You Should Be Dancing – Best Times

Hello, I’m Cris Hardaway. Welcome to this edition
of The Best Times, a series that looks
at life after 50. The earliest evidence of
humans dancing dates back almost 9,000 years. In fact, humans may
have been dancing as a means of communication
long before the invention of
written languages, but today we dance for fun. For the over 50 population,
dancing has been called a mind-body workout, a fun exercise that’s good
for your heart and your head. It can boost your
cardiovascular fitness and improve your bone strength, but a study by the New
England Journal of Medicine also revealed that
frequent dancing appeared to lower
the risk of dementia by a considerable degree. So, what are you waiting for? You should be dancing. (fun, string music) – [Voiceover] If it
weren’t for the woman dressed in full
Scottish tartans, you might have thought
this was some variation on Western square dancing, but this is Scottish country
dancing, a form of line dance that became popular
in the 17th century. These dancers are members of
the Memphis Scottish Society, a 32 year old organization
with about 80 members who are dedicated to
promoting all things Scottish. Tonight a group of students is
learning the Scottish country dance from society
president John Schultz. – Most people are familiar
with the highland dancing, which is done by individuals. This, what we have here, is
Scottish country dancing, which is a social
dancing, and in a sense it’s related to square dancing
and the contra dancing. It’s not considered
folk dancing, because it was a form of
dancing that was as welcome in Holyrood Palace as
in the crofter’s cabin. – [Voiceover] Unlike a
modern ballroom dance, such as the waltz, which
has a distinct pattern of repeating steps, Scottish country dance focuses
more on the choreography of a progressive
pattern of movement between and within the
two lines of dancers. – Now, usually there’s
four different patterns that you do in sequence
during the dance, and you progress down
the set, and you have, and unlike contra,
where it’s two lines for as many as will, with Scottish you pretty much
have just a four couple set. So you get in the eight times through
of the dance, you dance every position
a couple of times. – [Voiceover] Any dancing
is great exercise, but Scottish country
dancing will challenge your mind as well. – You’re moving
around in the dancing, but you also have patterns that
you’re dealing with and all, so it’s both a physical
and a mental exercise. – [Voiceover] In fact, a
Scottish university study of 70 women aged 60 to 85 compared country dancers to more traditional physical activities, such as golfing,
swimming, and walking. The results reveal that the
Scottish country dancers had greater agility,
stronger legs, and could walk more briskly
than their counterparts in the regular exercise program. Every January the
Memphis Scottish Society hosts Burns Nicht, a
birthday celebration for Scottish Poet Robert Burns. It’s a time for members to dress in their finest
kilts and tartans, eat a plate of haggis, toast with a glass of
good Scotch whiskey, and dance the night away. (fun, string music) (joyful shouting) – [Voiceover] You may
think square dancing is uniquely American, but
look closely and you’ll see its roots in Scottish
country dance, and the contra dance of 17th
century England and France. In typical American fashion,
we changed these dances, gave them a new name,
and made them our own. – Contra was a pretty
form of dancing where it involved couples, but they
were not dancing together they were usually
across from one another. And as time went on, this dance migrated from, what
I call the New England area, and traveled further
south and west, and then we picked
up what we call modern Western style
square dancing, which is a combination of
some of the contra things, but we dance as
couples together now. One, hello line. – [Voiceover] Robert Townsend
performs a function that is unique to square dancing. He is the caller, telling
the dancers to do-si-do or allemande left. – In square dancing
there is about 100 different calls out
there, and, like I say, they can be randomly put
together at any point. The idea is that they
geometrically work within one another, which makes it a little bit
tougher job for me to do, but for the dancers you
want them to be smooth, to always turn correctly,
and not so much be awkward and changing weight a lot
of times on their feet so it is uncomfortable for them. Cause when you walk
three to five miles you want to be about as
comfortable as you can. – [Voiceover] In spite of
the fact that there are over 100 calls, the dancers
insist that square dancing is relatively easy to learn. – It’s truly easy.
– [Bob] Even two left feet gets you through because
there’s always gonna be a left something coming up.
