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Dancing With Our Elders

Benefits of dancing at all ages

by Kerry-Ann Stanton, 27th September 2022
Recently I spoke to a women’s dinner club and as part of that I managed to get everybody up and dancing. This was a surprise to me, and it turns out it was a surprise to everyone present.

So, what happened?

Since 2012 I have lead seniors creative contemporary dance classes. Most recently Dancing Doyennes, a class I run based in Timaru.

So, for a decade now I have had the total joy of dancing with people older than myself. I thought I would share with you some of what I think makes the difference and why I think it's so important that we continue to offer dance opportunities to all ages and stages, literally until we die.

As part of that talk, I quoted from an IADMS poster, then posed the question ‘has this been my experience’? What do I notice? What do I plan my classes based on?

The statements on the poster:

  • Dancing is a safe and fun alternative to traditional forms of exercise
  • Dance classes provide opportunities for physical activity and social interaction
  • Participation in dance can support successful ageing



  • Improved balance
  • Increased lower body muscular strength
  • Faster and more stable walking
  • Improved cardiovascular fitness
  • Bone density maintenance
  • Improved attention
  • Faster reaction times
  • Improved memory
Social and Emotional
  • Increased motivation and improved mood
  • Opportunities to socialise in and out of dance classes

Who should dance?


No previous experience is required to receive the benefits of participating in dance. Dance is easily adapted to a number of health conditions including limited mobility, disability, and Parkinson’s disease.

What kind of dance should you take?

Any style

It could be tango, salsa, creative dance, contemporary, jazz, ballet, traditional and cultural forms, or any other style. There is currently no evidence to show that one specific style of dance provides greater benefits over other styles.

How often should you dance?

Benefits can be seen with as little as one 45-minute session per week for six weeks. Long-term dancing as well as longer and more frequent classes may provide even more benefit.

This has been my experience in the last decade, and I agree with all the statements above.
What I have observed over time are the smiles, the relaxing into dancing, joining in. It all becomes easier with time, better breathing, more stamina, new friends, the fun of self-expression, participation by choice.

The sessions include a light warm up, creative activities and relaxed movement sequences that build from week to week. We have a couple of dances like nobody is watching and then finish in sitting.

Things to watch for are:

  • keep it simple
  • keep it fun
  • involve the dancers in the choreography at times
  • co-creating work
  • use music that you like and mix it up
  • use name games, and all the other ways of working in pairs, in groups, with shape, with colour, whatever the creative impulse for the month is
  • and always finish by listening, resting and connecting into the grace of dance

As a registered Open Floor dance teacher, I encourage all my dancers to move like dance artists!
Going back to my dinner talk, ultimately, I think what happened was that the music, the company, and the mood was just too inviting to sit still. There was an option to stay seated, it was safe, and it turned out to be a whole lot of fun.

One of our seated warm up songs was DJ Yoda - Walking the Blues (Champion Jack Dupree).

The piece that got us up and moving around the room, The Glenn Miller Orchestra In the Digital Mood St Louis Blues March:

We warmed down to Nina Simone - He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands:

And settled in grace to, Einaudi: Melodia Africana I:

There is a wonderful range of music to choose from these days, including remixes of old favourites. Instrumentals to use our imaginations, songs to sing along to as we dance.

As Isabella Radici is quoted: "Stifling an urge to dance is bad for your health – it rusts your spirit and your hips!"

I encourage each of you to contemplate ways that you too might engage with seniors in your community. Just because you can!

Kerry-Ann Stanton, a dance ‘aficionado’ of long standing, dancing for personal re-creation since birth and keen audience forever. Committed to creating safe, sacred and intentional space for movement exploration.
Registered Open Floor Dance Teacher, teaching Dancing Doyennes, Sit Walk Dance and InSpirited Aging. Post-Graduate of the Creative & Performing Arts - Dance Studies, Auckland University and a practising Funeral Celebrant and Educator.

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