This is a heart breaking topic since so many of us know someone in declining mental and/or
physical capacity. Sometimes people will self select and opt out of dancing if they have
insight into their declining abilities, other times they don't, putting a strain on
the community. Approx 15 years ago Philadelphia had a dancer with declining physical
abilities which divided the community for several years. He finally moved away to be with
The gentleman that you are describing (I observed them when I was there in April), seems
to want to maintain the "normal" in his life, rightfully so. She did not seem
engaged in the dancing (ie, didn't respond to the calls), but seemed to enjoy some of
the one-on-one attention that everyone paid her as she was "escorted" through
the figures, but at times looked frustrated.
Dale had a great suggestion to separate the couple. Great idea for the husband...he could
still manage (although slower) to get through the dance. However, I personally don't
think that having another partner would be helpful for her as she seemed to require
significant hand-holding not just from her partner but also from all her neighbors.
You might consider getting volunteers to "dance" with her on the sidelines
one-on-one if she's interested in dancing (and if she is able to engage without her
husband with her), simple figures like allemande, two hand turn, do-si-do, or a simple
"swing" couple dance. You would have to have several volunteers willing sit out
a dance to accommodate her if this option works. Or she might be willing to sit at the
front desk with whomever is sitting there, if she's social and interested in talking
with people as they enter. This would keep her in a safe space while the husband dances.
However, I really want to emphasize Dan's suggestion of talking with the husband. He
needs to be engaged in the discussion and solution. The dances were challenging for her
in April and I suspect that its worse now. Perhaps you could suggest that the caller do a
simple dance, like Salmonella Evening for all beginners (but especially for them if he
insists on dancing with her), but unless there are a significant number of beginners at
the dance, then catering to this couple for more than one dance in the evening seems
unfair to the other dancers.
I don't think their participation in a slower beginner dance or family dance would be
appropriate either...she didn't appear to have the mental capacity to learn the dance
and didn't respond to the calls over the mic. So, unless there's a dance that
caters to seniors with declining mental capacity, I think she would be a challenge to have
in any line.
In addition, my main concern is for her safety. Usually with declining mental capacity
comes a slowing of physical response, balance and reaction time. Changing directions at
120 beats/minute probably challenges her and puts her at risk for a fall which might
include someone near her as well. I don't know if a fall like this would open your
organization to liability. You might want to look into that.
I applaud you and your other organizers for tackling this issue. I suspect that sooner or
later all dance communities will have to manage something like this.
From: Katy Heine via Organizers <organizers(a)lists.sharedweight.net>
To: Organizers <Organizers(a)lists.sharedweight.net>
Sent: Tue, Oct 24, 2017 10:03 am
Subject: [Organizers] what to do about a dancer with dementia
For the last three years, one of our older dancers has been declining with dementia--and
her husband, not a good dancer himself, continues to bring her to our dances. Invariably,
they create chaos on the dance floor.
Most people on the board of my dance organization feel it's important to continue to
include these dancers until such time that the husband decides it's time for them to
stop coming. On the other hand, I'm concerned with the effect that they're having
on other dancers. I've heard at least one dancer say that she considered not coming to
a dance when she saw that this couple was there--and certainly this couple's presence
is diminishing the dance experience of many of the dancers who've come to our events
for the high level of dancing that we were able to deliver in the past.
Has anyone else wrestled with this sort of problem? If yes, what did you do (or not do)
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