I’ve been dancing all week. On Friday in NYC I pirouetted at a Dance for Parkinson’s* class for those living with the disease, and in DC on Thursday I tapped my toes at a dance and music session for seniors run by Arts for the Aging.**
There’s so much to learn from the way dance is taught to older people.
In the DfP sessions, the dance teacher narrated a story through movement. We were fighting through storms, hiding behind our hands from the elements, then being swept away with our umbrellas. Using images and narrative made it easier for participants to visualise and understand the movement instructions.
During the AFTA class, the two facilitators shared their love of dance and music. Miles played blues on his guitar, Nancy taught some movements. During a song, the elders waved a scarf expressively. At the end, they threw them into the middle of the circle. As the scarf lifted and landed, each person was asked, What does the scarf colour remind you of? The answers were gorgeous. Raindrops, God, love, the earth, baby bonnets.
I was prompted to join these sessions following conversations with Gary Glazner of Alzheimer’s Poetry Project. Gary uses music and gestures in his live poetry sessions, and the addition of these elements adds beauty, energy and emphasis.
In my open creative writing sessions, I include body stretching and pummelling. In activities for older people, maybe I’ll borrow this idea. And add a twist, or a click, some knee-tapping rhythms, too…
* Dance for Parkinson’s is a wonderful organisation which began in Brooklyn, and has as its heart that dancers are movement experts. Their body awareness and knowledge of balance, sequencing and rhythm is useful to those living with Parkinson’s disease.
** Another brilliant org. AFTA, offers innovative, immersive arts experiences to older people. Based in DC, they place artists in day care, nursing homes, assisted living and community spaces to deliver totally stimulating, lively sessions for vulnerable elders.