Inspiration, Life & Living, Videos

77-year-old ballet teacher still on her toes

“It seems amazing that I’m still dancing at 77,” says ballet teacher Suzelle Poole with a smile, “I really thought that I was going to be finished in my twenties.”

Time proved Ms. Poole wrong.

At Christmas 2017, she performed with some of her students at local care homes in the UK, where, she said, she was older than many of the residents.

Seven decades after she began taking ballet lessons, Ms Suzelle Poole still dances with grace, poise, and a confidence that is wonderful to behold. See for yourself in this inspiring three-minute video from the BBC:

Coincidentally, aging, dance and dementia seem to be linked somehow for me. Find more MAS dance-related articles here.

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Care Partnering, Teepa Snow, Tips, tools & skills, Videos

10+ smart dance tips for dementia care partners

Many of the challenges care partners face are not unique. They are similar to those we face daily in a variety of disciplines as well as in day-to-day living. This means potential solutions to problems are everywhere. Tips, tools and ideas abound. Identifying and applying them to caring can help make our work less stressful and more joyful.

When I stumbled upon Be a Smart Dancer: 10 Qualities of Smart Dancers on Ballet Shoes & Bobby Pins, I was struck by how the qualities of “smart” dancers might apply equally to care partners. I tweaked some of the actions and offer them here in condensed form as “10 smart dance tips for better dementia care.”


1) relate to space

Understand that you dance in a three-dimensional world. Smart dancers know about body directions and how they relate to space. Being spatially aware means you know how to use your space, how to travel upstage, downstage, stage right and stage left. You know not to stand too close to other dancers. You understand how a combination (of steps and moves) will travel so that you can properly set up, and not run out of room before being able to finish the combination. Spatially aware dancers don’t collide with other dancers or get in their way.

Hold space and make space for yourself, your care partner and others around you.


2) stay focused

Smart dancers know how to focus and find their centers–even on bad days. Through exhaustion and frustration, smart dancers pull it together under pressure. They are ready for anything at any moment. If a choreographer needs them to perform a role because someone is injured, they are ready. They push are able to push the chaos away and focus on the current space and time. Smart dancers know how to override stresses to get the job done.

When all hell breaks loose, find a way to come back to center. The triple “A”s in BANGS will help.


3) identify patterns

Smart dancers know the importance of identifying patterns. This helps them communicate and notate movement. When you can identify which part of the pattern you’re discussing, it helps other dancers know where in time and space you are.

Look for patterns in behaviour–your own, your care partner’s and those of others around you. Identifying patters helps determine cause and effect and creates the possibility for change.


4) tap into rhythm

The more you understand music and can hear rhythms inside of rhythms the more detailed, flowing and natural your dancing will become.

Even chaos has rhythm. Listen for it. Tune into it. Move with it.


5) observe

Pick up on details without being told.  Smart dancers watch with the intention to digest information and commit it to memory.

Keep your eyes and ears open. Be a dementia care detective.


6) anticipate

Think ahead so you are not in the way. Anticipation is also useful when preparing for auditions and rehearsals. You never know what is going to happen or what you will be asked to do, so you have to prepare for everything.

Understanding that “anything can happen” (and it usually does!), is an extraordinary mindfulness tool that helps caregivers be flexible and let go.


7) make connections

Smart dancers also know the dance world is small, and they know how to interact with different people in order to stay successful. Making connections and understanding how their bodies work and how their discipline works is what keeps them on their toes.

You are not alone. Connect with other care partners. Being isolated is lonely, depressing and counterproductive. Reach out!


8) develop self awareness

Smart dancers know themselves and their weaknesses. Knowing how to take care of yourself is important. Understanding how to prevent injuries or care for injuries when they occur will get you back dancing faster.

Put the oxygen on yourself first. Take breaks. Replenish. Re-energize. Realize you are not a superhero.


9) use diverse techniques

Smart dancers are open to learning different techniques, they actively seek out innovation and educate themselves on what is new and different in the world of dance.

Keep adding to your care partner toolbox. I highly recommend the work of Teepa Snow, Dr. Allen Power, and Naomi Feil. When one tool doesn’t work, try another.


