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- 24 March 2015 00:00
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It strengthens bones, staves off dementia and beats aches... no wonder so many older women are taking up ballet.
The Royal Academy of Dance has launched Dance For Lifelong Wellbeing, a nationwide initiative tailoring ballet classes to older adults who would never normally get the opportunity to dance.
Two years ago, when it launched, it was inundated, and they’ve since rolled out classes around the country.
Their latest figures show a 70 percent increase in silver swans signing up, and their oldest dancer is 102.
It’s a similar story at Regenerate, a troupe run by Scottish Ballet, which has classes for over-50s that are filled to bursting that they have had to close the waiting list.
The English National Ballet have also started dance sessions designed for those with dementia and Parkinson’s and many care homes organise ‘armchair ballet’ classes with guest dance teachers for those less able.
Films such as Natalie Portman’s Black Swan and TV shows Strictly Come Dancing and So You Think You Can Dance are thought to have helped fuel the interest in dance.
The health benefits of dance, especially ballet, are well- documented. It is seen to calm and slow the immune system, slowing deterioration and ageing, and research shows it can reduce the risk of over-65s falling by 17 per cent.
However it’s only now that there is a plethora of classes that older ladies are waking up to the idea and slipping into Lycra and performing en pointe (on tiptoes).
Dr Anne Hogan, director of education for the Royal Academy of Dance, says:
"People aged 50 upwards are looking for a type of exercise that suits their body. High-impact exercises such as running are not going to be beneficial to most in that age group. Ballet helps refine balance, flexibility and core strength. These are key to maintaining anyone’s health, but are especially important at that age. Ballet is also sociable, provides the opportunity to do something to music and is technically challenging.”
For more information and stories of how ballet has helped individual people click here.