Dance with Donatas Nacajus

Regular cardiovascular exercise is the key to good health, and dancing is an activity that may appeal to those who resist typical exercise programs. It gets the heart pumping and limbs moving in a relaxed setting. For elderly people who live alone, dancing gives them a chance to interact and socialize in a low-stress situation.

Donatas Nacajus likes to get his students dancing right away. The rumba is an ideal warm-up: it’s the easiest of the Latin dances, and the pace is slow. The students pair off, and change partners regularly. They move on to different dances: salsa, meringue, cha cha cha, and paso doble. Donatas gently corrects their form: elbows high, head up. The dancers take breaks when they need to but most are happy to keep going. They are having so much fun – and so are the people watching -- that it’s easy to forget they are exercising!

Donatas Nacajus has loved dancing since he took his first class at age seven. By the time he left his native Lithuania to move to the U.S., Donatas had won Lithuania’s national ballroom dance competition twice. Now he divides his time between teaching and competing. At Project FIND’s senior centers, Donatas teaches Latin dance, but he is equally adept in ballroom dances such as the waltz, foxtrot and the tango.

While some dancers teach to make a living in between competitions, Donatas is a dancer on a mission to spread the joy of dancing. In Donatas’s view, Latin and ballroom dancing have enormous social, psychological and physical benefits. Dance encourages seniors to stay on their feet and keep moving. It helps them with posture, balance and confidence.