Leading Australian dance studio, HD Entertainment, is urging more older Victorians to get active by quick-stepping into the world of dancing as part of their regular exercise and wellness routine.
Dalena Leggieri Ebadi, founder and principal instructor at HD Entertainment, says that her weekly teaching schedule is rapidly growing with clients aged over 60, who are keen to discover the world of dance at their pace and time.
“We are finding at HD that our older students have lamented that they never took up dancing when they were younger, so now they are embracing the chance to get their shimmy on and take to the dance floor.”
According to Leggieri Ebadi, dance is a fabulous way to enhance elders’ static balance and dynamic function which helps you in everyday life to avoid falls.
“Learning dance from a professional teacher that understands the individual they are teaching in terms physical and cognitive level has great potential in helping someone to optimise their ability to change directions, weight transfer and balance on one leg — all by enjoying the art of dancing.”
Indeed, studies show that older adults engaging in dance, no matter the style, note improvements in balance and muscular strength as well as a boost to their mental health.
“We have also seen older students talk about their enhanced mobility, including how their ability to move from sitting and standing has also improved,” Leggieri Ebadi says.
For best health outcomes, Leggieri Ebadi tells Aged Care News that a combination of weight training and dance is advisable.
“We think it’s fantastic that older people do go to the gym as well. Using weights will increase their bone density,” she says.
“Dance specifically has the capacity to help improve memory, balance and help prevent falls — and it’s just a lot of fun … and a good social activity.
“Even for myself, as a dancer and dance teacher, I love the social side just as much as the training; it’s a really important mood lifter.
“So it’s definitely beneficial for everyone, but for an older person it’s very beneficial for their independence and those protective factors against dementia.”
Whilst hitting the dance floor may be an intimidating prospect for many elders, especially those with impaired mobility, Leggieri Ebadi says that modifications can be made to make dance accessible no matter an elder’s starting point.
“We do understand when older people do feel concerned or worried to start exercising, or dancing, and so it is important for us as trainers and teachers to address these concerns and work around them so that they are still able to reap the benefits.
“Modifications, throughout dance training, can easily be provided, such as using a ballet bar to help them balance when they’re standing up, or perform certain activities seated until they build up the confidence to actually participate in a standing exercise.
“We definitely like them to ease their way into it … it’s about nurturing them as well, so that they feel comfortable doing things.
“Once they gain the confidence, then we can progress further along.”
For 68-year-old Cheryl Bastow from Brighton, dance has become an obsession.
For more than 13 years now, she has sashayed and tangoed every week at HD Entertainment’s Prahran studio, rarely missing a lesson.
For Bastow, dance lessons are so much more than a good form of exercise: it is a social outlet that fills her cup and keeps her mental health in check.
“Loneliness is a terrible thing and for many women over 50, who are single or divorced, social isolation is a real problem.
“My one-on-one weekly lesson with Hooman (Ebadi) is the opportunity to connect with another person and be able to express myself creatively.”
A health scare six months ago reconfirmed Cheryl’s commitment and love of dance.
“My diagnosis with a brain tumor really shook me, but made me realise that continuing to invest in ‘me’ was the way forward, and that dance would be front and centre in my life.
“It gives me an emotional high which nothing else does.”
For elders interested in giving dance a go, Leggieri Ebadi recommends starting with a private, one-on-one lesson first.
“To get the very best out of their dance lessons, we do recommend an individual approach.
“This will allow us to give our 100 per cent attention to that particular individual and work on their specific needs.
“However, we do try and blend lessons for other people as well.
“So if they have been dancing with us one on one for a bit of time, we do recommend that they do try some group classes, because obviously there’s that social interaction and the ability to practice other styles.”