– [Mary Ann] I know people say “Oh I don’t have rhythm,” I go, “Well, you don’t really
need rhythm for it, “you’re just walking
around basically.” – [Voiceover] Whether
you’ve got rhythm or not, all that walking can be
good for your health. Square dancing exercises
the cardiovascular system and improves flexibility,
balance and coordination. Researchers attached
pedometers to square dancers and discovered that dancers
can cover as much as five miles in an
evening of do-si-doing. – There’s a constant
exercise there, and you’re moving
a lot of joints. You’re moving your legs,
your feet, your arms, your shoulders, your
neck, your head. I mean you’re constantly
moving a lot of your body. It’s good for those that
need to be somewhat active that normally are not active. If you have arthritis,
some people that have arthritis do square dance. It helps relieve it by
keeping their joints fluid and moving. – It’s as good as
walking, and people get out and walk every day,
and that’s kind of boring if you’re just walking the
neighborhood, that gets old. This is a lot more
fun than that. – This is both
physical and mental, because you have
to pay attention. If you don’t, the
square breaks down, and you don’t want that. – [Voiceover] The mental
aspect of square dancing shouldn’t be underestimated. There are four levels
of square dancing, marked by their difficulty. Today’s dancers are
performing at the basic or mainstream level,
but even at this level there are over 70 movements
that must be executed in response to the calls. A New England Journal
of Medicine study concluded that dancing
at least twice a week can make people less
likely to develop dementia. – The nice thing about
square dancing is is that we have a certain
group of movements that we teach and we learn. At that point, I take those
movements and arrange them in different types of
choreography routines for the dancers to execute. The majority of the time they
do not know what is going on, so they have to use their
brain to think and process. – You have to pay attention. If you don’t, the
square breaks down, and you don’t want that. – [Robert] Your brain has
to think a little bit. It doesn’t have to, you know,
come up with a quantum theory answer, but it does have
to think and process things that you probably wouldn’t
normally do in an everyday life. – [Voiceover] If you
add the social aspect that dance clubs
provide, it’s easy to see that square dancing can
be the perfect all-around leisure activity for
aging baby boomers. – All these baby boomers
that are worried about their mental health, the
dementia and Alzheimer’s, I think we’ve got it all. We’ve got it covered. – We have dancers in their
nineties that are still out there
– [Mary Ann] Yes. – kicking up their heels.
– [Mary Ann] We think there’s something to it, some magic
potion with square dancing and keeping people mentally
and physically fit. – [All] Thank you! (shouting) (fun, upbeat string music) – [Voiceover] At a press
event announcing the city’s Adopt a Park program, the
Orange Mound Energizers are living up to their name
by getting the entire room moving to their line dance beat. The Energizers have been
around for 25 years. – And we only had
about four dancers, and we did different
kind of dancing. We started off with folk dance. We had about six
seniors, and we would go to the nursing home to encourage
the elders not to give up. That’s how the
Energizers started. – [Voiceover] Today the
Energizers number well over 50, and they’ve traded in the
folk dance for line dancing. Line dances originated
in the 1950s and over the years
they’ve often been most closely associated
with country music. The dance consists of
one or more choreographed lines of dancers performing
the dance steps in unison. Unlike many other
dances, the line dance doesn’t require a partner,
which can be an advantage for ladies of a certain age. – If you think when you go
out to dance you don’t have a lot of men, ladies don’t
have a lot of opportunity to dance, so line dance
is a form of dance that you’re doing
the same steps, and you don’t have to
have a partner, and then, guess what, you don’t have
to just be sitting down. That’s what makes line
dance so exciting. You can still dance and have
a good time without a partner. – [Voiceover] Vanessa
leads the Energizers in their rehearsal at the
Orange Mound Senior Center. Like square dancing, the
type of music isn’t important as long as it has a beat. – You can put it to anything
as long as you know the steps, and you know the beats,
you’ll be surprised, because we’ve had
different programs. We’ve had programs
that we did called Dances From Around the World. We took all of those dances
and put it to line dancing. Then we had a gospel program. We put all those
dances to gospel music. So, it does not matter
what the music is. You can always change
the step to fit whatever dance you wanna do. Just give you a beat and a
rhythm, and you can line dance. – [Voiceover] Line dancing
has specific steps, but, as Vanessa points out,
her oldest dancer is nearly 80 and skipping a step or two
doesn’t matter so much. The Energizers’ mantra is
do what you’re able to do. – Because we’re a
group 50 and older, you know a lot of the
seniors may have had strokes, some of the seniors
might have knee problems, and you just don’t know,
but line dancing is a form of dancing that you can do. We don’t get that technical. We just like to enjoy,
stay on the beat, and if you can’t do that
twirl, don’t do the twirl, catch the next step,
and you can still dance. And see that’s what I
encourage, don’t stop dancing. Do what you’re able to
do and keep on moving. – [Voiceover] The
Energizers definitely live up to their name. Every dancer gets a workout and that’s good
for their health, but Vanessa believes
the real benefit of participating in line
dancing is the social aspect. – But line dancing also
builds relationships, friendships, things to do. One girl told me, she said,
“Vanessa, before I started “line dancing, me and my
husband didn’t do anything. “Now I feel bad cause
we always gone.” Because they always have
a line dance workshop, something to do, so
it’s a social event. I’m 60 this year, but to
see people older than me jumping, hopping,
turning, twisting, I got to keep on dancing. It was fun?
