Proving it’s never too late to start, women over 55 can now channel their inner ballerina at local Royal Academy of Dance Silver Swans classes.
The Silver Swans initiative was initially launched at the RAD’s London headquarters – where the oldest student is aged 102 – and has now been rolled out nationally due to colossal demand.
Now Silver Swans classes can be enjoyed at the First Footers Dance studio in Ellesmere Port , near to Cheshire Oaks.
Classes offer a plethora of age-defying health benefits for the mind and body, improving balance and core strength. They can even slow down the ageing process by calming the immune system and exercising the brain via new dance routines.
Former professional dancer and principal of First Footers Dance school Gail Bell, who began dancing at the age of 10 at the Santro School of Dance in Ellesmere Port, says she was compelled to become a Silver Swans teacher after reading glowing reports in the media.
She said: “I thought this would be the next big thing to bring to the area – I knew nobody else was doing it locally and the idea of bringing ballet to an older audience really appealed to me.
“Teaching Silver Swans is so rewarding and watching my students gain strength and grow in confidence is amazing. I want to get the powerful message across that ballet can be enjoyed whatever your age, there is a wonderful grace to it and my students really are the type of ladies who want to grow old gracefully.”
Nationally, famous fans include The Duchess of Cornwall, who visited a Silver Swans class at the RAD headquarters early this year, and How to Stay Young BBC presenter Angela Rippon, who is the Silver Swans ambassador.
Angela Rippon CBE, who looks fabulous at 73, became ambassador in 2017, stating: “On my BBC programme How to Stay Young, we proved scientifically that dance is the exercise which ticks all the boxes, to give you the full mind and body workout.
“That really convinced me that dance is a way to ensure a long and healthy life; it keeps you supple, it’s an aerobic exercise, it gives you spatial awareness, it makes you use your brain, and it gives you some kind of social contact as well.”
Gail added that the classes, which commenced in May, are a great way to meet new people and make friends. “You don’t need to have done ballet before, you don’t need ballet shoes, you don’t need a leotard, you can just show up,” she said.
“We teach repertoire from real ballets, so this term we’re doing Swan Lake. Classes are kept to a maximum of 12 so that I can keep a close eye on students, the classes are gentle and students are encouraged to go at their own pace.”
Denise Hancock, 65, one of the first participants at First Footers, is certainly feeling the benefits.
She said: “It’s a great, fun class that works every muscle and it’s helping with my balance – not to mention strengthening my knees and ankles.”
Classes run every Wednesday at 10.30am – 11.30am at the Stanlaw Abbey Business Centre, Dover Drive and are followed by refreshments.
Gail is offering the first class for free until June 30. For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org.