The idea of dance therapy is as old as the wheel. Ancient Chinese medicine held that dancing helped you calm your mind.
One recent study by Stanford researchers found that dance was linked to a positive change in people’s stress levels and that the more likely the participants were to stop smoking, be more confident, and enjoy their own company.
“I can’t believe we didn’t think of that first,” said Eric Durocher, the president of the International Association of Amusement Parks, in an interview at the IAP’s new office in downtown San Diego.
At the time, it was a new concept, a way to get around without having to carry an entire truck. Even today, a dozen other states have similar programs, and Durocher and his colleagues have already seen the effects. But it turns out that such parks, like a few in the U.S. elsewhere, have failed to find the money and volunteers to build them, so now they are expanding around the country.
“We’ve found that people really want the experiences,” Durocher said.
A few years ago, the IAP launched the nation’s first nonprofit parks. Since then, it’s expanded to more than 600 parks and attractions across California. Its newest addition is the Santa Monica Pier Park, a 3,500-acre structure that opens to the public this summer. It represents a huge expansion: It’s the most expansive park in Southern California since the California State Park system began collecting land in 1923. The IAP is now planning a park on a former cattle range south of Los Angeles called Oceanside in the heart of the San Diego basin.
Dance is among several attractions that have grown since the early days of the Los Angeles Basin. It was the center of a thriving dance craze in Los Angeles after World War II when it hosted the first Olympic Olympic Games.
A variety of reasons are behind the decline, according to Durocher. In Los Angeles, it’s become more expensive to build facilities; the California State Parks system is facing significant budget cuts because of the recession.
And for some, a lack of interest in amusement parks has been more problematic. Many Americans, after all, were raised on the old-fashioned variety-park attractions that most amusement parks have lost. The San Diego region has been the only place, other than California, where the number of amusement parks (which typically run from one to 25 rides, depending on size) has steadily increased since the 1970