Gentle ballet: A 'step' for adults to stay fit

November 29, 2017 07:10 PM

It's well documented that we need exercise. However, if the thought of joining a gym turns you off, try dance.

Many adults turn to ballroom dancing to get their heart rates up and their muscles toned. Don't ignore the backbone of dance: ballet.

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When we think of ballet this time of the year, we probably think of children dancing as Sugar Plum Fairies in "The Nutcracker." However, that's a narrow view. Just ask the ladies who are devotees of gentle ballet.

They range in age from 46 to 88, but when class begins, they are ageless -- focused on the steps, the rhythm, the grace of the movements -- a whole body workout. Add in a healthy dose of camaraderie and you've got a unique program.

"What I do is take out a lot of the jumps and turns," explained instructor Gail Tassarotti.

She says she crafted the class for people with all levels of dance experience. That's perfect for Marilyn Valentini. She studied jazz and tap as a kid but now finds gentle ballet the antidote to the arthritis that wracked her back with pain.

"My balance was terrible when I came back here. The pain of my arthritis was terrible. I've almost stopped taking the medications for the arthritis with the stretching here and the balance has improved," pointed out Valentini.

It's well documented that our balance falters as we reach middle age and continues to decline. Balance problems can lead to falls with catastrophic results. So every relevé strengthens the calves, each plie challenges thigh muscles. Core muscles are engaged and together improves balance, keeping participants on their feet.

That's why 88-year-old Leah Taub signed up. She laughs, recounting her experience buying her first pair of ballet shoes, four years ago.

"When I went to buy them, the lady in the store said, 'What do you want them for?' After I explained they were for me and I bought them and I've worn them and they have got holes in them," pointed out Taub.

At 46-years-old, Heidi Arnaud is the kid in the class. An assignment in her Master's Program that got her to enroll and now she's hooked.

"The mind, body connection. You've got to think about your steps and your pointing and there's so many things to put together -- and I suppose there's a purpose, because you have a nice little presentation at the end of it," pointed out Arnaud. "It feels good. It feels as if you've accomplished something."

Everyone dances to the best of their ability, but one thing they're all on point with -- the sense of community they've developed as they grow stronger.

"We say a ton of times here you have to think. That's a brain step," noted Valentini.

The class at Albany Dance and Fitness on Central Avenue in Albany runs an hour. It's $10 per class.

More information:

Gentle ballet


Benita Zahn

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