Dance Stories - why Join The Circle's Dementia friendly dance sessions are more than just 'moving and grooving'!

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We all know I’m biased when it comes to Join The Circle dance sessions, I really love what I do! But to be fair…it would be different if my participants didn’t love it too! And most of them, if I’m honest, don’t come for the workout. (Alright, some of them really do! Check out Betty here… she’s awesome!)

Most of my participants come because it’s an activity that promotes their social well-being.

But obviously, they don’t call it that. They call it having a chat.

I thought I’d share some of their stories with you…

I’ve met ladies who were professional dancers - quite often showing me they’ve ‘still got it’ with plenty of high kicks! And I mean, foot way above head height! I’ve met a lady who used to tour dancehalls with her partner, demonstrating the new, fashionable moves. I recently met a lady who danced onstage with Sir Cliff Richard for six months whilst he was on tour around the UK. She left her job as a nurse for the once in a lifetime opportunity. (According to her, he was a complete gentleman…much to her dismay…) I’m a bit in awe of these women! They’ve got charisma in spades.

I’ve met ladies for who dance was a major part of their lives, even if it wasn’t their profession. One lady, ‘Madge’ remembers vehemently disliking Rock ‘n’ Roll dancing, and recalls when it was first demonstrated at her local church hall… “There was a dance there every weekend, and the visitors starting sliding around on the floor, going under each other’s legs! We’d never seen anything like it! I said to my friend, I don’t like this!” The same lady harboured a wish to dance ‘a real Viennesse Waltz’ in Vienna. So her and her friend saved up the money especially so they could go on holiday there, and dance it.

A topic that comes up a lot when we’re chatting, is stories of when participants ‘used to’ dance. There was a very popular dance hall along Southend seafront called The Kursaal, which a lot of my local participants remember well and fondly!

A lady, let’s call her ‘Vera’, and her husband, ‘John’, are always avid participants when it comes to dance sessions in their care home! The couple often tease each other to put more effort in or roll their eyes at each other and say, “You used to be more enthusiastic!” After one session, they told me about how they’d met at The Kursaal. Vera was there with a friend and apparently had been very deliberately NOT looking for any male attention. She had doggedly avoided the gaze of a young chap, who yes, she did like the look of, but she wasn’t there for that sort of thing. At the end of the evening, John approached Vera, and asked if he might be allowed to escort her home. He’d brought his car. Vera told him, she’d brought hers. Apparently, Vera’s friend told her off and said she should have left her car there and let the chap take her home. And the next night (the NEXT night!) when they were both at The Kursaal (AGAIN!) and John again asked if he could escort her home, she accepted. She hadn’t brought her car.

A lady, let’s call her ‘Amy’, described how she loved dancing so much that she went to the Kursaal every night of the week after work. She said she loved walking home along the seafront, back to Leigh-on-Sea where she lived (a good 3 or 4 mile walk!)

It’s not just the ladies though. Many a gent has told me how much they loved to dance ‘in those days’ and how it was a good way to meet women! Lots of people met their spouses at dance halls. Marriages that lasted decades. One chap, ‘Neville’ described how he was never very much for the actual dancing, but him and his friends used to all go together on their motorbikes. “It was just where everyone got together”

Some of my participants have told me that the sessions are like a club - they don’t see some people anywhere else but the sessions and it’s a chance to forge new and lasting relationships with their fellow residents. I love that after decades, dance is still what brings my participants together. It’s much more than just a workout.