For several years I persevered with fitness classes but kept thinking that dance classes would be a far more rewarding experience for myself and other older adults, especially for those who had never experienced dance classes with a creative component. Recently I was successful in obtaining funding from the Ministry of Health Promotion and Sport, under their “Healthy Communities Fund” to develop a program called “Dance Activity for Older Adults.” I am fortunate to be working with colleague, April Nakaima, who has considerable experience teaching dance to older adults in the United States.
The project is being carried out through the Department of Dance at York University. Dance majors enrolled in the Pedagogy course have the option of doing their teaching practicum in a seniors’ community centre. They will develop content in my Pedagogy course, but will be closely supervised and guided by April Nakaima who will visit the teaching sites on a regular basis.
Although the student teachers will design their own classes for the seniors’ centres, each class will have a similar format that can be adapted for older adults of all ages and abilities. All classes will use a wide variety of music styles from classical to jazz and world music in an attempt to locate music that appeals to everyone. The dance sessions will begin with a warm up that will prepare the participants for more energetic activity. This section, approximately 20 to 30 minutes in length, will concentrate on providing a gentle aerobic workout designed to increase flexibility, strength and endurance with some combinations used in every class but with some variation to stimulate memory.
Each class will incorporate some type of combination that features transfer of weight to assist the participants in developing increased skills to move easily into all directions. In this section, the instructors can also incorporate various styles of dance to meet the interests of the participants. Some centres might do some line dance here, while others might want salsa, tap or ballet. By allowing the participants to determine the dance forms we hope they will stay motivated and also develop a broader awareness of the potential of dance. The last portion of the class will incorporate some activity that will encourage the participants to bring their own creativity to the movement. This segment will be introduced gradually as the class members gain increased confidence in their abilities. They might be encouraged to take a combination that they have learned and add on a few more moves. As they grow in experience and confidence they might develop their own dance to show to community centre members.