By: Mindy C. Kim
Our world is changing every day. Our baby-boomers are aging out of work and on their way to retired life. Kids today are being sucked into computers and devices and need a way to get out and be more active. As adults many of us work too hard and forget sometimes to enjoy life. All these things are compounded if we are disabled, at any age. So how do we keep our entire community happy in a way that is accessible for the disabled as well? The answer is simple, Dance.
I have been a dance teacher for over 15 years now. I started small, teaching one tap dance class to about 4 kids once a week at a recreation center. Over the years and even moving states away I grew and fine-tuned my classes. I eventually ran my own very successful dance program.
In 2010 my wonderfully planned out life of teaching dance, putting on shows and continuing my program was flat-lined when I was diagnosed with Myotonic Dystrophy (DM). DM is a neuromuscular disease that causes a lot of muscle wasting (along with a host of other problems) and it’s progressive – only going to get worse. I learned there is currently no cure or treatment for DM. I thought my dance life, which was everything, had ended. Then, I thought again, and began my journey into Adaptive Dance.
I began to teach a Chair Tap dance class at our local Senior Center, it spread to a few retirement communities in the area and I loved every minute of it, as did my students. I had a wide range of students from those who had danced all their lives but no longer could (standing up) to people who had never tapped a moment in their life but loved learning, it was very good for them and me.
I learned that dancing has more benefits that I had even imagined. Dancing makes us smarter, increases memory function, uses parts of the brain that we sometimes use less as we age, and it can fight off dementia. In dance classes you learn, create and discover a new form of self-expression. You also make friends with your classmates. Also – as plainly I can say it, dancing makes you happy, myself included! With Myotonic Dystrophy depression and anxiety can be common, my mental health, outlook on life and overall happiness is much more positive when I dance. So why wouldn’t we dance? For all people, including disabled people, the benefits are inclusive.
There are many benefits of dance that have been carefully researched, here are a sampling:
improved condition of your heart and lungs
increased aerobic fitness
increased muscular strength
improved muscle tone and strength
stronger bones, reduced risk of osteoporosis
better coordination, agility and flexibility
endurance and motor fitness
increased physical confidence
improved muscle memory
slowed down aging
improved general psychological wellbeing
greater self-confidence, self-esteem
There is a movement going on for more adaptive and inclusive living. With all the benefits dance offers we can’t keep any members of our community form the opportunity to participate and that is where adaptive dance comes in.
Based on abilities there are several forms of adaptive dance. The classes I’ve created are Adaptive Tap Dance and Children’s Adaptive Dance. In both classes we sit in our chairs for the entire class. We still get a work out, we still learn, we still get all the benefits of any traditional dance, class has we just do it sitting down. I am currently working to get my classes to more people within my community.
So, the answer to keeping our retired friends happy and active, to getting our kids active and to adding joy to the life of working adults and anyone disabled is the same, Dance. Now the answer to include ALL people in our community is Adaptive dance.
All my life I believed there is a dancer in everyone of us and that all people can dance. Now, with Adaptive dance it’s finally possible.
© Mindy C. Kim