Dance for health, wellness, fun
By Mary Anna Rodabaugh
April 29 is International Dance Day, the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre, who is considered the creator of modern ballet. You do not need to be a trained dancer to celebrate this special day of movement. In fact, all you need is the willingness to shift your body around to music as much as you are able.
Anyone can dance. Dancing is ageless and timeless. You can stay active and young at heart by dancing.
“I started dancing in 1969, and I never stopped,” said Tony Powell, 73, of Southwest Philadelphia, whose favorite partner is his wife, Rita Redfern-Powell, 62. ”No one ever taught me (how to dance). I just watched Fred Astaire, who was my favorite dancer when I was a young man.”
The Powells met in 1992, married in 1995, and have been dancing together for more than 22 years. The couple enjoys freestyle ballroom, because this style of dance doesn’t have restrictive movements or posture. “We go where we choose, where we feel. That’s the beauty of it. You can just let go and move to the music,” Tony said.
From improving mood to increasing balance and muscle tone, there are so many mental, physical and emotional health benefits of dance. According to an article in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, evidence suggests that dance interventions could be an efficient way to improve or maintain cognition in older adults. The combination of coordination, focus and memory are all adequately utilized during dancing activities. In other words, dancing is not just exercise for your body, it is also exercise for your brain.
Dancing in Philadelphia
Whether you have a dance partner or not, there are many different drop-in dance classes offered throughout Philadelphia. Most classes cater to all ages and experience levels while simultaneously offering a supportive community environment. Following are just a few examples of locations in the city that provide a variety of low-cost dance classes with little or no commitment.
Senior Community Centers offer a variety of free or very low-cost group dance classes for older Philadelphians.
Line dancing is a very popular activity at senior centers. It takes a little bit of coordination and focus but is easy to learn and enjoyable to master.
Dance classes are offered at 28 senior centers funded by Philadelphia Corporation for Aging. For locations and class offerings, call the PCA Helpline at 215-765-9040 or go to pcaCares.org/Senior-Centers.
Urban Movement Arts offers a safe and welcoming environment for individuals who are new to dance. The studio has many different dance classes to choose from including salsa, solo bachata, hip hop, house, Afro HIIT, and more. Classes are both in-person or you can access a streaming catalog to participate virtually. Drop-in streaming costs $10/class. In-person is $15/class. UMA offers discounted membership rates for older adults and veterans. For more information, go to 2100 Chestnut St., 2nd floor; visit UrbanMovementArts.com; or call 267-600-1030.
Dancing in Philly offers a variety of dance classes and private instruction in Mount Airy and Germantown. Dance instructors Audrey and June Donaldson, who are older adults themselves, are guided by the African proverb: “If you can talk, you can sing. If you can walk, you can dance.”
Dancing is what brought the Donaldsons together, and it has led them to inspire others to get moving. “We just have a good time,” said June in a 6ABC Art of Aging segment. “It’s the best stress reliever we’ve found.”
Their specialties are Chicago Stepping and the Philly Bop, but they also teach ballroom, cha-cha, and line dancing. Dance workshop series are held regularly, in addition to Thursday Night Oldies dance events at Treasures on the Avenue, 5549 Germantown Ave. For more information, go to DancingInPhilly.com/events or call 610-368-7043.
Judith Sachs is founder and director of Anyone Can Dance, an adaptive movement program that allows participants to sit, stand supported at the back of a chair, or move around freely. Sachs is a certified instructor of Dance for PD, a sit-to-stand adaptive dance class for people living with Parkinson’s disease who want to explore music and dance styles from around the world. The innovative therapy program, Close Contact for Couples with PD, teaches couples how to collaborate on movements of everyday life. Anyone Can Dance classes are offered virtually, and costs varies based on single classes or workshop series. For more information visit, AnyoneCanDance.org or call 609-577-1928.
With so many different options available, you can move, groove and dance to the beat every day, not just on International Dance Day.
Mary Anna Rodabaugh is a writer, editor and writing coach.