Letter, Opinion

Reducing isolation through social dance


Dear Editor,

Even before the pandemic Americans were starting to fall away from connecting with their neighbors. According to the Pew Research Center, social events among neighbors were starting to become relatively rare. “Among Americans who know at least some of their neighbors, a majority (58%) say they never meet them for parties or get-togethers. About three-in-ten (28%) say they have parties or get-togethers less than once a month, and 14% say they do this monthly or more often.”  That’s not much more than 10% of us regularly getting together with our friends! One of the reasons for this is the digital age we are living in, the endless device scrolling people engage in. People are not connecting. Policy makers are increasingly concerned with our tendency toward social isolation and an overall reduction in social connectedness. Loneliness is on the rise. People seem to be forgetting how to socialize. Often people feel awkward reaching out, even when joining a topic-based club or class.  Getting involved can be hard when people have gotten accustomed to just staying home, watching TV, or scrolling devices. The rise in loneliness has given rise to multiple podcasts with a focus on helping us be happier. From these, the listener learns that the research is in — there are a few habits and practices that radically increase our happiness. High on the list are: being active, increasing our social relationships and connections, and challenging ourselves through new experiences and learning. Yet some people who want to reach out and connect have a hard time doing so, and it gets harder as folks get older. Pickleball is one activity that helps people socialize around an activity, but not everyone has the speed and coordination for pickleball. Different forms of folk dance, especially square dance, provides an accessible solution to this growing problem. Since many folks who feel some degree of isolation are on the shy side, square dancing provides an excellent method for getting out and socializing, while learning something active that keeps the mind challenged. In square dancing, dancers are interacting with one another, while learning the 50+ calls that make up modern square dancing. New folks feel less awkward because they are socializing while “doing”, which reduces that uneasy feeling of starting up a relationship. New dancers then bond over their shared experience, while also getting to know dancers who have been square dancing for a long time. A community forms, and is enhanced by regular potlucks, picnics and celebrations of holidays and birthdays/anniversaries. Square dancing doesn’t involve any fancy moves, so anyone can do it. Dancers dance to popular music, not old timey. Many dancers start out dancing for the physical and mental stimulation of it, but then find a community of people whom they call friends. The experts say we need to “keep company with good people” to increase our happiness!

If this is a great way to reduce your own social isolation in a way where the “wheels are already greased,” come dance with us, or find a club near you on Wheresthedance.com

 The Cast Off 8’s Square Dance Club in Rutland county forms a new class every September and it runs through April in 10-week blocks. Square dancers learn a few calls each week, with the help of experienced dancers. No partner is necessary, there are plenty of people to help that can dance both parts! When the last block is finished in April, dancers can square dance anywhere in the world, making new friends as they go! The club will have two free nights to come and try it. These are Wednesday, Sept. 13 and 20, 6:30 p.m .at Lothrop School in Pittsford. Get out and connect! Reduce that isolated feeling and find a new hobby and community of friends! 

For more information, visit CastOff8s.com or email club members at lauren.castoff8s@gmail.com or rita.castoff8s@gmail.com. 

Lauren Norford, Pittsford 

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