When it comes to physical activity as we age, it’s clear that dance has the edge. I had the distinct privilege of participating in the first cohort of Module 1 in Ausdance VIC’s new, nationally recognized course, Creative Ageing Through Dance. Aimed at addressing the skill gap and bringing dance to the ageing population, this four-module course will train both dance and allied health professionals to confidently and safely deliver engaging dance and expressive movement to seniors all over the country. Graduates of the Creative Ageing through Dance 4-module learning pathway will be registered with Ausdance VIC as trained and qualified teachers of Creative Ageing (Dance).
“Move it or lose it! The message is clear,” said Dr. Katrina Rank, Director of Education and Lifelong Learning, Ausdance VIC. “However, many people find it difficult to maintain enthusiasm for ongoing exercise. A growing body of research shows that dance can provide the motivation needed by blending creativity, social interaction, artistic goals and physical activity, with the bonus of very low attrition rates. But it’s serious business. People’s health and safety will be in the hands of their teachers. It’s important to ensure that Australia’s dance artists have the skills needed to work with our ageing population.”
The course was developed over four years, and brings together the latest research and evidence-based practice in the areas of health, community and dance. The Creative Ageing Through Dance program is aimed at dance professionals who have had a minimum of five years of dance experience, either as a teacher or performer, as well as allied health professionals.
Since the course is just getting started, I only completed the first module: An Introduction to Creative Ageing Through Dance. This particular section is delivered entirely online and must be completed over the span of four weeks. It introduces learners to the theory and practice of safely teaching and facilitating dance and expressive movement to older people. Additionally, it offers a sneak peak into the different professional environments in which dance can be taught to older learners.
The module was clean, and easy to navigate, even for the most technically challenged! Ausdance did a wonderful job of clearly laying out the coursework and the desired learning outcomes upon completion. Among some of the outcomes were: interpret and discuss motivating factors for older people participating in a dance program; recognise enablers and barriers to dance participation by seniors and the elderly; identify and describe environments in which dance practice for older people takes place; and reflect and present ideas around the role of creativity and ageing.
Throughout the course, there were varying components which made learning interesting and engaging. Articles were included to provide scientific context for the learning material. Videos, many filmed by Ausdance VIC, featured interviews with dancers, instructors and ageing professionals. Surveys and questionnaires were scattered throughout to provide active engagement with the material, and several discussion boards were present, allowing for interaction with other learners. Finally, there were three quizzes which you must pass with at least 70 percent in order to receive your certificate of completion at the end of the module.
Of these components, my favorite were the videos. I found myself smiling, nodding and even shedding a tear on multiple occasions, as I heard the stories of the contributors. One of my favourite videos highlighted Dance for Parkinson’s – a class specifically aimed at those with Parkinson’s Disease. It was inspiring to watch the ways that dancers of differing abilities – some standing, others in chairs – enthusiastically participated in the class. I was reminded of the incredible benefits of dance to people of all ages and abilities.
I also appreciated the discussion boards throughout the course, which were made even more insightful by the comments from Dr. Katrina Rank. She actively engaged with participants and provided helpful feedback on our responses. As the Director of Education and Lifelong Learning at Ausdance VIC, her insights were especially welcomed.
It is clear that Ausdance has gone to great efforts to put together a high-quality program for dance and allied health professionals. The research and statistics included in the course were detailed and supported the case for teaching dance to those who are ageing. There was a great emphasis on providing safe classes, but not without a deeper understanding of how bodies change as we age. Anatomical and physiological details were given, and one of the quizzes solidified your knowledge of changing bodies.
The next sequence in Ausdance VIC’s Creative Ageing through Dance training program is Module 2: Developing Practice. This module develops your ability to generate appropriate and stimulating material for classes and projects. Using discussion and practical activities, Module 2 shows you how to modify content and develop new approaches to teaching dance and facilitating creativity and artistry through dance. Module 2 will run as a two-day intensive on 18 and 19 June in Melbourne.
As someone with both a dance background and professional experience in the ageing field, I was impressed with the thoroughness of the course. Teaching dance to seniors is different than teaching dance to young people, and this Ausdance course does an excellent job of setting the stage for how to navigate the differences. It was clear that much thought and research was put into the first module. This section gave a tremendous foundation to build on, and I walked away convinced of the need to offer further dance options for older adults.
I strongly encourage dancers, teachers, studio owners and allied health professionals to learn more about what Ausdance is doing in the arena of Creative Ageing. They are paving the way for dance and allied health professionals to confidently and safely deliver engaging dance and expressive movement to seniors, and you can join them!
Visit ausdancevic.org.au/courses/creative-ageing for more information.
By Melody McTier of Dance Informa.