By: Mindy C. Kim
Our world is changing every day. Our baby-boomers are aging out of work and on their way to a retirement life. Kids today are being sucked into computers and devices and need a way to get out and be more active. As adults we work too hard and forget sometimes to enjoy life and all these things are compounded if we are disabled, at any age. So how doe we keep our seniors, kids and selves active and happy in a way that is also accessible for the disabled in our community? 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 away I grew and fine-tuned my classes and eventually ran my own very successful dance program back when I lived in Texas. I taught as young as two and my oldest (thus far) was 95.
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. A neuromuscular Disease that causes a lot of muscle wasting (along with a host of other problems) and it was progressive – only going to get worse. I later learned there is no cure or treatment either. I thought my dance life, which was everything, had ended. Then, I though 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 most of my students. I had students 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 and it was very good for them and me.
There are many benefits of dance that have been carefully researched, just to name a few:
· improved condition of your heart and lungs
· increased muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness
· increased aerobic fitness
· improved muscle tone and strength
· weight management
· stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis
· better coordination, agility and flexibility
· improved balance and spatial awareness
· increased physical confidence
· improved mental functioning
· improved general and psychological wellbeing
· greater self-confidence and self-esteem
· better social skills.
I learned that dancing makes us smarter, increases memory function, uses parts of the brain that we sometimes use less as we age, and it can fight of dementia.
In dance classes you learn, create, discover a new form of self-expression and 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 better when I dance. So why wouldn’t we dance and what about disabled people?
There is a movement among us of 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 Chair
Tap Dance and Chair 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 as many places as possible.
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 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 and now, with Adaptive dance it’s finally possible.
© Mindy C. Kim
Adaptive Dance students