Gwen Bullivant on the benefits of dance for seniors


5 June 2019

From line dancing to jazz and tap, Gwen Bullivant has been dancing as long as she can remember.

She is a longtime attendee of our weekly Tap & Jazz classes for Ages 55+. We talked to her about the benefits of dance for older people, what she loves about dance, and Sydney Dance Company’s close knit community of older dancers.

Q. When and how did you start dancing?

I can’t remember when I wasn’t dancing! From an early age I went with family to dance parties (balls) where everyone joined in social dancing. Dancing and singing were the entertainment at family get-togethers. As a young teenager in the 1950s I lived for the local rock n roll dances with live bands. I was in my thirties when I attended my first Jazz Ballet class with Carlu Carter. When I was 50, I took up line dancing and I still take one class a week. It wasn’t until I retired from work some 15 years later that I saw an ad for a free class for seniors at Sydney Dance Company and I’ve been coming ever since.

Q. Why do you dance?

I love moving to music and the challenge of learning new dance steps and choreography. Through regular dance classes, I am able to maintain physical strength and achieve a good level of fitness and flexibility. It makes me feel happy.

Q. What classes do you do at Sydney Dance Company? Which is your favourite?

My favourite class is the weekly Over 55s Class which I have been attending since 2008. The class alternates between two weeks of Jazz and two weeks of Tap.

Q. From your personal experience, how do you think dance benefits older people?

I believe that dance benefits older people and their health and wellbeing in more ways than other recommended activities. Apart from improving muscle function and stamina, it can help achieve cardiovascular fitness. Better balance, coordination and posture can prevent falls. Of equal importance are mental functioning and memory through having to remember steps and choreography, and being challenged to try new things resulting in increased agility and alertness. Other benefits are emotional and social.

Q. What is the most enjoyable aspect of coming to the Tap & Jazz for Ages 55+ classes at Sydney Dance Company?

The atmosphere is happy and relaxed. Myself and others who have made the effort to get to class are there because they enjoy the class and the teachers. Zac Jaffar and Tracey Wilson are experienced professionals who have been teaching these classes since their inception. Their skill and knowledge in providing age appropriate content yet setting challenges with a focus on technique makes them invaluable. At the same time, they make it fun.

Q. There is a very strong sense of community among the dancers who come to these classes. Can you tell us a little about the connection you share with each other?

There is a core group of a third of each class who have been attending for 8-12 years and many have become friends. New dancers are always made to feel welcome and the atmosphere is not competitive. We have two class luncheons each year and may arrange to go to see a show. Most of the class would be around 70 years of age with some in their 80s.

There is a wealth of diverse and interesting life experience yet a strong connection and understanding about life generally and our love of dancing.

Q. What has been the most valuable advice given by your teachers in class?

The most valuable advice would be regarding correct technique. Also, the importance of doing warm-up exercises and how to avoid knee and back problems or aggravating an existing condition. Timing. Smile.

Q. What do you do outside of class?

I have a busy family life and many interests. I am also President of a local Seniors Association.

Tap & Jazz Classes for 55 Years+ are on every Thursday, 12.30 – 1.30pm.

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