Free Ballet Classes for Seniors in Phoenix: How to Sign Up

Kat McGinnis was in her living room on a Friday afternoon, reaching out and “whistling” in front of a brown sofa. With her hair tucked away from her face, she smiled at her computer webcam as ballet teacher Jennifer Cafarella Betts guided her through toe taps, neck stretches and bends on Zoom.

Piano versions of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” and Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” were among the 1970s tunes that echoed through Cafarella Betts’ stream ballet studio, which was on full display on McGinnis’ computer.

McGinnis, 65, was one of twelve participants in Sit or Stand Ballet for Seniors, a free one-hour class that takes place on Zoom at noon on Fridays. The Sun City West resident hadn’t had formal ballet training since she was a pre-teen, but loves to dance.

“I’m not the long and skinny ballerina type, but I still like it,” McGinnis told The Arizona Republic after class. “I think other people like me love being off the couch, you know, and being able to move to good music.

“For me, music inspires me, so I like to dance to music. It’s an easy form of exercise for me, she said.

Students ‘just want to boogie’

Cafarella Betts, the director of the Ballet Theater of Phoenix, led this class as Emilie Sheung Chun demonstrated on a folding chair. Fellow instructor Lainie Seretis is believed to be generally involved but is on maternity leave.

Cafarella Betts chooses a theme each month, choreographs the lesson, and organizes the playlist around the theme. She guides students through the same dance for four weeks before introducing a new theme and choreography.

“That way they can kind of get used to the exercises and have a bit more fun,” she said.

The Sit and Stand course started in January and Cafarella Betts is not short of ideas for new musical genres. In July, she planned around a Beatles theme. The inspiration for August was her husband’s observation that “the 70s were their peak” for some of his ballet students.

From left, Emilie Sheung Chun and Jennifer Cafarella greet attendees of the free sit-stand ballet class they are offering to seniors at the Phoenix Ballet Theater on August 6, 2021.

“There is this group (of people) who are, like, 70 years old; they just want to boogie — and maybe not Zumba — but they want to do something fun,” Cafarella Betts said.

In her August 6 class – the first of the month – she used similes such as carrying pumpkins and tossing autumn leaves into the air to help her students visualize the moves in the routine she conceptualized, which was inspired by Sleeping Beauty waking up from her slumber. .

The class is “beneficial for ourselves, but it’s also knowing that there’s a group of like-minded people out there,” McGinnis said.

“What’s great is how Jennifer and her band, they’re professional dancers, and they take the time to share with us, you know, a bunch of older women who will never be a ballerina, but we’re there. always find so much fun. ”

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“It’s the best part of my day”

The Sit or Stand class originated when the Jewish Family and Children’s Service, a non-profit organization that describes itself as “dedicated to strengthening the community through quality social behavioral health services and primary medical care” to people of all faiths,” Phoenix Ballet Theater was asked if any of the instructors would be open to teaching a class for seniors.

“We really had to think, ‘What do seniors just want to do?’ Because classical ballet is really difficult,” said Cafarella Betts.

After researching chair ballet and senior dance lessons, she and her colleagues decided on a 15-minute warm-up with “a little ballet,” a “fun little dance,” and a cooldown.

During a pose, she told McGinnis and the other 20 students in the August 6 class that they were triggering the cerebellum, “which is responsible for coordination.”

“We’re very focused on doing safe drills, so I think they feel safe in the classroom,” Cafarella Betts said. “Seniors are afraid of balance and falling problems. So we try to give them confidence: “You are strong, you are capable and you trust your body. »

“It’s the best part of my day,” Cafarella Betts said. “They are very, very nice.”

How to take the course

To register for seated or standing ballet for seniors, email Jennifer Brauner at [email protected] or call 602-343-0192.

Contact the reporter at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @kimirobin and Instagram @ReporterKiMi.

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