Dancing while Aging: A Study on Benefits of Ballet for Older Women
Keywords:aging, Ballet, communication ecology model of successful aging, identity, social relationships
As people age, experiences of depression, loneliness and loss of physical capabilities can emerge. As with previous work on the benefits of music as an intervention for social belonging and valued social identity, dance may increase similar feelings. Although theoretical chapters have been written on dance as it relates to social identity, belonging, and health, little empirical work has been conducted on the benefits of ballet as a recreational activity for older adults. The study reported here is framed by the “communication ecology model of successful aging,” and modestly embellishes this framework based on this study’s findings. Using interviews from 24 American female recreational ballet dancers ranging in age from 23-87 in a small West Coast town, this study investigates, for the first time, how ballet is incorporated into their self-concept and physical, mental, and social experiences of aging. Findings indicate that participating regularly in ballet is a core aspect of most women’s self-concept and means of self-expression. All women discussed how ballet has improved their physical and mental wellness, helping them have a more positive experience of age-related changes. Results showed that most women regard ballet as a very social activity, such that it helps them to feel a sense of community or even kin-like relationships with the other people regularly in class. All women interviewed mentioned that ballet is so integrated into who they are that it is something they hope to do for as long as possible.
Age UK. 2018. Creative and cultural activities and well-being in later life. Retrieved from: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/globalassets/age-uk/documents/reports-and-publications/reports-and-briefings/health--wellbeing/rb_apr18_creative_and_cultural_activities_wellbeing.pdf
Bernhold, Q. S. (2019). Older parents’ and middle-aged children’s communication as predictors of children’s successful aging. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 38, 305-328. doi:10.1177/0261927X18815929
Blacking, J. 2010. Movement and meaning: Dance in social anthropological perspective. Dance Research, 1, 88-89. doi: 10.2307/1290805
Blacking, J. 1984. The study of music as cultural system and human capability. South African Journal of Musicology, 4, 1-15.
Braun, V., and Clarke, V. 2006. Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 77-101. doi:10.1191/1478088706qp063oa
Chang, P-J., Wray, L., and Yegiang, L. 2014. Social relationships, leisure activity, and health in older adults. Health Psychology, 33, 516-523. doi: 10.1037/hea0000051
Cooper, L., and Thomas, H. 2002. Growing old gracefully: Social dance in the third age. Ageing and Society, 22, 689-708. doi:10.1017/s0144686x02008929
Cosco, T. D., Prina, A. M., Perales, J., Stephan, B. C. M., and Brayne, C. 2014. Operational definitions of successful aging: A systematic review. International Psychogeriatrics, 26, 373-381. doi:10.1017/s1041610213002287
Davies, K., Tropp, L. R., Aron, A., Pettigrew, T. F., and Wright, S. C. 2011. Cross-group friendships and intergroup attitudes: A meta-analytic review. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 15, 332–351. https://doi.org/10.1177/1088868311411103
Dance.net. 2009, Age most dancers retire? March 23. Accessed October 17, 2018. http://www.dance.net/topic/8075277/1/Ballet-Adult-Dancers/Age-most-dancers-retire.html&replies=5
Dancespirit. 2012, The age equation. Dancespirit, October 7. Accessed October 10, 2018. https://www.dancespirit.com/the-age-equation-2326145152.html
Daniluk, J. C. 2003. Women’s sexuality across the life span: Challenging myths, creating meanings. New York: Guilford Press.
Delgado, Á. A. 2012. Danzar para que el mundo no se acabe. Estudio sistemático de la danza Rarámuri. Latin American Music Review, 33, 27–64. doi: 10.7560/lamr33102
Dumit, J. 2012. Drugs for life: How pharmaceutical companies define our health. London: Duke University Press.
Eyigor, S., Karapolat, H., Durmaz, B., Ibisoglu, U., and Cakir, S. A. 2009. A randomized controlled trial of Turkish folklore dance on the physical performance, balance, depression and quality of life in older women. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 48, 84-88. doi: 10.1016/j.archger.2007.10.008
Fergusson, E. 1931. Dancing gods: Indian ceremonials of New Mexico and Arizona. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press.
