NEVER TOO OLD: Radiance Academy over-55s teacher Kerrie Jessup with Queensland Ballet artistic director Li Cunxin (Mao's Last dancer) and over-55s student Jenny Barnes.
NEVER TOO OLD: Radiance Academy over-55s teacher Kerrie Jessup with Queensland Ballet artistic director Li Cunxin (Mao's Last dancer) and over-55s student Jenny Barnes. RADIANCE ACADEMY

Over-55s flocking to dance for life

BALLET and tap classes are in demand by Seniors in Toowoomba.

Radiance Academy's Sally Andrew introduced over-55s dance classes in 2016 to gauge interest at her mum Yvonne's suggestion.

At nearly 70, she wanted to dance, but not alongside people half her age, and the pair wondered how many others felt the same.

The answer was a lot, and the academy now runs five over-55s classes a week as well as Dance for Parkinson's.

The experience level of participants is completely mixed.

Some, Sally said, have always wanted to dance but never got the chance, others gave up dance as kids or teenagers, while one was a former performer with Queensland Ballet.

"People are really excited that there's something here for them," Sally said.

"When you fall in love with ballet, you're hooked for life, so a lot of people thought they'd had to leave it all behind as teenagers, but now they feel like they're coming home.

"It's a really amazing group of people ..."

The benefits she said were many, with dance counteracting various aspects of the aging process including improving cognitive, balance and core body strength and flexibility.

A Queensland Ballet research study recently found that ballet for Seniors led to positive wellbeing, including people feeling more energetic and enthusiastic, keeping in shape, becoming more aware of their posture and having greater body control.

Sally paid tribute to academy teacher Kerrie Jessup, who originally danced with the famous Halliday School of Dance, and now heads the Over-55s program, keeping classes fresh and innovative all the time.

"All the research shows that change in routines and movement is really important because it really gets the brain firing," Sally said.

"But the social aspect is very important as well as the physical aspect of dance.

"It's more fun, relaxed and social than going to the gym - it's a new way of doing things, exercising, being with friends and moving to music; you don't even notice you're working hard.

"We are taking the stereotype of dance classes being just for young people and turning it on its head to be a holistic and inclusive part of anyone's life who wants to be involved."

For her that has meant a lot of extra training to also offer Dance for Parkinson's.

"A lot of what we are doing is a first in our region and we are so thankful we can offer this class which is often only available in major cities, so people can now access it close to home."

Each week up to 20 people with Parkinson's disease and their carers take the class, which Sally said can be emotional, as well as just plain fun.

"They can just forget for a minute what they are dealing with in life," she said.

If you are interested in learning ballet or tap, Sally offers a free trial class, while the Dance for Parkinson's classes are kept at just $5 per person, as the academy's way of giving back to the community and helping people who are going through a tough time.

To find out more, go to radianceacademytoowoomba.com or phone 0437 012 653.