Dancing is a great way for seniors to exercise and socialize
ADDISON COUNTY — Dancing, a long-celebrated source of socialization, exercise and simple fun, can be a great outlet for people of all ages.
In Addison County, opportunities to go out dancing may be more plentiful than you think. Community centers and town halls have for many decades offered public dances, often contra dances, swing dances or square dances.
One of the most wonderful qualities of dancing is that “you can come and engage at whatever energy level you feel is appropriate for you,” says Kristin Bolton, one of the organizers of a monthly contra dance series offered at the Cornwall Town Hall.
So even if you’re not up for the fast-paced salsa, or polka, you can wait a song or two and join back in for a waltz.
Many seniors have been dancing their whole lives, Bolton acknowledges, which allows them to celebrate an activity they have enjoyed for many years.
Bolton, who also works at Elderly Services, has been organizing the contra dance series at Cornwall Town Hall for close to three years with her husband, Andrew Munkres, and their “old time” band, Red Dog Riley.
She says that part of the appeal for seniors (as well as young and middle-aged people), is the variety of participants at the events.
“There is often a core group of mature dancers,” Bolton says, “but there is always a surprising mix of people who show up.
“There aren’t a lot of events in the community where you get such a multi-generational mix of people.”
For seniors, the positive energy of live music, dancing and buzz of new people offers an easy way to stay optimistic about life.
Contra dancing events are usually informal and open to anyone who shows up. Dancing skills and a strong memory for all the steps and sequences are not required, as the caller dictates each move throughout the dance.
The music is typical of old-time Appalachian music, featuring fiddles, banjos, guitars and sometimes a bass.
Popularity for contra dancing seems to be rebounding, after a few years of decreased interest, as described by Alison James, a musician and folk-music enthusiast who in the past has helped organize a contra dancing series at Holley Hall in Bristol. Now, after about a three-year hiatus, James is restarting the contra dance series at Holley Hall.
“It seems to be the right time to start up again,” James says, noting other dancing and folk music venues drawing crowds around the state.
James attributes this shift to a renewed interest in local folk music. “It used to be that you could see a local band play anywhere, anytime. Now that it’s less common, when they do play, people come.”
Despite age, dancing and enjoying live music at a contra dance, square dance, salsa dance or swing dance, can help keep spring in your step and a smile on your face.
“Dancing is an important thing for the senior crowd,” says John Danyew, a dance instructor who teaches at many venues around the state. “It is a physical activity that can be low impact if you pick the style of dance appropriately — and keeps you feeling young!”
Danyew says he dances with people of all ages, but many of them are retired and are finally getting the chance to learn how to dance. “You can probably waltz until you’re 90,” Danyew says. “As long as you’re not trying to breakdance to keep up with hip-hop, dancing can be an option for your whole life.”