Dancing Heart: Vital Elders Moving in Community

Organization Associated with Program
KAIROS ALIVE!
4316 Upton Ave. S. #206
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55410

Since 2001, Kairos Alive of Minneapolis has been building on the Dancing Heart™—an innovative program to vitally engage older adults through the artistic expression of dance and storytelling led by professional artists. The Dancing Heart™: Vital Elders Moving in Community is a national award-winning, research-based arts program that transforms the lives of older people and their families, caregivers, and communities. The Dancing Heart™ exemplifies inclusion and equality by engaging people with varied abilities to explore how dance vitalizes communities and brings them together, resulting in measureable health benefits and cost of care savings.

In 2011 Kairos Alive led 222 Dancing Heart™ sessions for approximately 600 individuals at 15 sites. The program takes place in adult day programs, long-term care facilities, memory care facilities, and other settings, and it serves veterans, individuals living with Parkinson’s disease, and professional and family caregivers. All Dancing Heart™ programs provide in-depth opportunities for artistic development, higher-level physical activity, and community connection.

Kairos Alive works to engage frail older people and others with physical challenges, inviting individuals of all ages and abilities to dance together. The Touring Troupe has developed a unique performance/participation model that is accessible to a wide audience. All of the sites where Kairos teaches and performs are ADA accessible. Kairos Alive makes programs accessible to general audiences and works with individual participants and audience members to meet their specific needs. For example, volunteers are assigned to older artists to ensure that they have transportation and all other resources they need to participate fully in rehearsals, performances, and all other programs.

Program History

Kairos Alive was founded in 1999 by Director Maria DuBois Genné. Performers span four generations and have ranged in age from one to 101.The company is the only intergenerational modern dance company in the Twin Cities and one of only a handful in the U.S. Kairos Alive offers ongoing professionally led dance, theater, and storytelling programs, creating a vision of what an ideal community can be: all ages, backgrounds, and abilities dancing together.


Goals of the program include integrated skill development and increased sense of mastery in the language of dance, improvisation, musical expression, creative dramatics, storytelling, and performance as well as improved physical, social, and emotional health of older adult participants. In-service training on the Dancing Heart™ model at each site has resulted in significant community building and integration of the model into interactions outside of the Dancing Heart™ circle and throughout the week.

Program Research and Key Findings

The Dancing Heart™ is an evidence-based practice with full documentation and quantitative assessments that are performed regularly. In partnership with the Wilder Foundation Adult Day Health Services, Kairos Alive has found that 43% of participants in the Dancing Heart™ Memory Loss program showed improvement, and that a vast majority of participants either improved or maintained in balance, cognition, and other health measures. Kairos Alive also has data from five Ebenezer long-term care facilities, where the majority of participants tested maintained or improved balance and cognition and experienced reduced depression levels.

Program Assessments and Evaluations

Kairos Alive uses pre- and post-assessments, including weekly evaluation and planning. Evaluations are conducted by teaching artists, site staff, and volunteers. Kairos Alive conducts evaluations through the use of interviews, individual assessments, and attendance numbers.

Advice for Other Organizations Conducting Similar Programs

Strive to consistently offer high-quality arts programming.

Kinds of creative engagement/ program focus Creation of Original Work, Presenting a Performance, Participate in a Class, Participate in a Workshop, Participate in an Ensemble, Participate in a Residency
Arts Discipline: Dance, Folk/Traditional Arts, Literature, Music, Musical Theater, Theater
Interdisciplinary Connections: Civic Engagement, Education, Employment, Health / Medicine, Housing / Placemaking, History, Science, Volunteerism
Target Audience: Active Adults, Caregivers - Family, Caregivers - Professional, Frail Older Adults, Intergenerational
Adaptive Program Design Hearing Disabilities, Visual Disabilities, Mobility Disabilities, Cognitive Disabilities, Intellectual Disabilities, Psychiatric Disabilities
Program Setting: Aging Organization (e.g. Senior Center), Arts Organization, Community Center, Education (e.g. School / University), Healthcare - Palliative Care / Hospice, Healthcare - Long Term Care, Healthcare - Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), Library, Social Service Agency
Program Service Area: Suburban, Urban
Type of Practice: Field Tested Best Practice