Mastering Dance Movement Patterns Can Improve Memory

Published April 21, 2016 in the Harvard Health Publications, the article confirms that research shows dance has numerous health benefits for all ages. Dance reduces fat, builds muscle and bone, increases aerobic capacity and lowers blood pressure among other health benefits. Moreover, dance incorporates the power of music! “Music stimulates the brain‚Äôs reward centers, while dance activates its sensory and motor circuits.” Some studies have shown that the mastery of patterns of movement improves memory and problem-solving more so than walking.

In my experience as founder of Vitality Ballet, I’ve noticed how challenging it is for sedentary seniors to put together seemingly simple patterns of movement. In fact, when I first launched it caught me off guard how a series of clapping, counting and marching could pose such a challenge. What I found is this challenge is met by participants in one of two ways: some thrive and enjoy while others feel discouraged and defeated. Creating an experience in which our clients can thrive is key to encouraging seniors to be open to new adaptive exercise concepts, such as chair ballet.

Dr. Lauren Elson is a former professional dancer who specializes in sports and rehabilitation medicine at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Network. In the Harvard Health Publications article, she suggests dancing as a form of exercise that everyone can take part in- either from a chair or standing. Dr. Elson says, “It‚Äôs a way to connect to your own body, to music, and to other people. It just depends on whatever your goals are. But we know that there are so many benefits of dancing ‚ÄĒ cognitive, physical, and social ‚ÄĒ that it merits consideration by everybody.‚ÄĚ

Our goal is to keep seniors moving, even right from their chairs. More and more research like this article is emerging showing that dancing can offer serious benefits for aging adults. Enticing seniors into the exercise class can take some persuasion, but fun music and creating an environment for success always keeps them coming back.


Source: Harvard Health Publications  Let’s dance! Rhythmic motion can improve your health

You’re Never Too Old To Pursue Your Dreams

We love this story from about 85- year old Arne Mayala, a U.S. Navy Veteran, who took up tap dancing last month. Mayala always loved song-and-dance films like “Singing in the Rain” so the chance to learn some of the moves himself was a dream come true. When Mayala¬†and his wife passed a local dance studio in their home town of Lake Forest, Minnesota, she¬†encouraged him to try it. The studio owner, Robin Lind, says that she can see his weekly improvements. Additionally, Lind notices that along with the joy dance brings, it’s also good for the¬†brain and keeping the aging body moving.

Lind noticed the success that¬†dance has had on Mayala¬†and started teaching senior ballet and tap classes at a local nursing home. We agree with Lind, “You’re never too old to pursue your dreams.”¬†



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Art In All Forms Is Used To Promote Healthy Aging

Last month an article in the New York Times highlighted some incredible programs¬†that use various forms of art to promote healthy aging in seniors. One program called the¬†Music and Memory Project gave iPods playing music from their generation to seniors affected by dementia. Before the music, they had problems recalling any memories and¬†some were even¬†unresponsive all together. Once they heard the recognizable music of their day, their dispositions changed immediately. Some experienced a flood of memories, some danced in their chair,¬†smiled and some sung along. During Vitality Ballet classes, we too notice an emotional response to familiar tunes played during ballet class. Some of the songs our participants enjoy dancing to the most are¬†“I Got Rhythm”, “Edelweiss” and “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”.

The article highlights other forms of art helping seniors such as painting and visual arts. Of course, it was the part about dancing¬†with seniors that caught our attention. The program they highlighted is called¬†Dances For A Variable Population, based in New York. The program¬†gets older adults dancing, even from their chair, much like Vitality Ballet does in St. Louis. The director of their program says: ‚ÄúMovement enriches the quality of their lives. It‚Äôs absolutely healing. Balance, mobility, strength ‚ÄĒ everything improves.‚ÄĚ The article emphasizes¬†how the arts heal and promote healthy aging through social engagement which has been linked in population studies to longevity.

Article Source: Using the Arts to Promote Healthy Aging

Some Dementia Can Unlock Artistic Creativity

Recently, a 2009 case study released in the journal Neurocase¬†described the peculiar artistic emergence of a former lawyer¬†in his early 50’s. Out of nowhere he quit his job, moved in with his mother, developed some unusual habits…and became a highly skilled prolific visual artist.

What doctors¬†diagnosed was¬†frontotemporal dementia, which occurs when there is shrinkage of the brain‚Äôs frontal and temporal lobes. According to the article posted on¬†Fox News, this occurrence in the brain is “the second most common cause of early-onset dementia” which also “brings on personality change and a neglect of social decorum.” In this patient, among a growing number of others, their dementia unleashed a creative and artistic prowess¬†that seemingly wasn’t there before.

Today, modern neuroimaging is being conducted to help discover why dementia could have such a powerful influence on creativity.

Article source:¬†“How Dementia Can Unlock Creativity In Some People”¬† ¬†Republished on Fox News. Original article by: Eliezer J. Sternberg

106 Year-Old Dancing in the White House

What better way to start off the Vitality Ballet blog than with¬†Virginia McLaurin, the 106 year-old dancer. With enough energy and spunk to light up a room, she¬†was invited to the White House to take part in Black History Month celebrations this month. When she met President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, McLaurin couldn’t stop herself from dancing! President Obama even suggested she slow down and stop¬†moving so quickly.

When asked what her secret to dancing at 106, she says “Just keep movin’!” Couldn’t have said it better! So today’s goal: to keep St. Louis’ seniors dancing¬†just like Virginia McLaurin.