For Erin Arkins, who earned top scores in the Indianapolis Open Dancesport Competition, ballroom dancing is excellent therapy.
For IU Health pharmacist Erin Arkins, the dance floor is her happy place. Dance has been her go-to activity since she was a child, but in the past few years, she has kicked it up a notch.
Arkins, 36, recently worked up the courage to enter her first ballroom dance competition. Lucky for her, she had experience on her side. Arkins teamed up with her dance instructor, Sean Gehlhausen, owner of Paradise Dance Indy, in the Indianapolis Open Dancesport Competition last month in Downtown Indy.
On a crowded dance floor, the two showed off their moves – the Hustle, the Cha-Cha, Foxtrot, West and East Coast Swing and, of course, the Tango. And those were just a few of the dances they performed for judges during the three-day event.
“Ballroom dance in a very real sense is therapy,” Arkins said. “Where else can you combine physical therapy, touch therapy, cognitive therapy, emotional therapy and music therapy all in one activity?”
Dance helped get her through pharmacy studies at Butler University, and it continues to help her today as she works out the stresses of everyday life on the dance floor.
“Inherently, we all love to listen to music and move our bodies to the beat,” she said. “Even babies will smile and bounce to the beat when they hear a song they like.”
While she has been dancing most of her life, it’s only been in the past seven years that the Ambulatory Care clinical pharmacist has been taking ballroom dance lessons, and she is hooked.
“For me, it is so much more than a hobby. It is expression, connection, beauty and joy. You’re connecting on a soul level, on an emotional level.”
As an amateur ballroom dancer, she has performed choreographed routines in showcase-style events and volunteered at the Special Olympics ballroom dance in Fort Wayne, but competing was her dream.
Though she admits to having major butterflies before the Dancesport competition began, Arkins received firsts in the proficiency entries, along with a first, second and third in the competition entries. She exhibited a flair for fashion as well, cobbling together her own costumes with help from second-hand finds and YouTube videos.
Not only did Arkins earn accolades for her dance steps, she earned points in the Healthy Results Make Your Move program sponsored by IU Health.
Now that she’s had a taste of competition, she can’t wait to do it again.
“It was an amazing experience and helped me grow as a dancer.”
— By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist
Photos by Cori Lynn Life Photography