There are some pretty poignant comments from older dancers – particularly older women – about how intimidating it can feel coming into the social dance scene. This is true. It can be scary, and there will be some not-fun moments. And yes, you will likely have a harder time getting ‘into’ the scene than a 21 year old.
But, you still belong here. Contrary to what a few anti-social dancers may say or do, you belong as part of this community. You are valuable, and you deserve to engage in this beautiful world as much as any young adult.
Some of my favourite dancers are well into their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. Some had a long history of dance to fall back on, and some worked really hard to learn from scratch. Others are just *really sweet* people, who are a pleasure to be around. Some inspire me to greater things in life – outside and inside of dancing.
I’m sorry that you will probably experience some sort of ageism in the dance scene. I’m sorry that there are some people who only see your age, and somehow feel that this makes you unsuitable as a dance partner. I know it’s hard, but please try to let this go.
Find the people who are open to you, and all you have to offer. There are a lot of them out there, and they don’t care how old you are – or how old you look. They only care that you are there, and that you really want to dance.
You also have the power to change minds. You know those people who have the first ‘instinct’ to judge you on your age? Prove them wrong! Talk to people, build relationships, and work on your dancing. You’ll be able to show them that age really has nothing to do with how you rock the floor – or how you contribute to the fabric of the community.
Really, age is just a number. Not everyone understands that right away, but the best way to teach people is to show just how kick-ass at any age you can be.
You are valuable. If you choose, you can become a great dancer. You can be a great inspiration. You can become a great promoter, or volunteer. There is no limit to what you can do as a contributing member of your dance community. The people who try to tell you otherwise really don’t know what they’re talking about.
You don’t need a young body to be an attractive dancer. You just need to be able to work the body you have. You still have all the same muscles as any other human – and you can train them to perform all of the waves, moves, pops, and smoothness of younger dancers. Depending on your fitness level and dance experience, it may take longer… but it is still very possible.
As you build connections, how you treat people will matter more than your age. If you decide to be bitter about the dance world and take a passive approach, you’ll likely find it much harder to have fun. If you encourage others, build relationships, and are welcoming to your fellow dancers, you’ll likely find yourself integrating into the fabric of the community much more quickly.
As much as you will face obstacles because of your age, it is also in your power to show people your potential. If you focus on how you feel out of place because you are older and spend your time tucked into a corner, the people who care about things beyond your age will be less likely to notice you. If you are social and open, these people will see you and be drawn to you.
For example, if you always wait to be asked to dance, it may take longer to get involved. If you take an active role in asking, you may get more no’s – but you will also get more ‘yes’ answers and make more connections. It’s scary, but it will serve you well!
You are a valuable member of our social dance world. Don’t let the few people who prematurely judge you affect your drive to dance. The majority of us don’t care about your age – only about what you bring to the social dance table. It’s up to you to choose how much you want to rock it.
Photo Credit: SV Photography
Yes! Thank you for this article. Women my age who love to dance (and remember the days of ‘The Twist”) outnumber men our age by twenty-to-one. Those men often seek those 21 year olds, ostensibly to “teach them to dance” and bypass us. I find it’s often the younger male leaders, especially in the Latin dances, who are far more inclusive. At certain events, “ambassadors” or “taxi” dancers are hired. Some older women may find that agreeable, (although I don’t.) Better that women who can learn to lead do so, and don’t worry about the ageism/sexism out there.
I’ve been in the Salsa dance scene for over 25 years. And YES, there is definitely ageism but there are also FANTASTIC dancers out there who are so wonderful and go out of their way to always at least, dance with me once during the evening. If I get just a few of those in a night, I’m good to go. I do ask guys all the time although it is frustrating if I ask a guy to dance on several occasions and he never asks me. Then I feel like he doesn’t really want to dance with me. Most of the time, however, I have a great time when I go out (which is often) and I too, find a lot of the young, great dancers are the most willing partners. Just met one last night and HE asked ME to dance! Fabulous AND sweet! The best combo. Keep on dancing, my fellow ladies “of a certain age!”
You said it, sister!
In my experience, which has been plenty, I always hear from the people you are addressing, “I can’t do that, I’m old”…They must quit saying this. Age has nothing to do with your ability to swing dance with younger groups of people. You have made yourself, as you say, “an old person” by continuing to tell yourself this. Forget about your age, get out there and go for it.
You are never too old to dance.
Yes, I am a ballroom dancer, 39 yrs. did tango for 10 yrs. and now that my partner/husband has passed find it really is an age issue at the club I belong to, yuck! I stopped gong for a while but now I think “It is their loss’ Men always don’t think of the fact that they are making a lady happy by asking them for a dance. So sad and foolish of them. I will try this weekend, hold my head up high and say, Your loss, age is only a number. Feeling sad about all this. 21/11/17
Good dancers will dance with people of all ages, sizes, and skill levels. It’s the people who think they are better dancers than they really who will turn their nose up.
