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Overcoming the ‘Old’ Barrier when Social Dancing

Dancing, like many physical activities, has long been considered a young person’s sport. Whether you are tuning in to Dancing With The Stars, visiting the local salsa club, or trying your first group class, odds are, if you’re a senior, you’re in the minority.

The first thing I urge you to remember is that this does NOT mean you are unwelcome in dancing circles. I won’t lie and tell you there are no ageist dancers out there; just that the lack of senior dancers may have more to do with health issues and shyness than an actual stigma.

Ballroom dance is particularly welcoming to dancers of 50 years and up, because it doesn’t strain the body as much at the social levels. In return, the mental and physical benefits that older dancers can reap from social ballroom dance are TREMENDOUS.

For example, I’ve had a student with MS in her ankle start dancing in heels – years after she’d decided she couldn’t even walk in them again. I’ve heard of older students improving memory, flexibility, and muscle strength through ballroom, all while making friends or spending romantic time with their partner.

In short, whatever else you may worry about when it comes to dancing, never doubt that it’s worth it. Here’s a few other things worth knowing.

It’s never too late.

‘I wish I’d only gotten started sooner.’ Sound familiar? Virtually all of my middle-age-and-up students have used on me at least once.

But while you’re regretting past decisions, try to include a healthy dose of honesty – you had reasons for not dancing before, and they made sense to you, at least at the time. Recognizing that you wouldn’t have done it the same way again isn’t admitting failure – it’s acquiring wisdom.

And what have you missed by not dancing before now anyway? Performing in an awesome outfit? I’ve done that with several older students. Competing? Ditto. You don’t need to do triple backflips to dance a mile a minute to get full enjoyment out of dancing – sometimes, the best moments come in the simplest steps.

Accept that some dance genres will take longer to excel at.

Some dances will be faster, and demand more from your body, than others. For that reason alone, expect the dancers you meet to be skewed towards the younger side. Don’t let that stop you, but do be honest about the challenges involved.

For example, you may find you need longer to master a new step in salsa than a slow waltz. And it may sometimes be tougher to find friends and dance partners who are your age.

However, if you truly love the dance genre you’ve chosen, and you accept the challenges involved, then go for it! The barriers you encounter may delay you, but the cannot stop you.

Easier Footwork Harder Footwork
Slow waltz Viennese Waltz
Foxtrot Quickstep
Rumba Cha Cha
West Coast Swing East Coast Swing
Merengue Salsa/Mambo
Tango Jive
Bolero Hustle


Next week, I’ll share three more tips on how you can excel in your social dancing – no matter your age.


About the Author

Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 18 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance and his endless seeking for ways to reach new audiences eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.

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