Fowler, C., Gasiorek, J., and Giles, H. (2015). The role of communication in aging well: Introducing the communicative ecology model of successful aging. Communication Monographs, 82, 431-457. doi:10.1080/03637751.2015.1024701
Fujiawar, K. 2012. Rethinking successful aging from the perspective of an aging Japanese statue of Jizō with replaceable heads. Anthropology and Aging, 33(3): 104-111. doi 10.5195/aa.2012.60
Gasiorek, J., and Barile, J. P. 2017. Associations between profiles of communication about aging and quality of life for middle-aged and older American adults. International Journal of Human Aging and Development, 87, 141-155. doi: 10.1177/0091415017724546
Gasiorek, J., and Fowler, C. 2016. Profiling younger adults’ communication about aging. Communication Studies, 67, 163-182. doi:10.1080/10510974.2015.1121159
Gasiorek, J., Fowler, C., and Giles, H. 2016. Communication and successful aging. In J. F. Nussbaum (Ed.), Communication across the lifespan: ICA theme book (pp. 35-50). New York: Peter Lang.
Gasiorek, J., Fowler, C., and Giles, H. 2015. Communication and successful aging: Profiling middle-aged and older adults. Human Communication Research, 41, 577-602. doi: 10.1080/03637751.2015.1024701
Gasiorek, J., Fowler, C., and Giles, H. 2018. Communication and successful aging: Reconceptualizing the role of uncertainty. Communication Monographs. Advance online: doi: 10.1080/03637751.2018.1538561
Gasiorek, J., and Giles, H. 2013. Volunteering as a communicative process. International Journal of Communication, 7, 1-20. doi:10.1002/9781118540190.wbeic006
Giles, H., Davis, S., Gasiorek, J., and Giles, J. 2013. Successful aging: A communication guide to empowerment. Barcelona, Spain: Editorial Aresta.
Giurchesu, A., and Torp, T. 1991. Theory and methods in dance research: A European approach to the holistic study of dance. Yearbook for Traditional Music, 23, 1-10.
Glendenning, P. 2004. Education for older adults: Lifelong Learning, empowerment, and social change. In J. F. Nussbuam, and J. Coupland (Eds.), Handbook of communication and aging research (pp. 525-543). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Goodman, W. K., Geiger, A. M., and Wolf, J. M. 2017. Leiesure activities are linked to mental health benefits by providing time structure: Comparing employed, unemployed and homemakers. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 71, 4-11. doi:10.1136/jech-2016-207260
Gonyea, J. G., Curley, A., Melekis, K., Levine, N., and Lee, Y. 2018. Loneliness and depression among older adults in urban subsidized housing. Journal of Aging and Health, 30, 458-474. doi:10.1177/0898264316682908
Hanna, J. 2008. A nonverbal language for imagining and learning: Dance education in K-12 curriculum. Education Researcher, 37, 491-506. doi:10.3102/0013189x08326032
Hays, T and Minichiello, V. 2005. The meaning of music in the lives of older people: A qualitative study. Psychology of Music, 33, 437-451. doi:10.1177/0305735605056160
Heckhausen, J., and Schulz, R. 1995. A life-span theory of control. Psychological Review, 102, 284-304. doi:10.1037//0033-295x.102.2.284
Human Kinetics. 2010. Dimensions of leisure for life: Individuals and society. https://us.humankinetics.com/products/Dimensions-of=leisure-for-life
Jacobs, T. 2014. Cultural activities help seniors retain health literacy. Pacific Standard, November 25. Accessed October 1, 2018. https://psmag.com/social-justice/cultural-activities-help-seniors-retain-health-literacy-95233
Jefferson, G. 2004 Glossary of transcript symbols with an Introduction. In G. H. Lerner (Ed.), Conversation analysis: Studies from the first generation (pp. 13-23). Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Kaeppler, A. 2000. II. Dance ethnology and the anthropology of dance. Dance Research Journal, 32, 116-125. doi:10.2307/1478285
Keogh, J. W. L, Kilding, A., Pidgeon, P., Ashley, L., and Gillis, D. 2009. Physical benefits of dancing for health older adults: A review. Journal of Aging and Physical Activities, 17, 479-500. doi:10.1123/japa.17.4.479
Koponen, T., Honkasalo, M-L., and Rautava, P. 2018. Cultural plan model: Integrating cultural and creative activities into care units for the elderly. Arts and Health, 10, 65-71. doi:10.1080/17533015.2017.1315436
Kreutzmann, M., Zander, L., and Webstert, G. 2017. Dancing is belonging! How social networks mediate the effect of a dance intervention on students’ sense of belonging to their classroom. European Journal of Social Psychology, 48, 240-254. doi:10.1002/ejsp.2319
Kringelbach, H. N., and Skinner, J. (Eds.). 2012. Dancing cultures: Globalization, tourism and identity in the anthropology of dance. New York, NY: Berghahn Books.
