ADULT BALLET CLASSES:
Periodic sessions, class time is Mondays 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm.
Specifically designed for ages 30+
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From an article in the Daily Mail Online, an English news website on April 14, 2014:
TAKING UP BALLET IN OLDER AGE HAS PROVEN HEALTH BENEFITS, ENGLISH RESEARCHERS ARE FINDING.
Every week you'll find Nan McDonald limbering up at the barre in a studio at the Scottish Ballet. Last year she danced in Hansel And Gretel and recently worked on Romeo And Juliet.
What might surprise you is that Nan will be 70 this summer.
She is a regular at the Scottish Ballet's Regenerate classes - a project teaching ballet to the over-50s, which has been hugely popular. As well as classes, participants rehearse workshop performances in tandem with shows put on by professional dancers. Nan, who lives in Glasgow, has been dancing with Regenerate for more than ten years. The Scottish Ballet's Regenerate classes is a project teaching ballet to the over-50s, which is hugely popular 'I'd done ballet as a girl, but nothing serious,' she says. 'Keeping fit is very important to me. I liked the thought of being able to do ballet properly - and I love the music. Ballet gives you such a fantastic stretch-out. It's improved my flexibility and co-ordination.'
Regenerate is one of a number of projects nationwide promoting ballet and dance as a secret weapon for health and vitality in old age.
The Royal Academy of Dance started weekly classes for older people in London last year, and now they are being rolled out across the country.
'It's estimated that one in four of us will live to 100,' says Dr Anne Hogan, director of education at the Royal Academy of Dance. 'We believe dance has health benefits that will help people maintain quality of life.'
For proof ballet can keep you supple, look no further than former ballerina Dame Gillian Lynne - an official ambassador for the Royal Academy of Dance's scheme - who was pictured last week doing the splits aged 88.
Ballet gets lots of little-used muscles working and improves posture, so can strengthen sore backs and joints...
...So, why is ballet so good for us?
It gets lots of little-used muscles working and improves posture, so can strengthen sore backs and joints.
It could help balance problems, chronic dizziness and may even stave off memory loss. Some experts consider dance a useful method for managing degenerative conditions such as dementia and Parkinson's.
One of ballet's core ideas is alignment - keeping the head, shoulders and hips perfectly balanced and in line at all times, whether standing still or halfway through a pirouette. 'Ballet improves posture, and builds strength and flexibility at the same time,' says chartered physio-therapist Sammy Margo.
'Unlike jogging, where you're moving in the same way all the time, ballet gives you a variety of movement. You're moving joints and muscles in different directions and in ways you might not normally work them.'
For beginners, the movements are small and the stretches soft, says Sammy Margo, making it an option if your knees creak or your stamina is not what is was. It's lower impact than aerobics, but could still burn 250 calories an hour. There's certainly no slacking off in the Scottish Ballet's Regenerate classes. 'The class takers have a go at everything, even pirouettes,' says the teacher Preston Clare, who danced with the Scottish Ballet for 18 years.
A typical class starts with lying on the floor to do relaxation exercises and gentle stretching, focusing on the back. 'They're always standing much taller after that,' he says.
Then come exercises at the barre. 'We do a lot of plies - bending at the knee - but only the half version, so it's not so stressful on the joints. Some of the ladies have a metal pin in their ankle or a hip or knee replacement. One can't lift his arm very high - though he says the ballet is improving it all the time. So I do make adjustments.'
Nan says: 'Some of the barre work can be hard - especially when the teacher wants us to be in fifth position [one foot behind the other, with toes pointing in opposite directions].' Ballet may be particularly helpful for easing aches and pains.
Sammy Margo says: 'It's great for problems such as knee arthritis and lower back problems, as it keeps the muscles around the knee strong and helps strengthen your core muscles - the deep muscles in your abdominals - which support your back.'
Balance can be a problem as we age. This is partly because we lose muscle, leading to instability.
'Ballet works lots of muscles in the legs - your gluteals, quadriceps and the calf muscles - which are vital for stability,' says Margo. Also important for balance is the vestibular system in the inner ear, which helps communicate to the brain what your body is doing and where it is.
As we get older, cells here die off, which can mean the brain doesn't detect where the body is positioned as quickly - if the body tilts, it may not get the message in time and so you lose your balance. Last year, a study in the journal Cerebral Cortex showed ballet may change the way the brain gets signals from the vestibular system which otherwise would make us feel off-balanced or dizzy. Brain scans revealed that an area in the cerebellum, at the base of the brain, which processes signals from the inner ear, was smaller in professional ballerinas than in non-dancers' brains.
The researchers at Imperial College London believe ballet dancers' brains adapt over years of training in order to reduce signals of dizziness in pirouettes. Balance can be a problem as we age. This is partly because we lose muscle, leading to instability. 'Dancing makes the brain more efficient at balancing,' says consultant neurologist Dr Barry Seemungal, who led the research. 'The change was more pronounced in the dancers who practised the most - it's not something they're born with.' The researchers are hoping to develop a dance-based therapy for dizziness.
Another benefit of ballet is that its steps may be easier for beginners to remember. This is because the movements have names that the teacher will call out.
Professor Ruth Day, a cognitive scientist at Duke University, found that when beginner and intermediate dancers listened to the names of movements as they tried to learn a new sequence, their recall of the routine was 15 to 30 per cent better than without spoken cues.
What's more, a two-decade long study on the effects of leisure activities and mental acuity as we age, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found dance was the only physical activity linked with a lower risk of dementia (along with non-physical activities, such as reading and doing the crossword).
The explanation offered by neurologists is that dance is a complex activity for our brain, working different neural pathways.
'People with Parkinson's took classes at the English National Ballet. Researchers found it improved mobility, posture and balance'
This could be because it combines physical activity with cognitive stimulation - in order to recall a sequence of steps, for example - and also has a social component.
Increasingly, experts are turning to dance as a technique for helping people living with degenerative conditions.
In a small study in 2011, people with Parkinson's, which can cause tremor, slower movement and stiffness in the muscles, took classes at the English National Ballet. The researchers found it improved mobility, posture and balance - assessed from scores based on how well certain activities could be performed, for instance, standing on one leg for 20 seconds.
And then there are the psychological benefits.
'The combination of music and movement can play a crucial role in bringing people into the present, away from confusion and low mood - an issue in Parkinson's and dementia,' says Daphne Cushnie, a neurological physiotherapist who is part of the Dance For Parkinson's Network, which runs classes and provides training for dance teachers.
'It's a social activity, which can help combat the isolation people with these conditions can feel.'
Socialising is another thing Nan McDonald loves about classes at the Scottish Ballet.
'A lot of the ladies who come along are sadly on their own now. We've become very good friends.'
Finding an appropriate class is key, however - especially if you haven't exercised for a while.
Gay Christie, director of the Lotte Berk method in London - a dance fitness class using ballet-style moves as well as physiotherapy techniques - urges caution about classes that incorporate high-intensity cardio with dance, for fear of risking injury.
And Daphne Cushnie emphasises the need for a teacher who is trained in how to instruct people with degenerative conditions.
But with these considerations, there's no reason ballet why couldn't be a step towardsbetter health.
As Nan McDonald puts it: 'No matter what your age, it's so good for you - mind, body and soul.'
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2604609/Taking-ballet-old-age-help-ward-dementia-And-dont-worry-creaky-knees-neednt-hold-back.html#ixzz3jxbXzxqr
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