Dance your way to better mental health

As a resident of Seattle for only a few months and as someone who has never experienced a prolonged absence of sun, (I’ve lived in Texas, Florida, California and the Philippines) I’ve found that this dreary weather can weigh heavy on the mind.  I don’t know if the feeling can solely be attributed to the cold, or the lack of vitamin D. It is more likely a combination of the two, but never the less, I’ve felt a significant change in my day to day mental state.

calvin hobbes dance

Nothing in the world can snap me out of a rut like a good old fashion dance sesh. Give me some ratchet hip hop and a dance floor and I am a happy camper. My healthy obsession with dancing has led me to research and see if there is any scientific evidence behind this correlation of using rhythmic movement to improve a mental state.

What I found was amazing, and reason enough to share it with you in this blog post. There are studies that have shown that dance can improve social skills, counteract depression, among numerous other benefits that I didn’t initially consider.

Dancing accelerates the body’s ability to produce endorphins, which are commonly referred to as the “happy hormone.” Researchers have also cited that dancing with a partner can significantly increase testosterone production, which promotes muscle growth and improved self confidence.

One study conducted in the University of New England, showed that participants that spent 6 weeks attending dance classes showed significantly lower levels of depression than a control group that took no classes. The dancers’ lack of depression also closely mirrored the results of a third group that were taking meditation classes. The author of the study credited the concentration and mindfulness required in dance as inhibitors of negative thought patterns that contribute to anxiety and depression.

The expressive nature of dance also contributes to its cause. Dance can be a release for pent up emotions and feelings, and may also serve as a first step in dealing with them. “Depressed patients tend to have a curved back, which brings the head down so it’s facing the ground,” says Donna Newman-Bluestein, a dance therapist with the American Dance Therapy Association. “Dancing lifts the body to an open, optimistic posture.”

Music also has a therapeutic quality to it. A Stanford study shows that music engages areas of the brain which are involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating events in our memory. So, as your body is engaged in dance, so is your mind. It is truly a full body workout!

Thank goodness we all have access to Community Fitness and our wonderful dance classes! And be sure to check out Jhon Gonzalez’s cardio urban master class on March 11 to level up your dance skills!

-Andrew Avillanoza


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Jaime Oliver’s Superfood Oat Bars


We all know the feeling, It’s early in the morning and time is short before we have to get out the door and on with our day. It’s tempting to stop by that fast food spot on the way to work or the gym, but that would be counter productive in more ways than one. I recently ran across an amazing recipe for porridge oat bars that will satisfy your morning hunger while also providing meaningful substance to fuel your day!

I recently bought my wife Jaime Oliver’s Superfoods book and it is chalk full of amazing and nutritious recipes. These oat bars were among my favorites of the bunch.


  • 3 1/2 ounces (about a half a cup, I think I may have used a little more than that) of unsalted mixed nuts, such as walnuts, Brazils, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, cashews (I put some almonds in instead of hazelnuts)
  • 1 3/4 ounces (about a quarter cup, but again, probably used a little more) of mixed seeds, such as chia, poppy, sunflower, sesame, flaxseed, and pumpkin
  • 3 1/2 ounces of dried fruit. (I used raisins, cranberries and apricots)
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 orange
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp oat bran (I wanted to keep it gluten free as I used gluten free oats so I used flax meal here)


  1. Preheat over to 375 F.
  2. In a food processor, pulse nuts, seeds, dried fruit and spices, pulse together.  Put into a bowl and set aside.
  3. Into the food processor, put in the banana and orange.  Pulse to a pulp.
  4. Into a measuring cup, put in the banana and orange mixture.  Then add the honey and top up with water to the 2 cups mark.
  5. Pour the mixture into a pot. Heat under boiling.  Add the oats and the nut and seed mixture.
  6. Cook the oats until the the mixture is gooey.
  7. Pour the batter into a baking dish and pat down.  Score the bars as Jamie suggests as it really makes it easier to cut later.
  8. Bake for 40-50 minutes until browned.

I definitely prefer these bars over the store bought fare because there are no processed sugars or preservatives present. These bars also fit easily into my wife and I’s Sunday meal prep routine, and my tummy and heart are all better for it. Thank you Jaime Oliver!

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Meet Your Instructor: Jessica Quande


Jessica Quande

Going by her last name (since 3rd grade!), Quande is a born and raised Washington native. Growing up, she found her love for dance while on the cheer team in high school. Dance Fitness stole her heart after taking her first Zumba class back in 2010. Since getting involved with Dance Fitness, Quande has lost over 120 pounds and found fitness to be a way of life. She has traveled the US teaching Master Classes and enjoys being able to mentor other Dance Fitness Instructors.

