Dance and Smile; You Grow Old from Stopping

FADS Senior DanceThe tapping of heels parade across the parquet floor, affirming it must be Tuesday at two o’clock. Sunny hellos and elated greetings intermingle as the seniors situate their belongings on the pub table tops and the square shelves mirrored against the wall. Timidity wanes as everyone engages in preparation for their weekly group dance lesson.

This week culminates in the spirited Samba, a steady bounce achieved by flexing and straightening the knees while weight transfers from the ball to the flat of the foot. The 25 assiduous seniors, most in their late 60’s and early 70’s, ardently flood the dance floor. Donald Westphal, one of our ebullient instructors, revisits what they learned the week prior.

“Step and point, step, side, rock. How did you do? Again!”

There is a sense of comfort within the studio along with a committed, authentic learning experience. Many seniors have attended the senior social group lesson since we opened our doors 10 years ago.

As dancers visit for their first lesson, they are greeted with admiration and are quickly welcomed by a partner. There is no judgment; it is clear that they are here to spend time cavorting with the glitterati.

Together, these dancers defy the stereotype of seniors. Dancing requires fast movements, flexibility, and social interaction; all of which, helps improve physical performance and increase energy levels. These students don’t balk at the challenge; they love it. Dance empowers these students and helps them stay active and connected.

FADS Senior Dance CoupleJon Petre, a diminutive 85-year-old Michigan Senior Olympic dance champion, reaches out his hand and whispers to a dance partner, “Wanna tango?”

Petre’s dulcet tones and rugose hands lead pivots, turns, and long elegant steps. Together, they become the active force that lends the performance its sense of cultural plurality and playfulness. Petre never corrected posture or steps; he just encouraged his dance partner to continue and praised her during hesitant poses.

Petre waltzed around after the lesson, making small talk.

“I took first place in all eight categories of dance at the Michigan Senior Olympics,” he says.

His friend, Stan Kuglei, leans over and utters, “This is because he is the only one dancing in his age bracket!”

At our studio, many seniors fervently believe that their instructor, through his repetition, helps maintain their memory and challenges them with fast steps and sundry techniques. Students switch partners to engage in mutltiple perspectives, allowing them to grow collectively and individually as dancers.

Joan and Barbara
Joan and Barbara

Barbara Shoger, 68, and her husband Vance, 70, have attended our studio for three years and are now planning to participate in piano lessons due to their newfound love of the music that complements dance. Their passion for learning does not diminish with age but instead flourishes.

The lessons are fun, affordable, and open to the public. Everyone is welcome. Always.

“People ask, what’s my favorite dance and do you know what I say? I point to my hand and say here is my list. When I learn a new dance and my confidence grows, it goes into my favorites. I keep adding dances and soon they have all become my favorite. I can’t just choose one, they all offer something special.” Larry, student at Fred Astaire’s dance studio

If you wish to attend, this group is designed for dancers age 50 and older. All levels of dancers are welcome. We host a group lesson from 2-3 p.m. Tuesdays with general dancing to follow at 3 p.m. Seniors pay $8 per person to participate; it’s not necessary to bring a partner!

Each month the group learns a different style of dance. Dance styles include, but are not limited to, waltz, tango, foxtrot, country 2-step and more! For information, call (248) 454-1715.