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English National Ballet launches dance classes for older people in Tower Hamlets

PUBLISHED: 11:49 15 November 2018 | UPDATED: 12:27 15 November 2018

English National Ballet has launched dance classes in Tower Hamlets. Pic: PA

English National Ballet has launched dance classes in Tower Hamlets. Pic: PA

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Older people in Tower Hamlets are being trained in classical dance by the English National Ballet to commemorate a century since the end of the First World War.

Older people in Tower Hamlets are being trained in classical dance by the English National Ballet . Pic: Rachael BurfordOlder people in Tower Hamlets are being trained in classical dance by the English National Ballet . Pic: Rachael Burford

The students are being taught moves from Lest We Forget, three poignant works from the ballet company about the conflict.

They are taking part in the ballet company’s first classes for the over 55s in the East End.

Many of those learning to plié and pirouette are in their eighties.

Violet Davis, 81, said: “I’ve lived in the East End my whole life. But as you get older it gets harder to get out. I have three daughters and six grandchildren but they’ve all moved away.

“Some people can’t stand up very well but they can still do moves from their chairs. Some have dementia but you wouldn’t know it when they’re dancing.

“You can sit at home and wait to die or you can come out and do things like this. Meet new people, have a chat with the girls and get moving.”

Five classes a week have been set up in council-run community centres in Tower Hamlets.

“It’s never too late to learn to dance,” says Kate Hartley, 28, the classically trained dancer giving the classes.

“For some people this might be the only major social interaction they get during the week

“In the few weeks we’ve been going, they have just got so much more confident. It’s been amazing to see them come out of their shells.

“At the moment we are just having fun learning the basics but I think the long-term plan is to see a company of older people who perhaps could put on shows.”

Last month it was announced that GPs in England will be given permission to prescribe social activities, such as dance classes, to tackle loneliness.

Lest We Forget, an English National Ballet triple bill on the theme of World War I, was originally commissioned to commemorate the centenary of the start of the conflict.

The programme features Russell Maliphant’s Second Breath, in which 20 dancers rise and fall, and Akram Khan’s award-winning Dust, as well as Liam Scarlett’s No Man’s Land – evoking the entwined destinies of the soldiers and munition workers. It was most recently performed at Sadlers Wells in September.

The classes are free and you can sign up by contacting one of the community centres - Age UK Caxton Hall in Bow, Neighbours in Poplar, the Sundial Centre in Bethnal Green, St Hilda’s Sonali Gardens or Toynbee Hallin Whitechapel.

For more information visit linkageplus.co.uk.

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