10) become single minded

Smart dances understand the responsibility that falls on their shoulders to dance and dance well; to train and train hard.

Take your responsibility seriously. Do the best you can.


I would add one more important action to this list:

11) experience the joy of dance

I think it’s probably fair to say there are few dancers who hate dancing. Smart dancers LOVE what they do. Yes, it’s hard work. Yes, it takes practice. Yes, there are defeats as well as victories. Dancers soar; they also stumble and fall. We all do.

Look for the joy.


  1. 10 things to remember when you interact with people who forget
  2. 10 ways to use improv to improve life with alzheimers
  3. 10 tips to make the most of music in dementia care
  4. 10 things not so say to grieving mary missy taylor
  5. 10+ Teepa Snow videos on dementia-basics
  6. 10 normal ways care partners express grief
  7. 10 quick tips to help you tango not tangle
  8. 10 ways to calm a dementia care crisis
  9. 10 tips to deal with hallucinations
  10. 10 poems i didn’t want to write


More dance-inspired posts here.

Subscribe to my updates here.

Image copyright: mitch / 123RF Stock Photo

Care Partnering, Teepa Snow, Tips, tools & skills, Videos

10 quick tips to help you tango not tangle

Teepa Snow_ tango don't tangle

“If you want to change the dance, you’ve got to change the steps,” is a great coaching quote I learned way back when, and the most important part of the lesson is that the steps you must change are your own.

Here are 10 dance-inspired tips to help you tango instead of tangle with your dementia care partner:

  1. Let them lead
  2. Play music they like
  3. Look into their eyes
  4. Adjust your steps to fit theirs
  5. Take their hand
  6. Don’t hold on too tight
  7. Be light on your feet
  8. Guide only if and when required
  9. Relax and smile
  10. Twirl occasionally, just for fun

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Additional inspiration on the same theme with renowned Hollywood lindy hop and jitterbg dancer Jean Veloz at her 90th birthday party in 2014 (she makes it look so easy):


Here’s Veloz in a similar number in her “younger” days:




7 dementia care basics from Teepa Snow

5 top dementia care tips from Teepa Snow

10 ways to calm a dementia care crisis

13 expert tips to help with “I want to go home”

10 tips to deal with hallucinations

Hand Under Hand (TM) demo

More dance-inspired posts here.

Teepa Snow’s videos are available on Amazon here.

Subscribe to my updates here.

Activities, Advocacy, Joy, Life & Living, Music, Toward better care, Videos

dancing girls bring joy to world

Elder women dancing

This is what eldercare should be about: dancing, moving, engaging with life. It should NOT be about being drugged for convenience, and physically restrained in reclining chairs in front of daytime TV.

Not much else to say really. The video speaks for itself. That may be why, when it was first posted in April 2016, this joyful clip was viewed 26 million times in 12 days: proof that people want person-centered care!

Humour, Joy, Love, Music

pinkie patti will get a kick out of this

May 12, 2014: Mom loved to dance. Even now, when she can barely walk, she and I do our own Alzheimer’s version of a two step. Tomorrow I will show her this video – it’s just the kind of thing she would find funny.

Although most of her sense of humour has disappeared along with much of the rest of her, I can sometimes coax a smile or the hint of a laugh from somewhere deep inside. I hope the video will elicit a smile on her face, even a small one. If it doesn’t, it’s okay. Because I know it will produce joy in her heart.

Humour, Joy, Love, Memories, Music

dancing with alzheimer and my mom

September 2016: I love to dance. So did Mom.

In 2014, when I first posted this, she had declined to the point where she could no longer walk unless assisted by at least two people. She did not recognize me most of the time and was often completely unresponsive to questions. She had been inappropriately medicated into zombie land.

Over the course of the 2014/15, she rebounded (when the doses of antipsychotics she was on were reduced) even as she declined. She had bright and joyful moments, and we continued to have meaningful time together until she took her last breath.

In the summer of 2008, Mom’s 80th birthday year, she and I and friends and family created a video (modelled after the Where the Hell is Matt video) in and around her home. We had so much fun making the video, it was a really joyful experience.

I encourage you to dance today and every day. You never know when it might be your last.

 Mom and I will always dance in my heart, no matter where else she is.