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Age no barrier for adults taking up Zumba, pole dancing

This article first appeared in The Straits Times on Sept 28.

Published on Sep 30, 2012 2:23 PM
63-year-old Jenny Tan (right, in striped shirt), doing a Zumba workout on Sept 26, 2012. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Not every woman would be willing to take up pole dancing at the age of 71. Then again, not every woman is like Ms Eva Ho, who started pole dancing classes with her friends, the Pink Spartans, a cancer survivors group, at Bobbi's Pole Studio last year.

She is an exceptional example of an increasing trend of adults taking dance classes here. From ballet to Zumba, dance classes for adults are filling up at studios around Singapore.

The Singapore Dance Theatre has 600 adult students in its ballet classes, a 10 per cent increase since last year. Its next round of beginners and basic ballet courses for adults are fully booked too.

At least five or six of Dance On Us' eight studios are filled with adult dance classes after 7pm every day. There are about 12 classes offering anything from ballet to Bollywood, belly dancing, hula and flamenco for adults every night.

It has at least five morning classes targeted at adults too.

At Dance Arts located in Funan DigitaLife Mall, about half of the studio's 400-odd students are adults, taking classes such as hip-hop and salsa.

Dance Arts, which offers at least one adults class every day, has experienced about a 10 per cent increase in the number of adult students every year for the past five or six years.

A spokesman attributed the increase to the popularity of dance-oriented television shows such as Dancing With The Stars, Got To Dance and So You Think You Can Dance, and dance-oriented fitness classes such as Zumba.

Ms Fen Tonge, chief financial officer of Jitterbugs Swingapore, feels that the increasing interest in dance is reflective of lifestyle trends.

"Fifty is the new 40, and as society and communities evolve, many adults are maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

"Dancing is merely a continuation of that trend. It has also been proven that dancing helps to delay or prevent dementia," she says.

Though the dance studios Life! spoke to were unable to provide a breakdown of the age of their adult students, anecdotally, they noted that many of the adults taking the classes are women over 45 who are taking the opportunity to rekindle their childhood love of dance now that their children have grown up.

A few dancers, such as Ms Ho, have taken up dance in their retirement years as a fun way to stay fit.

These women tend to gravitate toward classes such as salsa or Zumba which are not as hard on the knees as dance classes such as ballet.

The People's Association, which runs community clubs and centres around Singapore, started offering Zumba classes at 10 centres in November last year.

Demand was so high that less than a year later, it has Zumba classes at 54 community centres around Singapore and has regularly scheduled Zumba parties where 200 people or more dance together.

Classes can accommodate anything from 30 to 50 people, depending on the venue.

Still, they keep filling up with Zumba enthusiasts who book months in advance and travel from centre to centre to make it to the different sessions.

Some centres, such as those in Ulu Pandan and Bukit Panjang, offer Zumba gold, which focuses more on upper body toning and less on jumping - easier on tired knees and ideal for older dancers.

At Little Dance Academy in Pandan Valley, instructors adjust their introductory ballet courses to the experience and fitness level of the students.

Though it has classes for all levels of experience, people who have never danced before are welcome to join its jazz and character dance classes too.

When it opened the academy in February this year, all of its students were children. Now, about 20 per cent of its dancers are adults, a number which increases every week.

Ms Masha Seguy Vaapova, business director of Little Dance Academy, says many of the new adult dancers are mothers who become intrigued by dance when they drop their children off for their classes.

"The numbers are increasing every month, sometimes we get three new adult students a week. Some use dance to get back in shape or to correct their posture or some were dancing when they were young," she says.

One of the hardest obstacles for older dancers to overcome is fear, she notes.

"Some people are afraid and hesitant to try dance the first time because they do not want to be humiliated. Too many women say 'I'm too old' or 'It's too late'. It is not true. Everyone is in the same boat. Dance takes stamina and strength but with the right instructor, you can build this up," she says.

At an age when some might be slowing down, Life! meets three women in their 50s, 60s and 70s, who are kicking up their heels and getting into the swing of things, proving it is never too late to pick up those dancing shoes.

Background story

“Fifty is the new 40, and many adults are maintaining a healthy lifestyle.”

Ms Fen Tonge of Jitterbugs Swingapore