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Finding joy in dance as an adult: smashing through the barriers

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

by Jo McDonald, founder and owner of Move Through Life Dance Studio

Five barriers to dance in adulthood

There are probably dozens of barrier that get in the way for adults who would like to take regular dance classes. Below are five common ones we hear about a lot.

1. Perception that dance is for kids and teenagers

First, there is the perception that you shouldn’t dance, especially something like ballet, once you’re a ‘grown up’.  But dance isn’t just for children and teenagers, it’s something that is possible, that is beneficial, to adults at all stages of life.  It helps make them happier and healthier, in so many ways.

2. Difficulty finding classes for adults

Then, there is the problem of dance classes for adults being either non-existent, or just an add-on for a children’s dance school.  If there is an adult class, there’s usually only one or two, and they are all at one level.  So complete beginners struggle to keep up, and more advanced dancers feel frustrated at the lack of challenge.

3. Finding adults of the right age

There’s also the problem of the right age.  You might find an adults’ class but it’s full of people in their 20s, and you’re in your 40s or 60s.  Or the only class near you is for older adults, but you’re only in your early 30s.  Perhaps you’re a more experienced dancer and you go to a dance studio to do their advanced senior classes, and you find yourself dancing with 15 year olds.

4. Life is too busy to dance

And of course, there is the busy-ness of life.  Once you are studying at a tertiary level, starting work, buying a house, having children, it gets harder and harder to find a time away from the busy whirlwind of life to do something like dance.  And yet those who do take the time out to indulge in their love of dance, they say it’s well worth it.

5. Fitting class into your schedule

And finally, there’s the problem of not being able to find a dance class that suits you, at a time and place that you can get to.

The Dragonfly Dance approach

I created my dance studio, Dragonfly Dane (formerly Move Through Life), to meet these barriers head on.

Every day we celebrate adults who dance.  Our dancers (and yes, they are dancers!) come in all shapes and sizes, and span over six decades.

It helps keep them fit, strong and flexible, helps them focus and concentrate, improves their state of mind, brings them joy, and keeps their mind sharp. Some enjoy just having some time out for themselves, and others love making new friends.

Here are some of the things about Dragonfly Dance Studio that makes it such a special place for adult dancers.

Move Through Life offers classes to adults only.

I have had a lot of people ask me why I don’t offer classes for children, and the answer is simply that I believe children’s classes would end up taking over.

I want to make sure that the limited amount of studio and teacher time that I have is dedicated 100% to making sure adults can dance.

That said, I may at some stage offer classes for beginner teenagers, because age is a barrier to starting dance even as a teenager.  I didn’t start ballet until age 13, and it took humility and tenacity to start classes with much younger children.

Dragonfly Dance has classes at multiple levels

This means that adults can start dancing with us, regardless of their previous dance experience, if any.

A complete beginner can find a class that teaches them the basics, so they aren’t out of their depth, and experienced dancers can find a class that challenges them physically and technically.

And all dancers, regardless of experience, can continue to develop and progress, rather than stagnating in a class that stays at the same level because there are always newcomers with less experience.

We offer 12 week introductory courses for complete beginners, and go right up to pro-am (professional amateur) classes that are great for adults who’ve danced all their lives and may have completed tertiary training or advanced grades, or even been professional dancers who now just want to enjoy dance without the pressure.

Dragonfly Dance recognises that adults of different ages have different needs, but there are also individual variations

To address this, we have a special ‘mature’ dance stream.  I describe these classes as being suitable for those who want to dance with other adults aged over 50.  The mature stream tends to be less high impact and progression happens at a slower pace.

There are no hard and fast rules about whether you are the right age for the ‘mature’ stream or the ‘regular’ stream.  It is about selecting that for yourself.  Some people over 50 love being around younger people, whereas some prefer to be in a class with others over 50.

And you’ll note we don’t use the term ‘older’ adults, because these days, people in their 50s, 60s and 70s are not old or elderly, but do have some different physical, cognitive and social needs to young adults in their 20s or early 30s.

Dragonfly Dance recognises that adults have busy lives and can’t always be at the same class every week.

We have shift workers, parents, professionals, and all sorts of adults who come to class.  Changing work rosters, fluctuating work loads, school events, sick children, holidays, and family commitments can make it hard to get to the same class every week.

The range of classes we offer for adults makes it much easier to go to a different class when you’re not able to get to your regular class.  If you are super busy for a month, or away on a long holiday, you can put your membership on hold, or you can attend more classes before or after the period when you can’t get to class

Performances with Dragofoly Dance are optional

Some of the adults who dance with us love to perform, but others love being able to just come to class each week for their exercise and enjoyment, without having that kind of commitment.

For this reason, we have performance opportunities for those who want to perform, but it doesn’t interfere with classes, and there is absolutely no requirement to be involved

At Dragonfly Dance we don’t care what you look like

All bodies (and minds) are valued.

The typical perception of a ‘dance body’ is one that is pre-pubescent.  This is particularly the case for ballet, where dancers are expected to be very slim, flat chested, with flat turnout and high arches in the feet.

But in my mind, every body that dances is a dance body.  Every body that does ballet is a ballet body.  I understand that the corp de ballet or the chorus line relies on everyone looking the same, but that doesn’t apply to what we’re offering.

We love that all of our dancers are different heights, shapes, sizes, and proportions.

We recognise that it is not the way you look, or even the way you move that matters.  What matters is the joy you experience from dancing. It’s the goals you set and achieve for yourself.

If you can’t get to a Dragonfly Dance class, you can still learn with our online options

There are so many people who want to come to our classes, but live too far away, or our timetable doesn’t fit their schedule.  For this reason, we are building an online studio.

At this stage, we have a Ballet Basics for Adults Online course, which is designed for the absolute beginner so they can learn the basics, and then have the confidence to join a class.  And we have much more in the pipeline, to cover more intermediate and advanced ballet steps, and to teach other dance styles, such as contemporary, jazz and tap.


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