Lamb, S. 2014. Permanent personhood or meaningful decline? Toward a critical anthropology of successful aging. Journal of Aging Studies, 29, 41-52.
----. 2018. On being (not) old: Agency, self-care, and life course aspirations in the United States. Medical Anthropology Quarterly. doi:10.1111/maq.12498
Leitner, M. J., and Leitner, S. F. 2012. Leisure in later life. Champaign, IL: Sagamore.
Lewis, J. 2013. Aging: Translation. Cultural Anthropology. https://culanth.org/fieldsights/389-aging-translation
List, G. 1963. The boundaries of speech and song. Ethnomusicology, 7, 1-16. doi:10.2307/924141
Marion, J. S. 2008. Ballroom: Culture and costume in competitive dance. Oxford, UK: Berg Publishers.
McGill, A., Houston, S., and Lee, R. Y. W. 2014. Dance for Parkinson’s: A new framework for research on its physical, mental, emotional, and social benefits. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 22, 426-532. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2014.03.005
Munniksma, A., Stark, T. H., Verkuyten, M., Flache, A., and Veenstra, R. 2013. Extended intergroup friendships within social settings: The moderating role of initial outgroup attitudes. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 16, 752-770. doi.org/10.1177/1368430213486207
Murray, M., and Crummett, A. 2010. “I don’t think they knew we could do these sorts of things”: Social representation of community and participation in community arts by older people. Journal of Health Psychology, 15, 777-785. doi:10.1177/1359105310368069
Ness, S. A. 2008. Bali, the camera, and dance: Performance studies and the lost legacy of the Mead/Bateson Collaboration. The Journal of Asian Studies, 67, 1251-1276. doi:10.1017/S0021911808001770
Nussbaum, J. F. 1994. Friendship in older adulthood. In M. L. Hummert, J. M. Wiemann, and J. F. Nussbaum (Eds.), Interpersonal communication in older adulthood: Interdisciplinary theory and research (pp. 209-225). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Nussbaum, J.F., Miller-Day, M., and Fisher, C. 2009. Communication and intimacy in older adulthood. Barcelona, Spain: Editoria Aresta.
Onishi, J., Masuda, Y., Suzuki, Y., Gotoh, T., and Kawamura, T. 2006. The pleasurable recreational activities among community-dwelling older adults. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 43, 147-155. doi:10.1016/j.archger.2005.10.003
Pines, R., and Giles, H. 2017. Dance and intergroup communication. In H. Giles and J. Harwood (Eds.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of Intergroup Communication. (Vol. 1, pp. 263-278). New Yor: Oxford University Press.
Pruchno, R. A., Wilson-Genderson, M., and Cartwright, F. 2010. A two-factor model of successful aging. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 65B, 671-679. doi:10.1093/geronb/gbq051
Pyman, T., and Rugg, S. 2006. Participating in a community theatre production: A dramatherapeutic perspective. Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, 13, 562-571. doi:10.12968/ijtr.2006.13.12.22473
Rakoeeviae, S. 2015. Ethnochoreology as an interdiscipline in a postdisciplinary era: A historiography of dance scholarship in Serbia. Yearbook for Traditional Music, 47, 27-44.
