Ballet is not just for the young: Its benefits after 50

Marilinda Claravall: “We must be able to help an aging population be strong, healthy and happy through dance.”

In this era of down-aging—the prolonging of youth—myths about ballet as only for the young, slim and fit are being busted. During this pandemic, more adults of a certain age are satisfying their creative urges by taking dance lessons.

Ballet teacher Marilinda Claravall has been teaching individual in-person and virtual classes over the past year. Responding to inquiries from adults, her eponymous Claravall School of Dance will be presenting two types of ballet classes for adults, the open or nonsyllabus classes, and the Royal Academy of Dancing (RAD) Silver Swan syllabus aka [email protected]

“In the past, the parents and grandparents who accompanied their daughters and granddaughters to the classes observed how the students progressed safely. They, too, wanted to learn how to dance,” she says.

Before getting her license to teach RAD for seniors, Claravall conducted a three-month dance program for her former classmates from St. Theresa’s College. The enrollees logged in from as far as the East Coast, West Coast and Canada.

“Their children have grown up. They have time to reinvent themselves. In this pandemic, many wanted to learn dance but never had the opportunity,” she says. “We must be able to help an aging population be strong, healthy and happy through dance. My former students say it is different when a knowledgeable teacher corrects them and assures them that what they are doing is right.”

When parents insisted that their children learned from in-person training than from Zoom classes, Claravall started giving one-on-one lessons at her studio. Her oldest student was a 71-year-old who was bored with the quarantine. The lady’s in-person lessons focused on posture, mobilizing the joints and musicality.

Progression of classical training

Claravall will introduce the RAD syllabus for the over-50, called the Silver Swans. The RAD is an English ballet syllabus with a progression for classical training, coupled with examinations.

Claravall has been studying the RAD since she was 12 years old and has been teaching the standard RAD for over 40 years, preparing over a thousand students for exams. After learning the syllabi from primary to advanced levels, she continued with the RAD Silver Swans. Claravall notes that she will rename it “Glamorous Swans” so it’s not mistaken for the soy sauce.

The adult learner program acknowledges a mature population that wants to take up ballet for fitness.

“The program is based on research into dance practice for older learners. Whether you have never danced before or would like to get back into it, there is always something new for everyone,” she says.

Aside from basic drills, the syllabus includes character or Western folk dance steps and contemporary or freer movements.

“The aim is to improve balance and flexibility. We strengthen their legs and feet and improve balance by strengthening their abdominal muscles,” she says.

As women mature, their bone density declines. Hence it is important to perform resistance exercises which include ballet. Regular ballet classes improve muscle tone, build core strength and flexibility, and develop one’s self-expression.

Regardless of one’s fitness and flexibility level, Claravall’s adult ballet classes are easy to follow. Newbies need not be concerned about being uncoordinated or if their muscles will quiver doing the exercises.

“With older learners, I work on their feet and strengthen the inner muscles before they get wobbly,” she says. “We start with floor work by stretching the backs. The ballet barre work is slow so they can feel secure. In the center work, they learn how to use their arms gracefully.”

Claravall adds, “There is a market for adult ballet. They need assurance that they are beautiful. Their children don’t visit them due to COVID scare. They feel alive when they move to the music.” INQ

Claravall School of Dance, tel. 89869919, 0961-5999775; @ClaravallSchoolofDance on Facebook; claravalldance.com

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