Arriving, Adjusting, Admiring

Tall trees instead of buildings
Tall trees instead of shops
Tall trees instead of traffic lights
Tall trees
Lots of them
In the middle of nowhere
The new centre of my universe

The Pied Piper

I love movement
Movement of life
I am not meant to stand still really

But neither do I wander
For the sake of wandering
I am aware
Watch for signs
Like the Pied Piper that appeared
Not just any Pied Piper
Oh, no!!!!
One with a trumpet
As you may know
I just love trumpets
So I am off...

Off with the faeries
Ha ha ha!
I haven't lost the plot
In fact...
I may have just found a treasure

I continue living a life
On the move
To the forest of the Pied Piper

The unknown
The endless changes
Wear me out
The faithless doubts
Scare the hell out of me

Oh go on, call me insane!

But then...
I can't possibly
Stay put for put's sake
What would that achieve?
I therefor surrender
To the music of the Pied Piper
I dance
Ever deeper
Into the blur of life

And then...
To my surprise
Or maybe not anymore
With joyful clarity
I regain my vision
Bliss and calm
With my heart and soul

Oh Pied Piper, you are just gorgeous!

Sit Dancing

Below is an article I wrote some time ago, about a sit dance programme I developed in the late 80"s, early 90's, but is still very relevant today. Because of continued interest I will digitally re-master the resource materials for this programme in July and make them available again.

I have added a new page to my blog with information on


Why would you want to dance when you are old, low on energy, barely able to walk and knowing that dancing could cause discomfort, pain or even an accident? Why take the risk? Why bother, particularly when your caregivers are ‘bossing’ you around all day, every day, telling you, as with anything else: ‘It is good for you’?

If I were, say 80, lost my partner, independence and privacy, and I was institutionalised, I don’t think I could be bothered to dance if someone asked me to, no matter how much I would be called ‘dear’ or ‘love’. I would most likely refuse to participate just as a way to exercise my choice and create a sense of empowerment for myself at a time when I may be loosing more and more control over my own life. I associate dancing with celebrations or entertainment, and perhaps I don’t feel in a celebratory mood, nor do I want to entertain myself. I would watch a dance show, as it is always fun to see others making a fool of themselves, but me doing it, I don’t think so!!

Staff may regard me as a stubborn old man, contributing my attitude to my character and nature rather than my environment and circumstances. In that case I would be left to please my self, feeling justified in my attitude and left without any vision for a future for myself, or the community I live in.

However with appropriate attitude and vision a facilitator/therapist can bring about change that will not only have an affect on the individual’s life but also on the community, including staff.

Developing an appropriate attitude and vision will require a caregiver to be honest and investigate their own attitudes, belief systems and vision. If dance is going to be introduced as an option for residents then one can expect not only resistance from the residents as illustrated above, but also among staff and even management, as attitudes and visions about dance and the elderly are most likely based on our cultural belief systems, which aren’t always very compassionate or optimistic.

In 1988 I was keen to (re)introduce dance to the elderly population living in retirement care settings in Wellington New Zealand. I had just moved there from The Netherlands where I trained as an ‘International Folk Dance Teacher’. I was familiar with a specially designed dance repertoire, used in The Netherlands for over-50’s based on ethnic folk dances. I called all rest homes (called hostels in Australia) I could find in the yellow pages and asked if they would like me to teach dance to their residents. Only one home was interested in a free demonstration session, and so I went with my ghetto blaster, tapes and my oh so fashionable 1980's leg warmers.

The therapists had gathered a good crowd of people in the recreation room. All were full of anticipation. Most expected a dance show and got the surprise of their lives when they were asked to get up and join in they did (all well trained in obedience). By the time the session was over the entire room was filled with exhausted but happy faces. After the session a 95 year old woman came up to me and said “I have never seen so many people smile at the same time as today, and I have been here for 5 years”.

I was confused by the experience, counting my blessings that I didn’t dance any residents to a premature death but also upset about the patronizing attitude of some staff towards the residents and the comments by the 95 year old that smiling en-mass was such a rare event.

As time went by, my fear of putting the residents at risk of ‘death by dancing’ faded and an urge to do something for the residents emerged. The rest home had called and asked me to come back. There were no easier dances that I knew of but I heard of the term ‘sit-dancing’, and began developing a repertoire of sit-dances.

International Sit and Step Dancing, as the programme was then called, is based on traditional folk dances from around the world that have been adapted and/or transformed to enable people of all ages and (dis-) abilities to enjoy dancing while sitting down and/or standing. The original folk dances which are the inspiration for the sit-dances are often danced in circles or lines. Anybody can join in without the need to have a partner, so nobody feels left out. There is no need to have a ‘perfect’ body, such as in ballet, and there are no age limits. In fact older villagers often dance with the young ones perhaps with less vigor, but with equal, if not more grace. It is the inner beauty and joy of dancing that is being expressed in folk dancing.

The music I use may be ‘foreign’ to most ears but is very passionate and folk music resonates with people. It is hard to resist, as it stirs emotions and this stirring becomes and an internal motivation to move, as little as the tapping of toes or clapping of hands. Being able to participate in a dance at a simple but appropriate level can provide people with much needed self-esteem. Folk dancing is a social activity, and promotes interaction. All these aspects of folk dancing are natural antidotes for the resistance of an 80 year old as described above.

Traditional folk dancing often relies on someone to lead a line or circle, someone with charisma and leadership skills, someone who perhaps shows off a bit at times, not afraid to try out something new, not afraid of making a fool of themselves. It is more likely that such a person will be regarded as a role model and as a result gets everybody following, be it as a dance star or as a fool, either way, definitely less self-conscious and more human.