Every Sunday morning at a studio in West End, about 20 seniors with an average age 65, gather for ballet lessons.
Every Sunday morning at a studio in West End, about 20 seniors with an average age 65, gather for ballet lessons. Christian Tiger

No tutu required: Seniors leap into ballet class

BALLET is usually associated with eager little girls or lithe young women. But seniors? Who would have thought it?

Every Sunday morning at a studio in West End, about 20 seniors with an average age 65, gather for ballet lessons, and every one of them agrees it is the best way to keep fit and flexible, to work on the all-important balance, and to socialise with like-minded mates.

"Seniors classes are lower impact than our other ballet classes," Kendall Battley of Queensland Ballet said. "We have teachers who are trained in how to teach ballet to older people. The classes focus more on those ballet movements that don't require jumping and turning. They teach basic barre and centre work technique and often include basic choreography from our upcoming seasons. They focus on technique, balance and fitness."

One of the students, Chris Bell (61) says she looks forward all week to her Sunday mornings.

"It's very good physically and there is also the mental stimulation," she said. "You have to remember the moves, there is real purpose behind it. Everyone goes at their own pace. It can be as hard or easy as you make it. No-one feels they have to keep up."

There are no leotards, tutus or pointe shoes required, just every day comfortable casual wear, and there is no pressure to perform, and no age limit for participants.


Swan Lake for seniors.
Swan Lake for seniors. Christian Tiger

"We have people well into their 70s," Kendall said. "If you can move fairly freely and are stable on your feet, you can be part of our ballet classes.

"Ballet requires a lot of co-ordination and focus so not only are participants having to move physically, they're also really having to exercise their minds to recall what they've been taught and interpret that. So many of our participants have also made wonderful friendships through our programs which is an added bonus.

"Ballet is perhaps more technical and precise than other dance genres. The movements are quite technical and there is probably more specific footwork and legwork than in other dance genres. Some ballet movements might not seem like much to look at but the control, strength and detail of the movement is very important."

Chris Bell says newcomers are made to feel very welcome and comfortable.

"We don't have to get our legs up around our ears, but some of us can get a leg up on the barre," she laughed. "We don't do it for performance, we do it for us. The social side is great, the friendships. We have one man in the class. We have a lot of laughs, but we are hardly going to be auditioning for the royal ballet."

The Seniors in Studio program includes a number of different classes tailored specifically to older people. Ballet for Seniors classes fit within this program alongside Zumba Gold, Tai Chi and specialised Dance for Parkinson's classes.

Go to: www.queenslandballet.com.au.

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