Be ready to get your sweat on in Quande’s Dance Fitness class! Her class allows you to experience all types of music and choreographed movement through different styles of dance. She incorporates cardio and toning exercises that will boost your health and wellness journey. She’s known for her “woot woots” and “AYEs” so do not expect a quiet class! She enjoys inspiring and motivating students to reach their fitness goals while encouraging them to believe they can do anything they want to do. Every class is always started on a positive note: “I GOT THIS, YOU GOT THIS, WE GOT THIS”.

When you aren’t at CFit, what do you do?
Follow fitness! I recently left my full time corporate job to engulf myself in the fitness industry.

How did you discover dance fitness and what do you love most about it?
I found my love for dance while on the cheer team in high school. Dance Fitness stole my heart after taking my first Zumba class back in 2010! I love that it allows you to experience all types of music and choreographed movement through different styles of dance.
What’s your favorite way to spend a day or night off?
Usually socializing and hanging out with my friends. My days stay very busy so getting quality time with them and having some fun is a great way to close out the week.

What is something not many people know about you? 
I am a Disneyland fanatic! If I could go every weekend, I would!

If you could instantly master any skill/superpower/talent/knowledge, what would it be?
Speaking another language or singing!!! When I hear others speaking in any other language I am always in awe. I took 3 years of Spanish in high school and unfortunately only remember a couple words. Music is a passion of mine and I wish I had the voice to go along with it!
What are you most passionate about in life?
People. This passion grew overtime. There is no better feeling than helping others.
Any good movies/books/bands/foods/discoveries lately that you’d recommend?
The Chieftain over in Capital Hill! Best Taco Tuesday around!
What else would you want to share with people about you or your class?
I am a loud one! Taking my class for the first time, be ready for all the “woot woots” and “ayyyyes!” I am big on encouragement and motivating those around you. There will be high fives and “good jobs” galore. We start every class on a positive note by using words of affirmation such as, “I got this, you got this, we got this.”


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Meet Your Instructor: Gina Skene

Gina Skene


Gina started practicing yoga after having three kids and wondering what was next for her body. A former ballet and modern dancer, she’d always been body aware. Then, with the intention of reconnecting, she stepped into her first yoga class in 2002 and never looked back. As she began to challenge her body and find her breath, she felt like she had come home and realized that chronic injuries had healed.

Gina teaches with a gentle strength that allows her students to feel safe while moving to new mental and physical edges. She is fascinated by every opportunity to help individualize the practice for each student.

Gina teaches regularly at the Shakti studios in Ballard and Bellevue. She has completed Level 1 and Level 2 teacher trainings with Baron Baptiste, teacher trainings with Lisa Black and Shiva Rea, anatomy intensives with Ellen Heed, and has studied extensively with Troy Lucero. She also learns a lot from the spontaneous inversions that her husband and three teenagers do at home with her frequently!

When you aren’t at CFit, what do you do?
You can find me drinking coffee with my husband, hiking, going to a baseball game with my kids, or hunting for agates somewhere on a NW beach.

How did you discover yoga and what do you love most about it?
I initially decided to try yoga to help with chronic neck issues. I felt better almost immediately and was so intrigued to explore this practice that helped me rediscover physical and mental strength–especially after having three kids! I still love and practice yoga because it reminds me daily to be present, awake, and clear in my life!
What’s your favorite way to spend a day or night off?
I always love to explore the cool neighborhoods of Seattle and try a new restaurant or wander into a little shop. If they have vintage or handmade items, all the better.

What is something not many people know about you? 
Some people may be surprised to know that I get very loud when I watch a Seahawks game, consider this fair warning…

If you could instantly master any skill/superpower/talent/knowledge, what would it be?
I would definitely choose to speak Italian like a native.
What are you most passionate about in life?
Nothing gets me more excited than seeing someone who is living a life that is a true reflection of who they are; whether it’s directing a nonprofit, writing software code, or playing music. I love seeing people truly show up.
Any good movies/books/bands/foods/discoveries lately that you’d recommend?
I recently enjoyed a movie that was released a few years ago: Ex Machina; a thought provoking movie about what it means to be human and our relationship with technology. My favorite relatively new hangout space is the public space at KEXP, it’s so fun to just go sit and hear the music and feel the good vibes there!
What else would you want to share with people about you or your class?
I think it’s always a good reminder that you don’t have to be ‘good’ at yoga or ‘flexible’ to give it a try. The yoga practice isn’t about making your body fit into given shapes or getting anything right. For me, it’s all about building physical and therefore mental awareness from the inside out. It’s so amazing that we can use our bodies as tools to get to know ourselves better!
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