As owners and instructors of a studio, our primary focus is rightfully on the well-being of our students. We deeply care about their physical and mental health, as well as their personal development. Beyond dance, we recognize that we impart valuable life skills, including time management, acceptance, inclusivity, and, perhaps most crucially, self-esteem. Creating a welcoming and safe space is integral to us, as we understand that the dialogue individuals have within themselves shapes every aspect of their lives. Positive self-talk is a cornerstone of personal growth, and we aim to instill this mindset in our students, fostering a ripple effect of positivity in the world.
The question arises: At what point does this guidance cease? Is it when they understand its significance, upon graduation, or when they no longer require a cheering section?
These questions are particularly pertinent as we extend our instruction to adults. In my classes for individuals aged 18 to well into their 60s, ranging from beginners to advanced dancers, I recently observed a powerful dynamic in a beginner jazz class.
This particular class is a beginner jazz class. Despite differences in backgrounds and experience, they have all bonded. None of them joined dance with a friend although some ladies were familiar with each other from being at the studio. Some have children that dance and some do not.
On this particular day, I led the group to do progressions one at a time across the floor (and we all know how intimidating that can be) and they were cheering and clapping for each other. I could feel the fear some of the students felt but they did it anyway. I have watched confidence build within themselves and that is huge. It made me think. Where else in an adult’s life does that kind of positivity happen? Sadly, I believe there are people that go through their entire adult lives without feeling that boost. A room full of people genuinely happy for their accomplishment and showing that through immediate shared joy. In adult life, the decision to engage inactivities like dance is a courageous and personal choice. Unlike childhood, where external influences guide our participation, adults willingly take that leap. In my 25 years of teaching adults, I've always prioritized creating a fun and supportive atmosphere in class. The laughter and camaraderie are constants, yet it took this recent observation for me to recognize the profound ripple effect this has on their lives and the lives around them.
Adult life has so many challenges especially if you are a working mom with a family. That family could be children, siblings, aging parents or a combination of all of those. I sent out a questionnaire to find out what was the deciding factor that led them to join dance and what challenges they face in order to attend their classes and what benefits they get from dance.
Of the responses I received, half have been dancing longer than 5 years and half are in their first year of dance.
What made you start dancing?
I wanted to rediscover things I use to love
I have always loved dancing, whether it be "like no one is watching" or with someone teaching me. I put my daughter into dance, and said to myself it's about time I get back into it myself.
No clue it was 55 years ago.
Not sure. I just loved to dance so I danced informally in my home constantly. In grade 6 I joined because a friend danced and I’ve been there ever since (with some years off for university and childbirth). I was always sad I never got to start dancing at a younger age. I was always sad I didn’t get to do the dances that other students who had been there longer were doing. I would have loved to do more than I did. I still haven’t fully scratched that itch. Maybe that’s why I still dance as much as I do.
I wanted to add a low-moderate impact activity to break away from my sedentary lifestyle.
I’ve always enjoyed dancing, but never pursued any classes past the age of 8. I was able to experience the joy of dancing through my child. I saw how easily they were able to pick up choreography and confidently display their talents on a large stage. I was looking for a recreational activity for myself, and I realized that I should pursue adult dance lessons with a recital component. I have always dreamed of dancing for an audience on a stage, and these classes have given me the opportunity to live out my life-long dream.
My mom taught my sister and I how to dance in our living room at a very young age so I've always enjoyed music and dancing but after watching my first recital I was hooked and started dance lessons at the age of 11.
What is the biggest benefit you receive by taking weekly dance class(es)?
My mental health- the community and the physical benefits help too.
It provides me with an hour break/mental escape from all the hardships going on in my life right now. A place to not stress about anything, relax and have fun.
Exercise, escape from troubles, camaraderie.
Fun, social, great for body and mind, love of dance.
I really enjoy classes, they give me energy, I feel a sense of accomplishment and I love the people and community at the studio!
It makes me feel connected to who I am as a person. When I dance (even stretching during warm up) the muscle memory of years and years of doing this makes me feel timeless like a warm hug or an old friend.
I have become more flexible and my body pain has disappeared.
I have been intimidated by performing choreography. Taking weekly dance classes has helped to boost my confidence and to remind myself that I can do anything that I set my mind to.
There are so many benefits to taking dance class. As a young girl, dance gave me discipline and confidence, as well as physical exercise. At 53 dance still provides these things but also provides me with "my time" for something I enjoy.
What challenges do you face, if any, attending weekly class(es)?
None, I look forward to going to class every week.
My work schedule doesn’t always condone coming but I try and swap shifts to make it to class.
Getting to every class especially in the winter - get busy and tired.
Making time, but almost always managing to - and feeling tired- especially on Tuesday morning after a late Monday class - but it’s worth it.
Kids needs, illness, migraines, too many commitments, work.
Family commitments (illness, family activities)have made it a bit challenging to attend classes weekly. I try my best to not schedule any additional activities when I have a dance scheduled or I lean on family for support.
Do you do any other extra curricular activities for yourself? If so please explain.
Half of the responses were “No”.
I do yoga at home and I go indoor rock climbing and workout at the gym.
Yes. Volleyball, flying, rock climbing, basketball, choir and various performing opportunities through acting ,dancing or singing.
Yes, I swim on Sundays for 1 hour. I started it as a form of mild cardio and also to increase my endurance.
I am learning a language. It was my first language but I lost it while learning English.
Having taught adults for years I know how much we cheer each other on. Are there other areas or activities in your life currently that provide that positive energy?
The support in dance is unmatched. My friends and family who support me each day but having people want to see you better yourself truly helps.
Friends. Otherwise not really
Dance it #1 in that - but the climbing community has been great and very good at providing positive support.
Yes, all the activities I chose to do are positive 🙂
No. The girls in my Jazz class are so positive and motivating. Unfortunately I don't have anything else that could match that energy.
Family and friends provide positive energy. Everyone in my support system has been very encouraging of me taking adult dance lessons.
I have a side business sharing clean beauty, our team is very helpful & supportive of each other and we have fun doing it.
These die hard dancers filmed their recital dance outside in a parking lot during lockdown!
5 simple questions and we can understand the huge effect dance has on our adult community.
Consider the individual confronting the challenges of caring for sickly parents, navigating a demanding home life, and facing work-related pressures. Despite these hurdles, they prioritize self-care by attending dance classes, a choice that not only enhances their own well-being but radiates positive effects to those around them. This commitment to personal growth contributes to a ripple effect of joy, confidence, patience, and understanding in their roles as a spouse, parent, and colleague. Commendably, these individuals emerge happier and healthier, carrying this newfound vitality into their daily interactions. Recognizing the profound impact they have, we can understand the need for more positive influence in the world. While I still believe it is massively important to instill these qualities in children, let’s make the effort to build these qualities in the adults in the world around us.
If you do not already offer adult classes, consider adding a class next season. Start with one and see how it goes. We offer 8 weekly classes for adults. 3 levels of jazz, 2 levels of tap, lyrical, hip hop and a non recital ballet class for a total of 104 student units. We also offer summer classes that are well attended. It took some time to build this many classes. For years we only offered jazz and tap but then the adults started asking for more and we provided the opportunity. Adult classes provide us teachers and studio owners another way to spread more joy in the world.