Teaching dance to older people

This is an area of dance that I did not intentionally get involved with but I am so glad that I did. Teaching older adults became popular through the exercise and fitness arena with the groups referred to as:

  • 50 plus
  • TOFFS (The over fifty fives)
  • Golden age
  • Gold
  • Seniors
    and so on…

My own experiences working with older people in dance, exercise and wellbeing include:

  • teaching a range of dance genres and dance activities
  • health promoting workshops and courses in the community and in the workplace
  • exercise, movement and fitness based classes
  • coordinating a health walk programme within health promotion
  • walking for health with cardiac patients as part of cardiac rehab
  • teacher development courses

Older social dance groupOne of the first things that I learned when working with older people is not to assume a level of ability based on age. You can easily find a whole range of experiences covering dance, movement  and physical activity in an older adults dance class. And this can create one of the first challenges for you as their teacher – creating class content that is suitable for the whole class. Content that will satisfy the more experienced participants whilst not putting off the less experienced, newcomers to dance. You may find, as many others have, that you start one older adult class and then realise that you need more than one class so you can comfortably facilitate the various abilities of your older dancers. It is worth giving thought to how you might fit in another class or classes right from the start when your older adult class takes off – so many older adults love attending dance class, groups and events and it is an area in dance school that can become very popular.

One issue that often arises in older adult classes is that once the class have been learning and dancing together for a while they won’t want to move to another class without their classmates. This can pose a bit of a problem if you don’t plan for this. With children’s classes very often the children move to the next class as they move through the grades or medals and so on. And this is the norm. However, with older adults, they often want to stay with the same group, attending at the same time on the same day. So a bit of flexibility is needed here. In contrast to kid’s classes, you can start an older adult beginner class with a view that the class will progress and develop with the same group of people. This works really well for some groups where there are sufficient participants to enable this model. If you know that you need your adults to move to a different class, time or day once they have grasped the basics then consider, from the outset, how you will manage this. Will you for example, tell your newcomers about this when they start so that it is not news (or a bit of a shock) further down the line? Whatever you decide to do I can recommend planning ahead and sharing your plans with your older adults from the beginning so that they know what to expect.

Previous posts that also address aspects of teaching dance to older people include:

Health and social benefits of dance for older people

When do you become older?

New Online Course



I am planning a new Short Online CPD Course for Dance Teachers exploring some of the key areas for dance teachers to have an understanding of when teaching dance to older adults.


Topics will include:

  • safe dance teaching practice when teaching older dancers including risk management of the dance space, health questionnaires, choosing suitable dance content, time out and so on
  • exploring potential health and social benefits of teaching dance to older adults
  • planning a class for teaching dance to older adults in a dance genre that you teach
  • teaching your planned dance class for older adults

This course will be available to take with the next group of courses after the April 2016 courses. I expect it will be of interest to many of you who teach dance and are considering adding a class or two for older adult dancers. Or for those of you already teaching older dancers in social dance classes and what to have a better understanding of some of the health and safe practice issues relating to teaching this great group of dancers. As usual this course will only cost £49 and that includes your three, personal, email tutorials. Check out the short courses page for further general information about the Short Online CPD Courses for Dance Teachers.