“There is absolutely no upper age limit for aspiring ballerinas,” says Michelle Groves, Director of the Faculty of Education at the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD), as she explains the academy’s new Silver Swans™ over-55s ballet programme. “All ages are welcome and the programme caters for people of all abilities.”
Launched globally in September 2018, Silver Swans™ is the result of years of research by the RAD into ‘Dance for Lifelong Wellbeing’ and was refined during a pilot programme from 2015–2018. There are now more than 500 specially trained Silver Swans dance teacher licensees globally welcoming older learners to ballet classes.
So why take up ballet?
Ballet improves mobility, posture and coordination – vital components to fight the effects of ageing on our bodies. It strengthens muscles and joints and increases flexibility and cardiac fitness. “It’s just one class a week, all participants manage to leave with a pink flush,” says teacher Christine Atkinson.
Another benefit of the programme, says Michelle Groves, is a greater sense of comfort in one’s own skin. “It certainly gives learners more body confidence and that radiates out to others,” she says.
Michelle also notes that taking part in a group activity helps combat feelings of isolation and loneliness that are often rife among older people in our community. “We laugh a lot,” says one Silver Swan.
“There are definitely days now when I feel more like a grey goose than a silver swan, but I still love everything about ballet,” says Christine, 65, who sometimes struggles with joint pain, but says the gentle movement and music lift her mood.
For many Silver Swans, classes realise a repressed love of dance. “The Silver Swans [classes] are the silver lining to my childhood dreams,” says Cheryl, 74.