– [All] Yes. – [Vanessa] And that’s
what it’s all about. (clapping) (fun, upbeat music) º Oh I say º – [Voiceover] If I say
the words tap dancing, this is one of the first
pictures in your head, Fred Astaire tap dancing his
way across the silver screen. Certainly, he was one
of the great stars of this dance genre, but
tap dancing traces its roots to African tribal dance and
the English and Scottish clog dances, which are
first cousins to the country and square dances
we’ve just seen. Today, Connie Wilbanks is
instructing her dance troupe, The Steppin’ Out
Dancers, as they prepare for an upcoming performance. – All these ladies
are in their fifties, sixties, seventies,
and eighties. I have five in their eighties, and they’ve been taking
tap for a long time. It keeps them healthy,
keeps them in shape. – [Voiceover] One of the key
ingredients of tap dancing is balance and many of the
steps require the performers to keep their body
weight over their feet. That strengthens the muscles
that warp around our torso, which produces
stronger back muscles, better posture, and
even a flatter stomach. And the combination of the
movements gives dancers a great aerobic workout, but tap dancing’s
benefits don’t stop there. – And because they have
to learn all these dances, because we do perform
all over the city, they have to remember
these dances, and it’s good for their
brain, for their memory. – [Voiceover] Tap
dancing gets its name from the percussive
sound of metal taps attached to the dancer’s shoes. Although the dancers
usually perform to music, tap dancing is one
genre of dance that doesn’t require music
to provide the rhythm, that comes from the
syncopated movement of dozens of tap steps that
have very colorful names. – They’re called shuffle ball
changes, flat ball changes, flats, shuffles, toe
steps, heel steps, time steps, rhythm steps, all
these are called basic steps. – [Voiceover] Connie
was born to tap dance. Her parents were
hoofers who headlined at the Silver Slipper Club
on the Peabody Hotel roof. Her father formed the Steppin’
Out Dancers over 20 years ago, and today Connie
continues in his footsteps. The dance troupe performs
mostly at events around town, but they’ve also graced
the stage of the old Ryman Auditorium in Nashville
and made an appearance on the Today Show in New York. – We have a good time,
and they look great, and they have fun, and
they’re very good dancers. (clapping) (fun, upbeat string music) – [Voiceover] Box, two, three. – [Voiceover] On a Sunday night,
the students at USA Dances Memphis chapter are
learning the finer points of ballroom dancing, a
discipline that encompasses a wide variety of
partner dances. – It’s the waltz, the foxtrot, these are the smooth dances Tango, then you have
the rumba, the cha-cha, the Latin, it all goes in there, and you use different
muscles for different things. – [Voiceover] Tonight, their
instructor, Ben Stovall, is teaching two dances,
the waltz and the hustle. – In and you’re ready
for your next step. Teaching the students
is as easy as walking. It’s basically like
getting their feet moving. And, of course, a big part
of it as far as learning each individual dance and the
figures and the dance and everything, a lot of that
is based on muscle memory. It’s just a lot of repetition,
repetition, repetition. Granted I won’t say
it happens quickly, but, you know, once a
student reaches that breakthrough point where,
“Oh, I finally get it!”, from that point on it’s all,
you know, it’s a cake walk. (laughing) – [Voiceover] The earliest
written record of social dances was in the late 16th century
during the French Renaissance. The waltz made its first
appearance around this time, but other popular
ballroom dance forms didn’t begin to appear until
the 19th and 20th centuries. This early moving picture
footage by Edward Muybridge was shot in 1897. Tonight, Ben Stovall is
teaching his class the basic movements of the waltz,
and he insists that even though of us with two
left feet can learn to dance. – But the thing I
get all the time is, “Oh, I’ve got two left feet,”
or “Oh, I’ve got no rhythm,” and, of course, I joke around, “Oh, we’ve got a box of
right feet in the back. “Let me go get one.” But, you know, the
biggest thing I hear is, “Oh, I can’t,” and I
always tell my students or I always tells people
it’s not that you can’t, you just don’t know how. – [Voiceover] The first
half of tonight’s class is devoted to one of the
dances most closely associated with ballroom
dancing, the waltz. – Well, actually the waltz
is the oldest dance we teach. It’s kind of the grandfather
of all the ballroom dances. It utilizes more
natural movement, as far as how the human
body was built to move, swinging through the leg, just, again as I mentioned earlier,
it’s as simple as walking. The issue with it is
there are some techniques and fundamentals
that go along with it to give it the artistic
side of it, of course, emulating physically and
visually the sound of the music. – [Voiceover] The second
