Keep Them Dancing
By Daniela Del Giorno, Silver Shoes Dance Club
Not to age myself, but my love for social dance really started in the ’90s when Swing Dancing had a revitalization here in New York City. Restaurants and bars would turn into social hubs for everyone who wanted to enjoy and dance to the style of music made popular during the Harlem Renaissance. A student at the time, my friends and I would always go to MidSummer Night Swing at Lincoln Center. It didn’t make a difference that we couldn’t afford to actually get onto the dance floor. Dozens of dancers of all ages, ethnicities, backgrounds and financial means would flood around the outside of the floor to enjoy a dance with a stranger. This is what makes us New Yorkers. You didn’t need money to dance or connect with someone. Just music, movement and each other. My love for Swing dancing soon translated into other forms of dance. Salsa, Tango, Hustle, Bachata soon became part of my daily life.
Little could I have known all of those years ago that my love for social dance would lead me to a greater purpose. In January of 2019, I began the Silver Shoes Dance Club as part of a grant awarded by The Bronx Council on the Arts. The success of that program inspired me to grow it into something bigger. Silver Shoes Dance Club is currently the only sequential learning program to provide senior citizens with Ballroom & Latin Dance classes free of charge. Why seniors you may ask? Why social dancing? Why offer these classes for free?
Chronic diseases account for 75% of the money our nation spends on healthcare. 80% of adults over the age of 65 have one chronic disease and 77% have two. Most of these diseases are preventable. (“National Council On the Aging”) Adults over the age of 75 have the highest level of suicide in the US, also preventable with care. (“National Institute of Mental Health”) Approximately 20% experience mild cognitive impairment. (“Alzheimer's Association”) The lack of public intervention to help our rapidly growing, marginalized senior population is alarming. Preventative care is key, and I strongly consider social dance to be a practicable and preventative measure.
But why social dancing? Not only does dancing improve heart health and circulation but studies show that it may actually improve cognitive function more than any other leisure activity. (“Stanford University”) Partner dancing requires you to initiate and react to movements with another person, reading their body language while connecting to a wide variety of music. Partner dancing also provides a fun, social outlet for many seniors who suffer from isolation, depression, anxiety and loneliness. Groups that dance together become an outlet of support, accountability and encouragement. It’s a wonderful experience to witness.
Ballroom & Latin dance studios are wonderful places to learn social dancing while building coordination, flexibility, and balance. In my past experience working at franchised studios, it was always clear to me how much the staff cared about their clients. The learning is always top-notch and delivered by passionate instructors. But these classes come at a high price which excludes the low or fixed-income seniors most in need of this type of programming. The health disparities are evident throughout the city. With life expectancy increasing, our need as a country to up our game in preventative care options is tremendous. No senior citizen should have to pay for the numerous physical and mental health benefits of social dance classes. So, grab a senior citizen, a parent, a friend and get out there and dance. Much like when I was a student, it shouldn’t make a difference if you can pay to dance on the floor or not. There are plenty of us dancing off to the side. Dance is for everyone and more than ever we need to keep our seniors dancing!