Rawlins, W. K. 2004. Friendships in later life. In J. F. Nussbaum, and J. Coupland (Eds.), Handbook of communication and aging research (pp. 273-299). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Reed, S. A. 1998. The politics and poetics of dance. Annual Review of Anthropology, 27, 503-532.
Rook, K. S. 1996. Support, companionship, and control in older adults’ social networks: Implications for well-being. In J. F. Nussbaum and J. Coupland (Eds.), Handbook of communication and aging research (pp. 437-464). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Royce, A. 1977. The anthropology of dance. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Steffens, M. C., and Viladot, M. A. 2015. Gender at work: A social psychological perspective. New York: Peter Lang.
Sweet, J. D. 2016. The anthropology of dance: Textural, theoretical, and experiential ways of knowing. In J. Chazin-Bennahum (Ed.), Teaching dance studies (pp. 149-164). New York: Routledge.
Taylor, J. M. 1998. Paper tangos. Durham: Duke University Press.
Theurer, K., Mortenson, B., Stone, R., Suto, M., Timonen, V., and Rozanova, J. 2015. The need for a social revolution in residential care. Journal of Aging Studies, 35, 201-210. doi:10.1016/j.jaging.2015.08.011
Tinsley, H. E. A., and Eldredge, B. D. 1995. Psychological benefits of leisure participation: A taxonomy of leisure activities based on their need-gratifying properties. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 42, 123-132. doi: 10.1037//0022-0126.96.36.199
Vitols, M., and Lynch, C. 2015. Back in the saddle again ethics, visibility, and aging on screen. Anthropology and Aging, 36(1): 11-19. doi:10.5195/aa.2015.85
Wullf, H. 1988. Ballet across borders: Career and culture in the world of dancers. New York: Oxford International.
Wylie, R. C. 1974. The self-concept: Theory and research on selected topics (Vol. 2). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- The Author retains copyright in the Work, where the term “Work” shall include all digital objects that may result in subsequent electronic publication or distribution.
- Upon acceptance of the Work, the author shall grant to the Publisher the right of first publication of the Work.
- The Author shall grant to the Publisher and its agents the nonexclusive perpetual right and license to publish, archive, and make accessible the Work in whole or in part in all forms of media now or hereafter known under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License or its equivalent, which, for the avoidance of doubt, allows others to copy, distribute, and transmit the Work under the following conditions:
- Attribution—other users must attribute the Work in the manner specified by the author as indicated on the journal Web site;
- The Author is able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the nonexclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the Work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), as long as there is provided in the document an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post online a prepublication manuscript (but not the Publisher’s final formatted PDF version of the Work) in institutional repositories or on their Websites prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work. Any such posting made before acceptance and publication of the Work shall be updated upon publication to include a reference to the Publisher-assigned DOI (Digital Object Identifier) and a link to the online abstract for the final published Work in the Journal.
- Upon Publisher’s request, the Author agrees to furnish promptly to Publisher, at the Author’s own expense, written evidence of the permissions, licenses, and consents for use of third-party material included within the Work, except as determined by Publisher to be covered by the principles of Fair Use.
- The Author represents and warrants that:
- the Work is the Author’s original work;
- the Author has not transferred, and will not transfer, exclusive rights in the Work to any third party;
- the Work is not pending review or under consideration by another publisher;
- the Work has not previously been published;
- the Work contains no misrepresentation or infringement of the Work or property of other authors or third parties; and
- the Work contains no libel, invasion of privacy, or other unlawful matter.
- The Author agrees to indemnify and hold Publisher harmless from Author’s breach of the representations and warranties contained in Paragraph 6 above, as well as any claim or proceeding relating to Publisher’s use and publication of any content contained in the Work, including third-party content.
Revised 7/16/2018. Revision Description: Removed outdated link.