An outstanding result for Jackie (aged 60), who has achieved a very high distinction for her Intermediate Classical Ballet examination. 


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Introduction by Esther Juon

Jackie Scannell joined my adult ballet Grade 1 class in September 2008 and I was excited to have her on board with us. Jackie has taken the classes to heart and did a lot of practise at home during the week, so was a delight to have in the class. Like all my other adult dancers she took all her grade exams and out of this original group three dancers delivered Grade 6 two years ago.

Two of these dancers achieved Intermediate Classical Ballet this year. I am immensely proud of these ladies as they both achieved very high Distinctions – Jackie Scannell (one month short of her 60th birthday) and Sonya Harrison (aged 41).

I hope this story can inspire other adults to start, or return, to ballet at a more ‘mature’ age!


Here is Jackie’s story.....

When I was six I began learning ballet & continued for 9 years, before moving on to other things in life - getting married, having children, living & working on a sheep & cattle farm in rural New Zealand!

Eight years ago I was delighted to find out that there was a ballet school offering adult classes in our nearest small rural township. With children grown up & away from home it seemed the ideal time to go back to ballet, a mere 37 years since I left it behind! And start I did, from Grade 1, although bbodance this time rather than RAD.

Despite a small population there were quite a number of local adults of varying ages who were enthusiastic about going to ballet class. Some had done it before & others had always wanted to, but never had the opportunity. Esther Juon, our ballet teacher, took us all through the basic movements, ensuring that we understood correct technique, which muscles to use &, most importantly, why. We were also encouraged to take exams as it gave us something to work towards.

Safety was always a big consideration, so I was a little surprised to realise that I had never pointed my feet ‘properly’ with long, straight toes, using the intrinsic muscles in my feet rather than simply curling my toes & just using the toe flexors. The more I found out, the more interested I became in Esther’s method, not only of teaching, but her work with dancer’s feet, pre-pointe preparation & correct pointe shoe fitting.

As time went by I was keen to try Esther’s suggestion of wearing demi-pointe shoes in class to prepare for pointe work (if my ageing body could keep up!). I also realised just how much strength & technique is required in order to go on pointe safely, so needed to put in extra effort to do the required exercises during the week. There were a few challenges in getting onto pointe, as although I have a ridiculously high instep this brings its own ‘issues’ for correct pointe shoe fitting, as does a slight bunion on my left foot. We finally found a pointe shoe that worked well & I made it back onto pointe earlier this year.

Two of us adult ballet dancers sat our bbodance Intermediate in September & enormous thanks must go to Esther who worked so hard to get us through, including extra classes during the holidays. Our respective long-suffering husbands should probably get a mention too, as they endured solo meals & evenings!

I would like to also mention a major lifestyle change undertaken over the past 15 months that has also helped significantly. Many in their 50’s & 60’s will be well aware of the sneaking accumulation of hard-to-shift weight, especially around the mid-section! Yes, I was an ‘apple on sticks’ until really cutting down the carbs, eliminating nearly all added sugar, avoiding processed foods & vegetable oils, and eating healthy saturated fat!! I can tell you that dancing & pointe work become so much easier when 10kgs lighter! I have energy, good reflexes & my skin, hair & digestion are much improved. For those who may be worried about so-called ‘fat’ in my system let me reassure you that my Triglycerides are now 0.6 & HDL’s are 2.4!

Dancing itself is so good for posture, body awareness, as controlled physical exercise & it is also an incredible workout for the brain (& we all want to keep that functioning as well as possible!). Above all it is enjoyable & challenging whatever your age & physical ability.

Jackie Scannell.