Kairos Alive! Intergenerational Dance Halls™
Ecumen Parmly LifePointes, Chisago City, MN
Kairos Alive! Intergenerational Dance Hall™ is a revival of the dance hall as the community intersection of artistic, physical and social involvement – designed for all ages and abilities with elders at the center. These intergenerational, intercultural events feature live music performed by professional musicians, and are led by Kairos artists versed in participatory dance, story and theatre – intended to promote arts participation, health education, and personal and community well-being. These are often paired with other health promotion programs of collaborating organizations.
These Intergenerational Dance Halls™ build upon the Kairos Alive! Dancing Heart™ program, and provide opportunities for people ages 1-101 to share their creativity – no matter their abilities – with their peers, families and friends in an inclusive and lively event with live music, dancing and storytelling. They are designed as a creative collaboration between participants and professional artists where the boundaries between performer and audience are dissolved.
Seniors, including those battling physical and cognitive challenges like dementia and Alzheimer’s. Approximately 70 were in attendance from the Adult Day Program, Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care units; and their caregivers and family members ranging in age from 3yrs to 80+. Also in attendance were 5 Kairos staff members and teaching artists, as well as Ecumen Parmly staff and professional caregivers, including Christy Johnson, Parmly Recreation Therapy Director.
Ecumen Parmly is an innovative leader of senior housing and services, empowering individuals to live richer and fuller lives. Their vision for “changing aging” is worlds away from traditional attitudes on aging – one in which aging is viewed and understood in radically different ways. Ecumen Parmly encompasses independent living, assisted living, memory care, rehabilitation and a care center.
Due to the timing of this program (Feb 2016), Kairos Alive! was inspired to facilitate a Mardi Gras-themed Intergenerational Dance Hall™. Music was provided by the Carluster Crumplebee Orchestra, and additional creative programming was provided by collaborating artists Zoë Bird, Director of Alzheimer’s Poetry Project; and Michéle Coppin, visual artist. The Ecumen Parmly dance hall was made possible through grant funding from the Anderson Foundation.
The welcoming atmosphere created by Kairos Alive teaching artists and collaborators, and the live music and dancing enabled an environment in which these seniors felt at ease to participate. Prompts given by Kairos teaching artists in the form of questions, invitations to dance and share stories were well received and responded to. Elders recalled memories of dancing in the past. A few recalled memories of dancing with deceased spouses. Those memory journeys transported them in a positive and joyful way.
Many of the elders, especially those with memory challenges, were seemingly confused as to why they were brought into the room at the onset of the program. Many asked why they were there. The mood in the room changed dramatically once the live music by the Carluster Crumplebee Orchestra and dancing began. An elder man said “I like this! I didn’t know you played music that I loved!” One elder woman took out wooden spoons and began to play enthusiastically in time with the band. Another elder observed a fellow peer joining in and commented “I’ve never seen him smile!” With Kairos leading them through a participatory artistic experience, these elders engaged as collaborators based on their own individual interest and context.
Ecumen Parmly staff was pleasantly surprised by the active engagement by some participants, including those with mid to late stage memory loss. They also witnessed singing, dancing, sharing of stories, and greater range of motion.
In The Spotlight
One elder woman there with her husband was overcome with emotion during the song “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.” Throughout the song, she seemed to move from passive observation to a cathartic experience.
Other moments shared from elders:
“We need more old timers dancing!”
“I’m a hundred and one, and if I hadn’t broken my leg, I’d be dancing right now!”
“My wife and I would go out to the prom at least once or twice a month and pretend to be kids again.”
“My husband and I used to dance every Saturday night ‘til he was ninety-five. I’m right behind him!”
“The Coliseum in Minneapolis, the dance hall in Hugo…..brings a lot of memories.”
“The dance hall was a blast, and I was so impressed by the level of participation. I’ll be doing a poetry residency there April—June (2016) and feel so lucky that Kairos has already, and so skillfully, gotten participants moving, talking, interacting & so excited about creative engagement!” Zoë Bird, collaborating artist and Director of Alzheimer’s Poetry Project
“Kairos Alive! Dance Halls attract the most diverse segment of our community – including active older adults as well as frail older adults. No other group has been able to bring so many different people together.” Christy Johnson, Parmly Recreation Therapy Director.
Kairos is conducting their Dancing Heart™ program, and has Intergenerational Dance Halls™ planned at Ecumen Parmly LifePointes for 2016, including collaborations with the Lazy Owl MoonShiners Bluegrass Band. Community members from Chisago City are also invited to the dance halls.
“The results found in this research study suggest that an art-based dance and reminiscence program, such as the Kairos dance program, can have a positive impact on participant’s cognition and overall quality of life as well as promote a sense of community in older adults living independently in congregate senior housing.” From Holmes, Courtney, “The Importance of a Creative Dance and Story-Telling Program for Senior Housing Residents” (2015). Master of Arts in Occupational Therapy Theses. Paper 7, (based off her research of Kairos Alive Dancing Heart™)
The dance hall was a blast, and I was so impressed by the level of participation. I’ll be doing a poetry residency there April—June (2016) and feel so lucky that Kairos has already, and so skillfully, gotten participants moving, talking, interacting & so excited about creative engagement!
Kairos Alive! Dance Halls attract the most diverse segment of our community – including active older adults as well as frail older adults. No other group has been able to bring so many different people together.