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Joy of Movement Classes Connect Residents of Baptist Retirement Community Through the Art of Dancing

seniors in an stretching exercise class with chairs

Thanks to a special program called “Joy of Movement” Seniors at Baptist Retirement are connecting through dance. The class launched at Ballet San Angelo on June 27 and was inspired by a program started in Brooklyn, New York, called “Dance for Parkinson’s” (Dance for PD). Ballet San Angelo hosted Dance for PD classes for two years before rebranding the class to include those who don’t have Parkinson’s but still want to participate. The team at Baptist Retirement Community (BRC), a continuing care retirement community in the Concho Valley, learned of the free weekly classes and started arranging transportation for residents to attend one class each week. In addition, they encourage residents who are not able to attend the in-studio class to reenact the class using Ballet San Angelo’s live stream recording. “This is one of the best programs I have been a part of, and I am fortunate to see firsthand the difference it is making in the lives of those who attend,” said Erin Lane, artistic director for Ballet San Angelo. “The classes offer many benefits, including increased coordination, emotional connection, mental awareness, flexibility, mobility, and balance, to name a few. Our goal is to bring participants joy through dance. We coordinate one-hour exercise routines to the beat of popular music – both new and old. By the end of the classes, attendees are moving more freely and exchange smiles and hugs on their way out. It’s a truly heartwarming and rewarding program to be a part of.” The classes are held on Tuesdays at Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. at Ballet San Angelo (82 Gillis Street). They are free and open to anyone who is interested in learning how movement can improve health and well-being, mental sharpness, and quality of life. Oftentimes, family, grandchildren, caregivers, and spouses will join. Many of the participants are men who have shown interest in wanting to understand dance in a different way and invest in the art form. “I have limited mobility, and the classes give me an opportunity to move my body with a group of like-minded individuals who are all supportive of one another as we make wellness a priority,” said Gil Gilstrap, a resident of Baptist Retirement Community. “I noticed that when I participate in Joy of Movement, I have more energy throughout the week, my mood is more positive, and I feel better all-around. The classes are uplifting, and they play a variety of good music from country to Frank Sinatra. My favorite is when we do exercises to Nora Jones. While I can’t stand up for the exercises, the class is designed for people to do them at different physical levels, so I do my exercises in a chair.” Lane also choreographs routines to Ernest Tubb, Billy Joel, and Dolly Parton. She likes to keep it classic and occasionally uses ballet music. As the seniors start dancing, a light and airy feeling take over the room, and everyone’s demeanor changes. Some have attended the classes for nearly two years, sharing stories, making connections and developing friendships. “Joy of Movement allows people to experience the joy and benefits of dance while creatively addressing symptom-specific concerns related to balance, cognition, motor skills, depression, and physical confidence,” said Lane. Our goal is for participants to feel empowered by movement, and I believe Gil is a prime example of that. We are thankful that San Angelo Health Foundation funds the program, and we are pleased to offer a live stream each week so people can participate from home. I’ve been told that my students hear songs we danced to in previous classes out in public and they are inclined to dance. The whole idea of connecting movement to music come from neurons that wake up a little bit more when moving to the beat of the music.” “We are delighted to offer residents these opportunities to engage with dance and other seniors in San Angelo,” said Aaron Hargett, executive director of Baptist Retirement Community. “Every time we make time to move our bodies and focus on wellness, we are investing in ourselves. It is inspiring to seniors from their 60s to their 90s staying active as they age.”