Hilary Valdez

Hilary Valdez (Stripes Okinawa)

Decades ago, when I was a teenager, I took a dance class in high school. I was awkward, but by the end of the semester, I learned ballroom dancing. Then my older sister taught me swing dancing and the cha-cha, only to be dragged along to her dancing parties to be her back-up dancer. My other two sisters taught me to Samba. Then my mother would take me to social functions and force me to dance with the girls without partners. Being raised in a household with four females had its dancing challenges.

One summer when I was unemployed, my mother had just returned from Hawaii and suggest I become a Chip and Dale dancer in Hawaii. I thought she had too much time in the sun. “No. I’m not doing that. I’m too shy.” I replied. She said, “But you’re cute, you can do it.”  I asked her for a loan. She said no; get a job.

When the disco craze took over, seems like everyone was at clubs dancing and letting go of their inhibitions with wild gyrations. Back then, boys and girls actually danced together holding each other close enough to feel each other’s heartbeat. Unlike today where rave dancing finds people trapped in their own universe oblivious to anyone else on the dance floor. But what each generation has in common is music. Music is a universal language, as is love and money. When I was in post-graduate school training, none of the professors ever mentioned music or dance therapy. My clinical training focused on traumatic events and the psychological mid-points where a therapeutic intervention could be useful.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, music therapy can be beneficial to well-being no matter what your age. In addition, the medical institution said the effects are positive for mental, emotional, social and cognitive functioning, and is for an array of patients including those with dementia, cancer, learning disabilities, chronic pain and more.

“Anyone can benefit from music therapy, although not everyone needs music therapy.” Dr. Carol L. Shultis, a music therapist and director of music therapy at Converse University in South Carolina, said.

Under the supervision of a board-certified music therapist, music is used to alleviate depression, regulate emotions, process trauma, and increase self-awareness. “Music therapy is a tool to tap into its effects on our physiology and our associations, memories, and feelings,” Shultis added.

From the couch to the dance floor. Music has powerful effects on a person’s psychological health. Music is processed and produced through a different pathway than verbal speech; bypassing that pathway allows people to express themselves, communicate and experience the world more passionately. When you’re wearing your headphones, what is your body doing? Music provides psychological comfort, for me, it boosts my energy, increases my happiness, and reduces my anxiety.

As for me, I’m not dancing anymore, but I’ve downloaded disco music and soul hits from the 70s. At the gym I passionately perform my squats, leg raises, trunk twists, rowing exercises in an effort to stave off old age, back pain, and alleviate my sciatic and arthritis pain. So, listen to your inner rhythm, find your groove and dance to your own music.


Hilary Valdez is a freelancer living in Tokyo, Japan. He is an experienced Mental Health professional and Resiliency Trainer. Valdez is a former Marine and has worked with the military most of his career and most recently worked at Camp Zama as a Master Resiliency Trainer. Valdez now has a private practice and publishes books on social and psychological issues. His books are available on Amazon and for Kindle. Learn more about Valdez and contact him at his website or email. Follow his YouTube channel Hilary’s Quick Talk for more insights.

The best stories from the Pacific, in your inbox

Sign up for our weekly newsletter of articles from Japan, Korea, Guam, and Okinawa with travel tips, restaurant reviews, recipes, community and event news, and more.

Sign Up Now