Dance for Brain Health


Dancing is fantastic for brain health, as well as physical, emotional and social well-being. Research has found that frequent dancing is one of the best activities for reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.


Photo: four women dancing in a semi circle each doing a different moveChallenge your brain in a fun, supportive setting, with a variety of dance activities for moving in new ways.

Photo: two adults dancing facing each other smilingThe Dance for Brain Health class has two main aspects: sampling basic movements from a range of dance styles, and facilitated activities to encourage improvising (where each person chooses how they want to move).

There is no “wrong” move in this class, and definitely no need to do anything perfectly.

Each class includes dancing as a group, moving on our own, and the option of dancing in twos.Photo: two people facing opposite directions; one crossing right leg over left; the other with wrists crossed.

This proactive class is designed for people who are 50yrs+, but adults of all ages and abilities are welcome.

Photo of 4 seniors dancing moving their arms; 2 standing, 2 sittingActivities can be done from standing or sitting positions.

No prior dance experience needed. (It does not matter whether you have not danced since high school gym class, or you dance in your living room often.) Gender-inclusive class; even men have been saying they enjoy it.Photo: 5 seniors sitting down all moving theirs arms at the same time

The focus is on having fun and being inclusive. (If you are seeking a high-speed class full of memorizing steps, then perhaps line dancing or Zumba might be a better fit for you!)

Facilitated by Joanne Cuffe, M.Ed.

Custom sessions:

If you are part of a seniors’ group or organization and would like a Dance for Brain Health demo or workshop at your location, please be in touch.

Previous participants, ages 45-85ish, have said:

“Invigorating and calming ~ a bit of magic making to great music. Loved it all. Thanks so much.”
–Dance for Brain Health participant at Cedar Hill Recreation’s Dance Studio

Photo of four women dancing in twos, with big windows and 6 chairs in the background

“The class helped me let go of whatever was stressing me on the day and I went away each week happier and more relaxed.”
–Vivian Welling, participant at classes at the Bayanihan Centre

Photo: four seniors dancing, in twos facing each other, lifting up one foot
“Joanne Cuffe’s Dancing for Brain Health classes are great on many levels:
Participants feel moved, connected to their bodies and to the group.
The music is well thought out and appropriate.
Joanne has a wonderful ability to unify the diverse group through her enthusiasm, her varied dance background, and her clear description of what we are dancing for.
These classes are highly recommended for people of all levels of physical ability who want to stimulate health, healing, and well-being.”
–Sepora Jacobson, MA: Dance/Movement Therapist, Co-Founder of MSI, Milman Sisters Institute: Creative Therapies for Healthy Living; participant at Monterey Centre

“Joanne offers a diverse focus on body movement. You do not need to be a dancer to ‘learn’ dance. Joanne’s gentle approach gives even the most shy person an opportunity to engage with their body in new ways. Thank you.”
–Ann Auld, participant at Cedar Hill Recreation Centre

“Both Steve and I enjoyed the sessions we had with you in the Spring. I enjoyed the opportunity to just move, no performance waiting in the background. I found moments of freedom and sensuality. You are a super supportive teacher always with some ideas to flow from.”

–Jayne Weatherbe, participant at classes at the Bayanihan Centre

“Really good movement with music – I felt my body was really well worked, in a friendly way.”
– Ann K., participant at Cook Street Village Activity Centre and Cedar Hill Recreation Centre

“We enjoyed the whole program – great exercise, good music, friendly, helpful instructor, great breathing, good scrunchies! Liked it all!”
–Art & Barbara Gilliland, participants at Cook Street Village Activity Centre

Further information:
Drawing of Glial Cells and Neurons
Dancing Glial cells (central nervous system)**

For posts about previous sessions, see:
Dancing for Brain Health: demos memo
Wrap-up of Spring Dancing for Brain Health

Some of the brain health best practices that are integrated into this program:
a large variety of activities, making choices about how to move, engaging socially, interacting with music, playing language games and puzzles, breaking out of patterns, creating new connections, learning new steps, expressing and shifting among emotions, being mindful while moving, and calming activities for reducing stress. 
For more Healthy Brain ideas see the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s website.

For links to a variety of research on healthy cognitive aging and reducing the risk of dementia, see The Well of Dance’s brain health section.

**The Creative Commons image of Glial cells is gratefully borrowed from an Anatomy textbook by Wade Hedegard / Rice University.