[Callers] ONS for seniors

Amy Cann ACann at putneyschool.org
Sun Oct 19 16:58:09 PDT 2008

A bunch of thoughts on dancing with seniors:

You know all of those "old" dances
that modern dancers find "boring" 
because "the ones get to do most of the moves and everyone else stands
around and rests too much" 
and "there's not enough partner swinging"
Or, god forbid, squares where you "don't go much of anywhere in the room
and only one couple gets to DO anything while THREE stand around and wait"

I've found them to be pretty much perfect for seniors-on-carpet.

Folks in a retirement or other close community (that know and like each
other) often get a lot of mileage out of the dance moves that involve
conversation/communication/display - ones tend to head down the center
with lots of nice little extras, a lift of the eyebrow here, a courtly nod

I've done older dances like "Chorus Jig" as true three-couple-set dances,
with the ones progressing to the bottom during the final swing, and
they've worked well. The Hendrickson books on colonial dancing have any
number of good options. 

In the family dance world we often replace a "Strip the Willow" series of
turns with handshakes and this also works with adult beginners: if you're
a one, you get to shake hands (bow, leer...) with each person on the line,
returning between each to shake your partner's hand and "reassure them
that you haven't forgotten where your true loyalty lies"

One other note: many folks in their eighties know how to two-step/foxtrot,
and can often do a sprightly two-stepping swing (think of it as a polka in
a small space) with grace and verve, slowly rotating one full turn, even
when a true weight-giving swing isn't feasible.

Basically, your goal becomes to keep the story line of the dances while
giving options - 
"popping the ones under the arch" can also be "usher them through the
gate" for people with arthritic shoulders or bad rotator cuffs; it's the
feeling of inviting/escorting the ones between you that counts, not how
high or low your hands are.

You might want to post a query on the pourparler list; that's where a lot
of the callers that do lots of family/community/school/special
needs/senior/second-language dancing like to hang out and discuss our
fascination with calling for pretty much everyone EXCEPT your average
experienced contrajunkie.

Good luck!

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