buy from reputable companies!

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A look at the mask wearing versus social distancing. Lots of informative graphs. https://digg.com/2021/face-masks-versus-social-distancing-study-alex-huffman

Some Thoughts on Omicron

I know there is a lot of concern surrounding the Omicron variant. It is spreading incredibly fast. This only reinforces the value of getting fully vaccinated with boosters and to wear a good mask when engaged in social activities. The extent of social activities should be an individual decision that is based on self knowledge of personal risk factors and scientific information/recommendations on the virus. 
Dean Paton, dancer, teacher and promoter of dancing in Seattle, who has experience in assessing and explaining complex scientific and medical issues, has expressed his thoughts on the Omicron variant to the dancers in Seattle. I would like to share them with Portland dancers as a different way to look at what is happening now and a help to dancers as they decide on the individual course they will take.

Dean's thoughts are below:

Dear Dance Lover —

Because so much concern has been suddenly generated by the new Omicron variant, I think it useful to take a deeper dive into “the science” surrounding the emergence of Omicron, at least deeper than we get from headline-grabbing news reports. Knowing a bit more is not only good for our health, and not only good for our sanity, but also good for our dance community. 
As someone who’s been a medical writer since the late 1990s, forced to grok dense journal articles and decipher at least some meaning from complex charts and data, I’ve been scouring as many scientific sources as I could digest since the pandemic was declared. (It seems part of my job as a dance teacher and producer of dances — paying attention to safety and dancers’ health.)
Since many of us have already returned to the dance floor, and because others say they want to dance again but remain wary for now, I’m guessing we’re all spending extra time consuming information about this new variant.
Though some dancers on Facebook — as well as all of the major media — have been posting dire warnings and frightful headlines about Omicron, virologists and evolutionary biologists give us a more complete picture — mostly positive, certainly free of fear mongering — about not just the Omicron variant but also about virus evolution in general: why viruses evolve into variants.
Sunetra Gupta is Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology at the University of Oxford, an infectious-disease specialist, and a Royal Society Wolfson Research Fellow (it doesn’t get much more credible). She says, “Indeed, even with a marginal increase in transmissibility that could see a new variant sweep through — that does not have much of a material affect, or difference, in how we deal with the virus.”
“The other big question,” she adds, is: “Are these variants more virulent? And the truth is that we don’t know, but it’s unlikely. Pathogens tend to evolve (but not always) towards lower virulence…because that maximizes their transmissibility….”
In plain language, what Prof. Gupta and others who study the evolution of viral variants say is this: The virus does not want to kill its host, because then the virus dies as well. So, to keep on living and finding new hosts — that would be us — the virus makes itself more transmissible…and simultaneously less harmful, less dangerous, less a menace to the public health.

Which, so far — according to the South African physician who first alerted the world to Omicron, as well as numerous frontline reports — seems precisely what this new variant is doing. Dr. Angelique Coetzee describes the major symptoms of Omicron this way: “severe fatigue for one or two days” accompanied by “body aches and pains,” sometimes “a scratchy throat,” and sometimes but not always an intermittent “dry cough," yet little, if any, infection of the epithelium, meaning it seems so far not to invade the lungs the way other Covid-19 variants do.
Nevertheless, almost every headline I’ve seen in print or online, and every report on NPR, gushes with what Gupta and Coetzee would likely define as only-half-true fear mongering:
“Omicron is coming! Omicron is Here! Omicron is Three Times More Transmissible than Delta! Omicron Will Overrun Our Hospitals! Omicron! Omicron! Omicron — Yikes! Yikes! Yikes!”
One headline in The New York Times proclaimed, “Omicron Variant Appears to be Spreading Fast in Washington State.” Yes, true. But The Times story failed to add, “a development virologists and evolutionary biologists correctly predicted — along with its mild symptoms.”
“The strain that is slightly more transmissible is very likely to expand more and take over very quickly,” Prof. Gupta says — which means we should expect Omicron to outcompete Delta and become dominant. “What it doesn’t justify, at all, is the panic, and the closure of borders, surrounding that narrative. So I think that narrative is flawed.”

 Omicron truly is as transmissible as initial reports indicate, it’s likely just a matter of time until it catches up with most of us.

All reports to date would indicate Omicron is the mildest Covid-19 variant yet identified. Dr. Coetzee, a member of the South African Medical Association, wrote in an op-ed, “No one here in South Africa is known to have been hospitalized with the Omicron variant, nor is anyone here believed to have fallen seriously ill with it,” adding that “not one” of her patients had required oxygen and describing Omicron’s symptoms as “unusual but mild.” As such, should its increased transmissibility propel Omicron on to infect millions with docile, common-cold-like symptoms, it could be a relatively easy path to genuine herd immunity — and the end of the pandemic.
I’m not suggesting we all go out and catch us a dose of Omicron. But I absolutely think a more complete picture of “the science” should help us make better decisions when it comes to the choices we make right now, as well as quell the anxiety generated by misinformation masquerading as care and concern. “Currently,” says Dr. Coetzee, “there is no reason for panicking, as we don’t see severely ill patients. 
“But,” she adds, “the hype that’s been created currently out there in the media and worldwide doesn’t correlate with the clinical picture.”
After 21 months of hiding out at home, of avoiding even some of my dearest friends, and of spending never enough time with my son and his family, I’m done being afraid of every doorknob and every person not wearing a mask.
I’m not done being smart, not done paying attention. But I’m done with those people and institutions that have convinced themselves fear mongering with partial truths is a public service — and for two reasons: Because life needs to be lived. And because I’m actually following the science.
Thanks for reading all the way to here. Hope to see you dancing soon.
´╗┐Dean Paton | instructor
The Century Ballroom

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