Building Socialization Into Choreography
Facilitate interaction in your older-adult classes.
By Ken Alan

C

reative choreography is both an art and a science. It can even act as a catalyst for social connections in older-adult classes. As participants age, developing new friendships can be difficult. People want to connect to other people–and group exercise provides this connection. Choreog-

raphy is a perfect vehicle for social growth as well as physical enhancement. This article identifies specific interactive techniques that invite students to have fun and discover similarities. Socialization builds camaraderie, group loyalty, mentorship and a network of supportive exercise buddies. For many people, going to exercise class and seeing “fitness friends” is the highlight of the day (Van Norman 1995).

Supplement to September 2003 IDEA Health & Fitness Source

Making Socialization Work
Have you ever said “Find a partner” while teaching a class? If so, chances are you were met with a few grumbles and maybe “I hate this stuff ” or “I think it’s time to leave.” If interaction scares participants away, something is amiss. Include socialization as part of your lesson plan, not as an afterthought. Establishing the right interactive environment can take time. Asking participants to arbitrarily “pair up with someone” or to randomly “find a partner” produces anxiety for people who are shy or fear rejection. You may need to take a step back and spend some time building rapport. Although you want to perform cardiovascular exercise within an appropriate heart rate range, getting to that level from the stress of forced socialization is not what you want.

Teaching style is an important consideration when building socialization into choreography.

A Casual Warm-Up
Teaching style is an important consideration when building socialization into choreography. If participants need to watch you continuously, they won’t be able to socialize. Therefore, a casual instructional method works better than the traditional follow-the-leader style. Movements should be mentally undemanding and physically uncomplicated. Keep them simple and so common that people can do them without looking at

Warm-Up Option. Cue participants to

walk in a big circle, with slower walkers staying to the outside and faster walkers passing on the inside.
SEPTEMBER 2003 IDEA FITNESS EDGE

you. The transitions between patterns should be relaxed; you can often let participants decide when to change movements and which foot will start. With this teaching style, the emphasis isn’t on moving to the cadence–the beat is there, but participants don’t have to move on it. In practice, a casual approach really breaks the ice. Here is an example of a warm-up that uses this style: Time: 10 to 12 minutes Beats per minute (bpm): 110-120 Music: Instrumental music works best, because vocals do not interfere with verbal directions. Jazz, Broadway, pop or any music style is fine as long as participants like it.