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Research shows benefit in bringing ballet to the lives of older adults

Older Australians are being encouraged to tie up their tutus and ballet shoes following the success of a recent research project run by Queensland Ballet.

Older Australians are enjoying ballet, according to new research (Source: Shutterstock)
Older Australians are enjoying ballet, according to new research (Source: Shutterstock)

The research project, which was undertaken in partnership with Queensland University of Technology and funded by Queensland Government’s Advance Queensland initiative, was a means of measuring and validating Queensland Ballet’s weekly dance classes for older adults within an evidence-based framework, substantiated the claim that Queensland Ballet “enriches lives”.

Director Strategy and Global Engagement, Queensland Ballet Felicity Mandile, says committing to research work, such as Ballet Moves for Adult Creative Health, ensures Queensland Ballet’s work remains “relevant, authentic and excellent”.

“The whole research process was very fun and interesting,” Ms Mandile explains.

“As one of our Ballet for Seniors participants said - ‘we laugh, we dance, we mostly laugh’.”

Ballet participant, 61 year old Christine Bell, says that these classes, and the research, has shown her that ballet can be for the young at heart, and not just the young.

“Originally I assumed, like many people, that ballet was only for the young,” she says.

“Having been involved in ballet from aged two and a half until 15 when I decided to give it up, I assumed that any further contact would be purely as audience.

“So when I heard of Ballet for Seniors, I thought ‘you must be joking!’”

Ms Bell says it was a New Year’s Resolution to try something new that found her looking to join a seniors ballet group.

“There seemed to be quite a few schools offering adult classes, but then I spotted the Queensland Ballet site which had exactly what I was looking for,” she explains.

“I called up and the person I spoke to was so welcoming on the phone, and I decided to sign up.

“Ballet is now part of my exercise regime and I get a feeling of total physical and mental enjoyment.

“The endorphins go crazy and my Sunday morning is complete - I feel alive!

“It takes me right back, although I’m glad I’m not wearing pointe shoes!”

Ms Bell says that as well as the physical and mental benefits to the classes, there are also social benefits.

“After the classes there is the social coffee,” she says.

“It’s such fun and we talk over whichever dance we are learning and sometimes even write it down.”

For Ms Bell, Ballet for Seniors has been a great program to be part of for a number of reasons, and now there is the research to back it up.

“I absolutely think it is a good activity for older people to become involved in,” she says.

“It can also be adapted for sedentary older people too and I bet some would love moving as much or as little as they could to beautiful ballet music.

“I also think that it’s lovely that Queensland Ballet has classes for people living with Parkinson’s.”

Queensland Ballet’s Ms Mandile says the research helped the company understand its participants motivations and their expected outcomes, adding that their continued feedback drives what they do.

“Formalising our understanding of what it means to our Ballet for Seniors participants to be well and happy will continue to influence our work,” she says.

She adds that the company is getting ready to move into stage two of the research, as it works to position itself to deliver train-the-trainer sessions, so that evidence-based research can help others to build stronger and more effective programs for active older adults.

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