A GRACE-FUL 77-year old ballerina is urging older people to take up the dance form to curb memory loss and improve balance.
Grace Dorey has taken up ballet again after over 60 years, thanks to an initiative called Silver Swans which is specifically designed for the over 55s by the Royal Academy of Dance
The septuagenarian returned to ballet classes at Butterfly Studios in Navan, Co. Meath as a way of exercising after she underwent a coronary bypass last year.
Formerly from Devon in the UK, the former Professor of Physiotherapy moved to Ireland two years ago to live with her partner in Mountnugent, Co. Cavan.
“I did ballet up to grade five as a child but had to give it up because my parents wanted me to study for my O Levels. I was heartbroken as I absolutely loved it.”
Grace graduated as a Professor of Physiotherapy and travelled all over the world, specialising in lecturing on pelvic floor exercises for incontinence in men and erectile dysfunction and pelvic floor exercises for men.
However, it's only six decades later that she revisited her beloved ballet.
“After my operation, I wanted to continue with exercise and thought of ballet as it's great for improving core strength and balance. I saw a flyer in a shop one day advertising dance classes and met with Caroline Kennedy from Butterfly Studios, who has been hugely encouraging and supportive.
“It's so exciting moving to the same music that you remember as a child. It's only seven weeks in but I feel my balance getting better and muscle memory in some of the moves has kicked in, even after all this time.
“Ballet is also fantastic for memory as you have to remember the various steps of each dance and Caroline make it fun which is also hugely important.”
Grace believes that more older people should consider taking up ballet for the health benefits.
“At our age, flexibility is key to being able to continue living independently for as long as possible. Ballet strengthens all the muscle groups and keeps your brain active.
“The Silver Swans is relatively new to Ireland but I hope when word gets out, that more older people will join,” she said.
Navan tutor Caroline Kennedy herself only returned to dance after 13 years following an injury that prevented her dancing full-time.
She subsequently studied a number of wellness therapies which she now incorporates into her teaching, which she returned to largely after receiving a Christmas gift from her late father.
“I was working as a Manual Lymph Drainage practitioner in an US hospital and a nurse friend gave me a present from my dad the year he passed away. It was a music box which reminded me of ballet dancing in my younger days.
“I returned to complete my teacher training with Royal Academy of Dance and opened a school four years ago which offers classes for students aged between two years in the mammy and baby ballet to the over 55s in the Silver Swans. Silver Swans classes are delivered exclusively by Silver Swans licensed teachers who have trained to safely adapt ballet techniques for older adults.
“These classes will help improve mobility, posture, co-ordination and energy levels and most importantly, allow students to have fun and enjoy the sense of wellbeing that dance brings.
“Grace is a very positive and inspiring lady and I look forward to teaching this class each week. We are having so much fun and it's such a pleasure to be dancing alongside her.”
Further information can be obtained at www.butterflystudios.ie or by contacting Caroline directly on 086 807 0691.