AileyDance workshops for Caregivers and Individuals with Dementia

Two women with dark-skin sit in chairs in a mirrored dance studio with arms extended over head smiling.

AileyDance workshops for Caregivers and Individuals with Dementia

What is it about dance and music that lifts our spirits, makes us smile, and brings us together? While museums and botanic gardens offer programs for individuals of varying abilities, the performing arts has just begun exploring the idea, especially for families trying to cope with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

CaringKind*, an organization that supports caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, offers programs and services that help families to navigate the emotional and practical aspects of caregiving. As part of our effort to alleviate the anxiety, depression, and frustration that are so common in caring for someone with the disease, CaringKind’s connect2culture® program has partnered with Ailey Arts in Education to pilot a 7-month long pilot program of dance workshops to support families impacted by dementia and Alzheimer’s in the Bronx. In one series of workshops, caregivers come on their own to enjoy each other’s company and learn different dance styles. The benefits of these workshops are that they understand they are not alone in experiencing these feelings, they’re encouraged to express themselves through dance with no judgment, and that this time is just for them.

A second series of dance workshops is for the caregiver together with the person in their care. While the dynamic of the participants is different than in the workshops for caregivers alone, the goals are the same. These workshops are meant to offer safe comfortable spaces for shared activity. In a recent workshop, a professional caregiver accompanied a person with the dementia, making sure that she was settled into a circle of chairs in the room. In response to the invitation and encouragement to participate, the caregiver insisted she was there to work. By the end of the hour-long workshop, both she and the person she came with were smiling, laughing and talking with the other participants and instructors.

Taught by instructors trained in the needs of someone with dementia and the needs of caregivers, these workshops seek to engage families living with the disease in the Bronx community. Hosted by the New Settlement Community Center in a beautiful dance studio and run by staff who have also participated in the training, this pilot has introduced the idea of carving out time in their busy schedules for themselves and the individual with dementia.

*Formerly known as the Alzheimer’s Association, NYC Chapter