By Samantha SLAYBACK
As folks age, finding new and entertaining ways to get their exercise can become a challenge. But the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge, a mainstay in the foothills community, answers their quest.
Hula dancing class, led by instructor Barbara Dempsey, is attracting seniors ready to sway to the tropical beat.
Prior to undertaking her role as an instructor at the community center, Dempsey danced professionally for 15 years. She performed at venues from Marina Del Rey to Las Vegas and all the way to New Jersey, with many stops in between. Along the way, Dempsey stopped dancing to settle down and start a family. But in 2010 she suffered a knee injury that required surgery. During her recovery her mobility was limited and, along with the loss of functionality in her knee, she also experienced weight gain. This injury ended up being a blessing in disguise because that’s what it took to get Dempsey dancing again.
“The physical aspect [of hula dancing] was good for my knee recovery and weight loss,” said Dempsey. “Being over 50, it also helped with aches and pains.”
Fortunately for Dempsey, it was during this same time that the CCLCF was in search of an interesting new class to offer.
Dempsey now teaches her hula dancing class at CCLCF on Wednesdays for continuing and intermediate dancers, on Saturdays for beginning dancers, and on Tuesdays she can found at the senior center in Sierra Madre. The average age of dancers in her class is 68, but the oldest dancer is 87 and the newest and youngest addition to the dance group is only 5 years old. When it comes to this hula dancing class, age is just a number.
Every student of Dempsey’s is a repeat student from previous hula courses, and many have been dancing with her for the past two and a half years since she began teaching her class.
The class is beneficial for seniors in that it works not only on dancing coordination but also addresses stretching, balancing and posture. The course begins with these exercises that later get incorporated into the actual dance moves. Every 5-6 weeks students learn a hula routine and, for the past year, Dempsey has had her dancers perform these routines at various senior homes in the area.
Classes have performed at senior homes in Montrose, Altadena, Sierra Madre, Tujunga and Sunland and, according to Dempsey, they’ve gotten fantastic audience responses.
“After the women perform, people get out of their seats to shake their hands,” shared Dempsey. “It’s like they’re rock stars!”
Dempsey also explained how learning and practicing the hula dances in order to perform helps to improve a dancer’s memory.
The class just finished learning and performing a Tahitian hula and are now starting on a new hula routine with more of a Spanish flare. Dempsey said that they should be performing this new routine in March.
“This course gives members a chance to get a work-out that’s also fun,” she said. “Unlike Zumba, you don’t have to be constantly moving the entire time, so it’s better geared towards seniors.”
Video hula lessons are also available on the course website, free of charge, for those who would like to learn from home. Videos range from very slow motion lessons to fast-paced routines.
To learn more about Dempsey’s hula dancing classes, sign up for lessons, or practice at home, visit the website at www.alohaallure.org/#!events-performances.