Fit4Dance Teaches Seniors

Laci Chisholm Teaches Seniors

“Dance is like air. I would die with out it,” says Laci Chisholm, the three-time winner of a SU-CASA grant - a Brooklyn Arts Council initiative that pairs New York City-based artists with senior citizen centers around the city. Laci utilizes this opportunity to bring dance programs to two senior centers in Brooklyn, the Cypress Hills Fulton Street Senior Center and the Theresa Moore Senior Center. Based on the stories from Laci’s classes, her students seem to feel the same way about dance as she does.

Chisholm is the owner of Fit4Dance dance studio on Nostrand Avenue, and was awarded the SU-CASA grant in 2017, 2018, and now, in 2019. Typically, the grant’s programs run from January to June, but Laci’s class was so popular in the Cypress Hills Fulton Street Senior Center, they extended her residency to be year round. The class started off with only a few participants and now she has up to thirty students each week.

Most recently, Laci partnered with the Teresa Moore Senior Center where she brought her class series called, “Dancing Through the Ages” to a group of ten students. The series offers lessons in dances derived from the 1920’s up to the present. Currently, they are dancing to music from the 70’s and learning line dancing. I forgot to ask Laci the correlation between line dancing and the 70’s, but according to an internet search, line dancing originated in the era of disco.

At the end of each dance season, Laci and her students put on a final showcase where family and friends are invited to see what, exactly, these kids have been up to. Family and friends have also been known to participate in the classes on occasion. One student shared a note with Laci from her young grandson who attended a class while he was on spring break. The note said, “One of my favorite memories is coming to that dance class with you at the senior center.”

Along with the social benefits of this program, Laci has seen mobility improvement in her students from season to season. Her classes include “functional mobility” exercises that help strengthen and stretch muscles so that everyday movements are more fluid. Even people’s immune systems appear to be strengthened from the exercises.

The maxim, “Use it or lose it,” is undeniable here. Another one that comes to mind is, “Shake what your mama gave you.” Or perhaps we can look at this quote by Julia Cameron from her book The Artist’s Way, which more eloquently echoes these sentiments:

“As artists, we are spiritual sharks. The ruthless truth is that if we don’t keep moving, we sink to the bottom and die. The choice is very simple: we can insist on resting on our laurels, or we can begin anew. The stringent requirement of a sustained creative life is the humility to start again, to begin anew.”

This idea is embodied in the 92-year-old student who faithfully shows up to Laci’s class each week. Or in the man who flung his cane aside to “dance his heart out” in the middle of a dance circle. Or in the couple who show up at the senior center to learn how to dance, together.

Congratulations to Laci for winning the trust and support of institutions like the Brooklyn Arts Council. We’re grateful for people like her who keep us moving.

– Katie Baker