As an older salsa music lover who enjoys dancing to it (I would never presume to call myself a “dancer”), I make it a point to seek out those followers closer to me in age and ask them to dance; these are usually more than willing to return the favor. I also make it a point to relish every time a woman asks me to dance, even if, on occasion, she is a teeny-bopper wanting perhaps to make her nearby male friend jealous.
There are times during the evening when I need to hug the wall for a bit because my senior citizen knee joints are protesting.
There are plenty of reports out there that describe in detail the many health benefits of social dancing for those of us 60+.
I try to follow the axioms “Dance as if no one is watching”; and “It is all about the music.”
I’m 53 and I’ve been dancing 27 years.
I do NOT consider myself “older” or “of a certain age”. I’m just right.
I agree. You are just the right age.
I am more than 10 years older than you and dance 2 – 3 times weekly averaging 2 – 3 hours @ each event.
Age is not an issue.
My dance floor compadres joke about how long I dance without sitting down.
Keep dancing, my friend.
I get a kick out of seeing a young leads face once he realizes that I can still hang with him.
Me too!!! So much fun!!!
Great article and thanks for offering it out to the dance community. I hope many people read it! I was a young dancer in my dance scene and am now a seasoned dancer. I have found that it is not only ageism but some snobbism about those who competes and those who don’t, understandable to a point. Men are often surprised at how good I am and how much fun I am to dance with, but will often not come back and ask for another dance. That’s sad. Many years ago when I was a single woman going out to dances I learned how to lead as well as follow which I figured would help the married women feel less threatened by me dancing with their husbands or boyfriends. I can now always dance! If there are not enough men I can ask women out on the floor! I just think people can forget that KINDNESS can go a long way in this world.
Me too. I have been Dancing salsa 25 years. I too can lead and follow one, on2, and Cuban. I get a kick when a guy I don’t know gives me a look when I ask him to dance,followed by the huge smile when he realizes that I can spin faster than him. I carry my own weight. When a guy says no I think, I have danced with world champions much better than you. I love to introduce new guys to partners that match their style. Ask, don’t be shy.
Not only is this article great, but the thoughtful and eloquent comments are nice to see. I’m 51 – been dancing 15 years. Pretty good, though we can always improve. Being rather shy and having been rejected when asking others to dance, I typically wait to be asked. Part of me sees what a mistake that is, part of me simply isn’t willing to change. There are a few regulars I know and will ask. I know if they reject me it’s for a good reason! I’m learning Argentine Tango now and was floored at a milonga when a woman asked me to dance. I thought, “What the heck? If she asked, she must know how to lead!” So I did and yes, best dance of that night (of extremely few dances…). We chatted and she taught AT back at home and was on vacation. Felt awkward at first but I just decided to have fun and I did. I think that’s the key – decide to have fun. I’m still occasionally rejected at dances when I ask and I think “Your loss, buddy.” Eager to share this article with all my dance friends – young and young at heart!
I appreciate your comments and knowing that at least you feel that way, and I know other dancers do as well. My dance community has quite a wide age range which makes it quite comfortable and hospitable to many ages. I have gone to events where the crowd is 95% or more under the age of 35 and have decided I don’t need to torture myself at that kind of scene so I am more selective about which events I do attend most of the time. At 63 I am in great shape, a fairly good follow and stil have a passion for becoming a better dancer.
Hallelujah! And bring on the dance, and the dancers–of all ages! ‘ve been a young, good dancer and now I’m an older and even better than good dancer. Freer to feel the love, energy and vibrancy that flows through my body because of gained humility and reverence at dance itself. What a pleasure, what a treasure, what a blessing to be a part of this. And yes, often I go out on the dance floor alone and just do my thing, and yes again, I also invite others to dance. A wonderful thing about age is added courage; after all, the word “No” isn’t a bullet, it’s just a no. Keep it movin’. Remember when you were 18 and a 24-year-old seemed ancient? Jess sayin’, people…
My wife and I enjoy going to some of the college swing and salsa dances here, especially the “free class” at the beginning. We lead (and back-lead) new students through moves and help them learn and look good. I don’t recall any of these kids resenting being rotated to me during the class. I always see them delighted to be lead through the moves successfully. As far as after the class goes.. well, we both end up with a string of kids hoping for a full dance to learn more! Perhaps some of the self-styled “elites” may get their nose out of joint, but I don’t see it. At 66, we’re still having a blast with all ages.