Next Gen: Dancenorth Open Classes

Dancenorth's Open Day on Saturday 9 February will include tasters for all classes available this year, including contemporary, jazz, and Forever Young (pictured). IMAGE: Robert Crispe

For the new powerhouse of Australian dance, Dancenorth, nurturing the next generation of local dancers doesn’t simply mean signing children up for their first ballet or jazz class. Instead, Dancenorth’s Open Classes seek to engage people of all ages and abilities in a series of fun and inclusive lessons, designed for primary age children through to Over-50s.

Dancenorth’s Open Classes provide plenty of variety for varying interests and skill levels. The program embraces a diverse array of movement styles in an open and fun setting.

Dancenorth’s Education and Outreach Coordinator Andrea Dighton said their open classes aim to suit all participants including adults, beginners and children.

“Our 2019 timetable will offer a range of classes including pilates, aerial silks, hiphop, zouk, Forever Young, Kidz Move, ballet, jazz and, contemporary,” said Andrea.

“We have a fantastic group of teachers who are highly qualified and passionate about sharing their skills, which is exciting.”

Research has found that dance can be as beneficial as many other exercises including jogging or running on a track or treadmill, swimming or biking; with physical health benefits including increased flexibility, muscle strength and tone, endurance, balance, spatial awareness and a general feeling of well-being. A one-hour dance session can burn up to 500 calories.

Kidz Move is a unique and wonderful class that is focused on developing motor skills and embracing individual creativity.

“We give the children lots of space to explore how they want to move within their body through games and tasks,” Andrea said.

“Rather than working towards a performance or concert at the end of the year, we aim to get them comfortable moving about, trying new things, and sharing material that they’ve been practising in the lounge room at home. It is lovely to watch their confidence grow each week.”

Andrea with members of her Kidz Move class. IMAGE: Robert Crispe

Justin Cobbing’s two sons Arthur, 6, and Noah, 4, have been attending Kidz Move since the beginning of 2018.

“Being boys, they naturally have a lot of energy, they love music and they love showing off all their moves and probably just being a bit silly really,” said Justin.

“It’s not as rigid as say a ballet class, but a good introduction to listening to instructions and following some basic structure. The teachers have been really friendly and accommodating. When the boys show them a song they like or a dance they’ve made up, they go out of their way to try and incorporate it.”

At the other end of Dancenorth’s Open Class spectrum is Forever Young, a dance class geared specifically to the changing needs of students over 50.

Donna Drew, 71, has been part of the Forever Young class since she retired two-and-a-half years ago.

“The Dancenorth teachers are so fantastic,” said Donna.

“They cater for a lot of different skill levels, physical limitations and health conditions among the people in the class. I can’t think of anyone in the class who has danced continuously throughout their lives and there are some people who have had no dance training whatsoever. We’re mostly beginners.”

Donna said her love for the Forever Young class is multi-faceted, owing to a three-part combination of physical health-benefits such as improved balance, strength and flexibility; the friendships she’s formed with fellow regulars at the class; and the opportunities to connect with Dancenorth in other ways.

Gen Caldwell, 67, also attends the Forever Young classes.

“It’s a nice gentle form of exercise. I have problems with my knees and hips, so the gentle approach suits me nicely,” said Gen.

“We always start with some loosening up exercises like chair yoga, then we’ll do some supported stretches and some barrestyle exercises, before moving to the floor and for some dancing without the chairs. It’s nice and energetic, but without any leaping or heavy landings. I’ve found my thighs are much stronger now and my balance is particularly improved.

“I like the movement and the interaction with the other ladies. We have lots of laughs and we usually convene at the local coffee shop after the lesson, so it’s not just exercise but also a good social occasion.”

While the physical benefits of dance can be reaped by dancers of any age its ability to strengthen weight-bearing bones, prevent lower back problems and form new interconnections in older brains makes it an ideal form of exercise for older people.i These benefits can aid in fall and fracture prevention, minimalising debilitating pain, and memory retention.

Dancenorth will give the Townsville Community a chance to trial their wide range of 2019 Open Classes at their annual Open Day later this month. The Open Day will include 45-minute complimentary taster sessions of each class, plus an opportunity to take a class with the Dancenorth Company Dancers and creative team, who will be hosting the event.

Dancenorth’s Artistic Director Kyle Page looks forward to presenting the incredible range of classes on offer within the 2019 Open Class timetable.

“The Townsville Community is truly the heartbeat of Dancenorth and for us our Open Class Open Day presents a wonderful opportunity to share not only the skills and talents of the professional Dancenorth Company dancers, but our incredible open class teachers and the wide range of classes they offer on a weekly basis. Our open class participants fill the Dancenorth building with life, energy, dance and movement every evening, it is exciting to welcome them back for a new year of classes but also welcome a wonderful new group of participants, joining us for the first time. From our Kidz Moves class to our Forever Young class, there is something for everyone. We look forward to offering a taste of what Dancenorth has to offer to the Townsville Community – it’s going to be a great day.”

Dancenorth’s Open Day will be held on Saturday, 23 February 2019 from 10am to 4pm at the Dancenorth School of Arts building (Corner of Stanley and Wills Streets, Townsville City). All Open Day sessions are free to attend. For more information, click here.

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