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A Workout for Aging Bodies: How Ballet Can Help Improve Balance

At Studio A in Los Angeles, Diane Kravif, 75, stands at the barre with pin-straight posture. Pink slippers cover her feet, and her silver bob is pushed back with a headband. Watching her tendu and plié, you might assume she has danced forever. But it has been only four years.

“I’m always the oldest one,” Ms. Kravif said of students in the weekly drop-in class. Learning the technique was tough at first, she added, but there are moments now when she feels as if she is really dancing. “It feels astounding, something I never expected.”

Ballet has in recent years gained traction among older adults. Though there is no public data on the number of senior ballet students, there was enough interest in 2017 for the Royal Academy of Dance, among the largest teacher-training authorities in the world for classical ballet, to create its Silver Swans program for teaching people 55 and older. The academy has since certified over 1,000 of these ballet teachers, operating out of 51 countries.

American schools have been offering similar programs, including the Golden Swans at Oklahoma City Ballet, Senior Steps at Ballet West in Salt Lake City and Boomer Ballet at the St. Paul Ballet in Minnesota.

The rise in interest comes at a time when we have a greater understanding about ballet’s potential benefits — especially for an aging body and mind.

Numerous studies show that, beginning at around 40, balance is a vital skill associated with longevity and quality of life. In one study, 20 percent of people over 50 couldn’t balance on one leg for 10 seconds. This correlated with a twofold risk of death within a decade.

Ballet classes often focus on single-leg balance or keeping your balance as you transfer weight from one position

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