Dance with The Australian Ballet

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Have you always harboured a secret desire to be a ballet dancer? Many of us have or we simply like to express ourselves through dance. Well now’s your chance. The Australian Ballet and NurseWatch have partnered to host special dance workshops so senior people can positively engage in ballet at the iconic Sydney Opera House.

Katy McKeown, Head of Education for The Australian Ballet, says this is the first time a dance initiative like this has been organised: “This project brings together special dance workshops with performances of Giselle in May and The Nutcracker later in the year, to engage older people in dance. Dance is one of those art forms which really addresses many health issues so well – in a really fun and social way.”

Senior people from all walks of life are invited to be part of the dance workshops for free and it all takes place at the beautiful Sydney Opera House. NurseWatch, an aged care service provider, is the sponsor for the May workshops because NurseWatch CEO and founder, Kate Spurway, feels it’s important for people to stay creative and be to experience new things as they get older.

“Just because people are older doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be out there doing something they love and gaining all the benefits from that at the same time,” she says. “That’s what we aim to do at NurseWatch – we want to allow our clients to be the best they can be at this later stage of their life.”

Dance is an art form which aids the body – and the soul

It’s well known there are many health benefits to be gained from doing an activity such as ballet. As Ms McKeown says: “When you do a dance workshop like this you’re going to be improving your balance, your range of movement, your understanding of the various techniques. All of this is going to give you the subsequent health benefits. People often push themselves more and they only realise when they see how tired they are afterwards!”

Ms Spurway adds: “There have been studies which found ballet in particular really helps mature people in a lot of ways. For example, a study done by the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity found participants improved muscle power and even reduced the prevalence of falls by doing ballet.” (Read the research report here)

Be treated like a ‘dancer’ for a day!

As well as giving senior people a chance to dance ballet, the attendees will also be taught about the “history, design and the magic” of the ballet production.

“They’re treated like dancers so it’s enabling as well,” says Ms McKeown. “They’re not being pigeon-holed as older people and being ‘unable.’ We’re see them as ‘creative people’ which is different from society in general where it can be very limiting for older people.”

During the workshops, the attendees learn about the art form of ballet itself – how it evolved in France and how originally, only the men danced all the parts and there weren’t actually any female dancers at all: “This can be hard to imagine now with the ballerina as the certain pinnacle of the art form,” says Ms McKeown.

The dance workshops are all carried out in a rehearsal room at The Sydney Opera House which is a special venue and one which The Australian Ballet is very familiar with: “It’s one of our favourite venues so it’s really delightful for us to invite a group of senior dancers to join us there,” she says.

Everyone is catered for as an individual

The Australian Ballet’s education team teaches the dance workshop so they are all ‘real-life dancers’ who are working with the senior people. Ms McKeown says: “Our team are all trained to work with all abilities and we’re specialists in our field. It’s a very gentle and fun exercise which is tailored to each individual. We’ve worked with dancers who’ve had various conditions and we’re able to amend what we’re doing – it’s truly a very inclusive experience.”

It seems everyone agrees this Australian Ballet dance initiative is a winning experience for all those involved. As Ms McKeown adds: “It’s absolutely beautiful to meet the people at these workshops because we learn as much from them as they learn from us. They’ve got these beautiful stories to tell about their lives. So for us it’s absolutely delightful and we like to have a cup of tea afterwards and hear all their stories. So we’re looking forward to it very much.”

Ms Spurway from NurseWatch adds: “We’re so happy to be part of this program and we look forward to seeing people getting so much benefit from participating in it.”


SUITABLE FOR: Senior people who want to dance and engage with the works of The Australian Ballet.


VENUE: Sydney Opera House Rehearsal Room 77

The Australian Ballet acknowledges the support of the Department of Education and Training, Victoria, through the Strategic Partnerships Program.

GISELLE Block 1: 2019

Wednesday 8 May 9.30am – 10.30am (Giselle Matinee 1:30pm)

Thursday 9 May 9am – 10am

The Australian Ballet acknowledges the support of the Department of Education and Training, Victoria, through the Strategic Partnerships Program.