half of tonight’s class jumps from the
16th century waltz to the disco era
with the hustle. – It is based off
of a Latin dance, kind of a mixture of some of
your Latin dances in swing. The great thing about
hustle, the figure itself is pretty simple, and it
is a little faster tempo, but of course it’s real
versatile to a variety of music, so even if you don’t
like the disco sound, you can still dance it to,
even here in Memphis the blues is a big deal, I’ve been
known to dance a few hustles myself down on Bill Street. – [Voiceover] The physical
benefits of hustling the night away to the music
of Saturday Night Fever are probably obvious,
but ballroom dancing can also keep your memory and
cognitive brain skills active, which may help ward off
the effects of Alzheimer’s. – And the theory behind it
is it’s repetitive movement, you’re doing this same thing
over and over and over again, so it’s the muscle memory
working, but there’s always something a little
different about it, whether it’s a different
part of the music, you’re in a different place,
the movement feels different, or even something
with ballroom dancing, dancing with a different
partner each time. So it keeps both sides
of the brain very active. – [Voiceover] This dance
floor is filled with people ranging in age from their
twenties to their eighties, but the common
denominator among them is the fun they have
learning to dance. I’ll let 80 year old Sylvia
Rose have the last word on that. – Age has nothing
to do with dancing. It keeps me out, it keeps me
young, and I meet new people. – I know you did.
(laughing) (upbeat string music) – [Voiceover] You might
not know it to look at it, but these people
are time travelers. Every Friday night they
travel back in time to their teenage years
and dance the night away to the music of their youth. This is the Memphis Bop Club. Boomers of a certain age
will remember sock hops or high school dances
fueled by the driving beats of a rock and roll song. From Buddy Holly to Fats Domino, Elvis to the Beatles,
music was a vital part of being a teenager
in the ’50s and ’60s, and you just had to dance. – Push the furniture
back, roll the carpets up, you know, and you danced. We danced on gravel. We danced on carpet. We danced on asphalt. We danced on whatever,
but we danced. The bop is a catchall name
for a number of dances that are descendants from
the lindy hop of the ’20s, the jitterbug and swing
dances of the ’30s and ’40s, and the boogie
woogie from the ’50s. – The bop is a take
off of the jitterbug, and after World War II the
soldiers came back from the war and the jitterbug was just
a little bit too fast. We’d gotten older, okay, so they kind of brought it
down and named it the bop. – [Voiceover] Having a ball
is the founding principle of the Bop Club, and the
social aspect of these dances contributes to the overall
health of club members. Studies have shown
that social dancing can reduce depression,
anxiety and stress, and boost your
self-esteem, body image, and overall sense of well-being. It can improve your mood and
help avoid one of the pitfalls of aging, loneliness. – It gives not only exercise, but something for you to
do together, you know. – There’s people here that
I would have never known had it not been for
the Memphis Bop Club. They’re like family. – [Voiceover] Bunny Lee
Wilhelm is one of the founding members
of the Bop Club. When she takes to
the dance floor, her energy belies her age. Bunny is 80. – The exercise to me is
staying fit and staying very health conscious knowing
every cell has intelligence. What you feed your
body and what you think is what your body will
manifest in that physical form. – [Voiceover] And you’re
out there manifesting? – With every step
and every breath. (laughing) – [Voiceover] Because the
bop is a high-energy dance, tonight’s dancers
are in for a workout. The faster high-intensity
dances will exercise the cardiovascular system. Moving to the rock and roll beat improves balance
and coordination, and studies have shown
that these dances can burn over 350 calories per hour. Dancing may be the perfect
antidote for aging. – What’s aging? (laughing) – She’ll never give into it. – I mean, you know, I
don’t know what there is to give into, dear. – That’s right. That’s right.
(laughing) – Because once you stay
physically fit and enjoying life and still can boogie
down strong, I mean, what’s there to give into? We couldn’t wait to get home
in the afternoon to watch the Mickey Mouse Club
(laughing) and watch American Bandstand,
and so every Friday night we just kind of get
to go back to that and be teenagers again.
(bop music) – Want more information
about life after 50? Go online to watch more shows
and find more resources, and send us your feedback
and story ideas to [email protected] That’s all for this
edition of The Best Times. Please join us next
week for more stories about life after 50. Until then, I’m Cris Hardaway. Thanks for watching, good night. – [Voiceover] Funding for
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