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Rediscovering the Joy of Dance

By Patsy Trench July 11, 2023 Lifestyle

We all know how important it is to keep active in our later years. It’s the catch-all remedy for any ailment you can think of, along with quitting smoking and eating healthily. And, of course, it is true: the older you get the more the muscles are prone to seize up if not exercised regularly.

But What Kind of Exercise?

Walking is excellent, yes, as are keep fit classes, yoga, Pilates, tennis or swimming. It doesn’t really matter so long as it gets you moving.

But what about enjoyment?

We all know we won’t keep up the classes or the walking or the sports if we don’t get pleasure out of them.

There is one activity that includes not just general movement but a host of other joys and life-affirming blessings, and that is dance.

How Does Dance Fit the Bill?

I don’t mean classical ballet – though that has obvious benefits. Several years ago, I came upon a brand new organisation here in London called DanceWest, which runs classes for older people called Bolder not Older,aimed at the over-60s.

I hadn’t been to dance classes since I went to nursery school. (Where, incidentally, my dance partner went on to become a leading dancer at the Royal Ballet and ended up running it.) I think I showed a certain promise at the age of four, but then I went on to boarding school, where dance was not part of the curriculum, and thus ended my dance aspirations.

Many people are put off by the idea of prancing around a dance studio at our age, but the whole mantra behind DanceWest is that dance is for everybody. Absolutely everybody. Whether you have two left feet or you cannot count is irrelevant. Knowing your left from your right is useful but not mandatory.

The point of the classes is not just to keep your body moving, it’s to work on your balance, your ability to follow a routine and to execute it in your own particular way.

Don’t Try and Copy the Teacher

I learned early on that I shouldn’t try to copy the teacher. She’s a trained professional and trying to emulate her will be deeply disappointing. One of the joys of our classes is watching how each of us – and we are all, needless to say, female (though that was not always the case) – interprets the routines in quite different ways.

Not all of us are getting it right, but we are all expressing ourselves in our own unique ways. Some of us are sexy, some are introspective, others flamboyant or exuberant – whoever we choose to be we can be through the medium of dance. And, in the right surroundings, it helps to know that since no one is judging us we can be completely unself-conscious.

Should Dance Be Mandatory?

I have often said I think dance should be compulsory. Certainly, in schools – and especially for students who aren’t necessarily good at sports – and indeed throughout our adult lives. In an ideal world, dance classes would be available free on the National Health Service.

By concentrating on movement, balance, rhythm, grace and memory, dance stimulates all the faculties that are known to, shall we say, take a back seat in our mature years. Especially, in my case, balance.

It is not competitive, or aspirational, it is simply what it is: challenging – both physically and mentally – and, above all, fun.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you find joy in some type of physical activity? What do you think about dance classes? Have you taken any? Does any studio around you offer dance classes for seniors? Would you sign up if so?

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I think dance is great. But I am on the shy side so wiggling my body where everyone can see me is not for me. I do though enjoy other sports euchre as yoga and lawn bowling.

Patsy Trench

I understand your shyness Wilhelmina, there are plenty like you in our class (including me, to some extent). Dance may not suit everyone, and yoga is pretty challenging!

Lynne Freeman

About 3 months ago, I discovered Essentrics Classes, aka Aging Backwards. I love it and haven’t found any excuses not to go to class. My 65 yr old body is responding and I feel great. It was devised by a former Canadian National Ballet dancer about 25 years ago when she hurt her back, so it’s tried and trusted. Classes are available in some cities in Canada and the US and some other countries. It’s a full-body workout that unlocks and decompresses joints by stretching and strengthening without impact to the body. Improving wellness, increasing energy and reducing pain. I can personally attest to that. Balance is worked on as well as the joints and muscles, particularly in our feet. Her name is Miranda Esmode-White and she has a programme on PBS sometimes. If I can’t make a class, I do one at home on her streaming service. The streaming service is really affordable. To me, it’s almost like doing a ballet class (at my age!) with great music, flowing and gentle movements, but my fried who I introduced it to, experiences it as more of a gentle exercise class even though she breaks into a sweat. There are also men who attend our classes who swear by it for sore knees and backs. I can’t say enough about how it lifts my mood and how energized I feel since starting this .My daughter commented recently that my posture has improved and how much more energetic and healthy I am looking. BTW, I get nothing from the company to say this, it is my personal experience. I wish I found this years ago.

Patsy Trench

That’s very interesting to hear Lynne, I will check out Essentrics, and if it’s available to stream all the better! Thanks for posting.


Essentrics — Been following for years — its wonderful!


I would – definitely- for fun dance, not ballroom type dancing. Great idea. Will have to google to see if anything similar in my area.

Patsy Trench

Good luck with your hunting MaryAnn, I’m sure you’ll find something!

Kimberly Phoenix

I wonder if there is something in the US a equivalent to older and bolder?

Patsy Trench

I don’t know Kimberley, I would imagine there would be though it depends where you live. If you read the comment from Lynn Freeman about classes called Essentrics it appears they are available to stream. I intend to check them out and they might suit you too.

Marcia R Corenman

Id just went back to Ballroom Dance on Friday night. It was an open lesson followed by social dancing and it was a blast! I rediscovered a joy I’d experienced previously when I took Cotillion in Middle School to learn how to behave in polite society…Well, it’s really fun and there is some kind of free dance class everyday in my community so I plan to go as often as I am able,

Patsy Trench

Excellent, Marcia. A few years ago I decided to check out tango classes here in London and discovered a whole sub culture devoted to it. It’s astonishing what goes on if you hunt for it. I’m so glad to hear you’re having so much fun!

The Author

Patsy Trench has been an actress, scriptwriter, theatre tour organiser and theatre teacher and lecturer. She now writes books about her family history in colonial Australia and novels featuring enterprising women breaking boundaries in Edwardian and 1920s England. She lives in London.

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