Eighteen months ago, Kathleen Curwen-Walker threw open thedoors of the Auckland Academy of Adult Ballet for a very simple reason:
“I am compelled to dance, and I love to connect with others on this level.”
Making ballet available in all its forms – classical, jazz, contemporary – has created a forum, she says,
“Where like-minded people gather to create artistry through movement and music”.
Despite ballet’s reputation for being purist, elitism is mercifully absent in the newly refurbished studio in Onehunga. Dancers of all ages, experience, and condition learn under the supervision of Kathleen and her crew of experienced and qualified tutors. As they gently encourage, inspire and challenge, the only judgements ever heard refer to the turn-out of a knee, or the delicate curve of an arm.
The studio is a “happy place”, notes Kathleen, where life-long dreams of doing ballet are being fulfilled. As one testimonial on the AAAB website states: “If someone had told me 20 years ago that I would be dancing in formal ballet classes, I would have fallen about laughing. But here I am, a mother, wife and professional woman, dancing for the pure love of it.” The AAAB programme welcomes adult dancers who have never before owned a pair of pink satin ballet slippers up to those returning to ballet after 20 or 30 years, whose pointe shoes show impressive signs of scuff and wear. The oldest student currently is 81-years-old, and five dancers are in later stages of pregnancy — and all report improvements in posture, coordination and balance.
For Kathleen, the compensation for running a timetable six days a week, with classes that stretch across a long day, is clear: “Seeing the sheer joy on the faces of our dancers when they achieve milestones they never thought possible. It’s uplifting!”