Planning an Academy Awards themed dance program for people with dementia
Creating a music playlist is how I prepare for and structure a 1 hour dance/movement therapy group for people with dementia. This week’s theme is the Academy Awards and here is my list:
- A Kiss to Build a Dream on 3:01 Louis Armstrong (1951)
- Accentuate the Positive 2:50 Johnny Mercer (1945)
- Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah 2:53 Johnny Mercer (1947)
- What a Wonderful World 2:19 Louis Armstrong
- I Just Called to Say I Love You 1:59 Stevie Wonder (1984)
- Change Partners 2:15 Fred Astaire (1938)
- If I Knew You Were Coming I’d Have Baked a Cake 2:38 Eileen Barton
- When You Wish upon a Star 3:17 Cliff Edwards (1940)
- Pennies From Heaven 2:42 Various Artists (1936)
- Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy 2:44 The Andrews Sisters (1941)
- Pink Panther 2:09 Instrumental Champions (1963)
- Jump In the Line 3:39 Harry Belafonte
- In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening 2:44 Bette Midler (1951)
- That Old Black Magic 2:56 Louis Prima & Keely Smith (1943)
- Take Me Out to the Ball Game 2:31 The Andrews Sisters
- High Hopes 2:43 Frank Sinatra (1959)
- On The Atchinson, Topeka And The Santa Fe 3:03 Johnny Mercer (1946)
- Somewhere Over the Rainbow 5:07 Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (1939)
- City of Stars 2:30 Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone (2017)
- Happy Trails 1:28 Nancy Pitkin
- See the USA 0:18 Dinah Shore
- God Bless America 2:15 Kate Smith
Not all of the songs on this list were nominated, much less won, an Academy Award, but those with dates were at least nominated. It’s interesting to note the difference in feeling tone between songs from different decades. Certainly the earlier songs were much lighter in tone and lyrics – and even though more recent, City of Stars is reminiscent of that earlier era. I don’t necessarily use the original songs, because more modern instrumentation often elicits more movement than the originals, even though the older are likely more familiar. I was surprised to find that one of our favorite songs, What a Wonderful World, didn’t even make it to the top 100, never mind be nominated for the Academy Awards. According to wikipedia, George Weiss wrote the song specifically for Louis Armstrong. Weiss was inspired by Armstrong’s ability to bring people of different races together. That led me to consider that from the 1930s to the 1980s, of the songs that would be most likely remembered from the Academy Awards, the nominated songs would make it seem that the world we live in is primarily white. We can hope that is no longer the case. We shall see this coming Sunday night.
Along with the playlist, I will also bring props to create a bit of a glamorous setting. I’ll wear a glittery goldish chainmail-looking sweater with jewelish buttons. A plastic Oscar will accompany me. Perhaps we’ll vote for best song of the ones I bring. Or maybe we’ll give the Oscar to every person present – for being the person to do the goofiest dance, take the most risks in wearing costumes (maybe gold top hats or boas), be most caring of another group member. To Change Partners ~ I don’t know why, but this is one of my favorite songs on my playlist of probably 2,000 songs ~ I will offer one of my 2 ragdolls to change partners with any of the residents who choose it.
The playlist is designed to begin slowly, with familiar and slower music as people enter the space. Once people are all gathered, we sing a song together that acknowledges our intention to grow love. I garagebanded I Just Called to Say I Love You so that the lyrics are few and repeated. Eventually, ribbon wands are handed out, to encourage the engagement of each person’s individual movement. Once we’ve acknowledged that we are all part of a group, I prefer to go for uniqueness first, before attempting to get people to give up their individuality for the group. How often they have to give up their individuality when they are living in an Assisted Living or nursing home! Maracas then accompany faster paced music as we raise the energy. A huge red balloon then encourages those who don’t respond to music or have lost focus to be more alert and aware of one another.
Finally, we are ready to be part of a group, bringing all our individual energies together to raise the roof together, or the Octaband® as the case may be. And if you don’t have an Octaband® yet, you can purchase one here.
That’s the plan at least. And I will be open to whatever arises in the moment to interrupt that plan. For the plan is to “give them something to talk about” and to be interrupted. After all, it is THEIR group; I am simply the facilitator. You can read an article I wrote about dance/movement therapy with people with dementia here.
Or better still, sign up for the May 5-6 training to Bring Dance to People with Dementia in Westwood, MA. The group that has begun to register bring extraordinary skills and experience. But don’t let that intimidate you if you don’t have much experience. We will all be there to learn together – and to teach what we know. And as you’ll see if you choose to join us, every single person has life experience to contribute, just as every member of a DMT group with people with dementia has something to offer. EVERY SINGLE PERSON. Again, my job is to facilitate – to get everyone to contribute to the group synergy.
Another resource that I offer ~ for it is my mission to get more older adults and people with dementia dancing ~ is the monthly newsletter that I write where I muse about different topics related to dance, dance therapy, dancing with people with dementia, etc. You can subscribe here by entering your email address on the bottom of this page. You don’t need to worry about my filling your email inboxes ~ I’m lucky if I get out a newsletter every month, and lately it’s more likely once every other month.