Ballet classes on pointe

You’re never too old to learn ballet, it seems. Shayne McCormack has been teaching classes for young dancers for more than 50 years herself and started classes for adults last year at her Newtown studio after several requests from the parents of her younger students.

She quickly went from teaching two classes a week to three to keep up with demand, with people coming from as far afield as Brisbane to attend.

The seniors attending range in age from 50 into their 70s and one lady, now over 60, has come back to dance after last taking ballet classes as a young girl in the 1960s. However, previous dance experience is not necessary to join ‘Miss McCormick’s’ class. “There’s really no barrier at all. We start gently and by the end of the first lesson they feel the benefit of actually moving. Each person moves to their own ability,” Miss McCormick said.

Another lady has had two knee replacements and after her first couple of classes reported that she felt fine. When Miss McCormick checked in on her after the class, she said she “felt alive”.

That response comes as no surprise to her as she says the benefits of ballet for health are well documented.

“It’s good for movement, co-ordination, muscle and bone strength, balance and posture – it’s good for posture to counter the round shoulders people get from sitting all the time. It’s good for memory and trains your brain. It’s really good for the wellbeing of the whole body,” she said.

In 2017 Queensland Ballet’s own ‘Ballet for Seniors’ program was the subject of a study by Queensland University of Technology. Results showed that Ballet for Seniors led to positive wellbeing outcomes, particularly feeling more energetic, keeping in shape, bodily control, posture, flexibility, physical wellbeing, and overall wellbeing.

Performance psychologist and former professional ballet dancer Professor Gene Moyle from QUT’s Creative Industries Faculty said the project not only re-enforced the already well documented physical benefits of movement and dance on ageing bodies, it also highlighted the joy and benefits social connections in dance can bring to people’s lives.

“Some of the participants reported that they found the classes positively euphoric and transformational in the pleasure they felt at being part of such weekly social engagement,” Professor Moyle said.

Peta Sher had been going to the Queensland Ballet classes in Brisbane every week until Shayne McCormick started her classes in Ipswich last year. “I loved them, but it was a long and hectic drive from where I live. When I started the classes, although I wasn’t a senior in calendar years, I was having some challenges.

“I have psoriatic arthritis which has taken quite a hit on my energy level, mobility and self-esteem.

“The class that I attend at Shayne McCormick’s Ballet Centre is one of my favourite parts of the week. In the classes I laugh a lot – at myself in general and at jokes other participants make.

“I am always surprised at how much the classes work my mind as well as my body. I am curious about how tiny improvements in posture, effort and concentration build together to make my day better. I tend to forget that I have muscles in my legs, feet, arms and hands that can move not just in the battle with arthritis.

Previous Post
Next Post