Hello, Anna Arnold

August 2017

We sat down with 3rd Stage Dance teacher, Anna Arnold to find out a bit more about how she became involved with 3SDC and what the future holds for our Seniors Ballet teacher.

How long have you been involved with 3rd Stage?

I started coming to Sara’s ballet classes with 3rd Stage probably back in 2013. After I had been to a few classes I saw the company perform at the Bristol Harbour Festival and remember thinking “Wow, Bristol has a professional dance company!”. I continued with the ballet classes and then started coming to some of the contemporary classes but didn’t really get involved with the company as a teacher or choreographer until 2015.

How did your teaching / choreography role develop? 

My first input was helping the company prepare for the Bristol Harbour Festival performance in 2015. Later that year the company were invited to enter Pavilion Dance South West’s film competition “Joie de Vivre” which was designed to contribute to the regional movement of dance for older people. The company had already arranged the dancer, camera man and venue and were just looking for a choreographer, so since I was celebrating my 50th birthday that year I thought yes, OK I’m happy to get involved and champion the role of the older dancer. The film, Rise and Shine was a great success, coming runner up in the competition and was then selected to be screened at Sadlers Wells the following year alongside a performance from Company of Elders. Following on from this and other areas of dance I was involved in I became increasingly interested in dance with and for older people alongside dance for people with dementia and those with Parkinson’s.

I’ve been teaching for 3rd Stage Dance as a “supply” teacher covering regular teachers when they were away for nearly 2 years. More recently I have started our Seniors Ballet class which is specifically for the over 55s. I love teaching this class, it combines my love of dance with a passion I have for seeing older people move freely, enjoy ballet and grow in strength and confidence. You may have seen a short film made recently about one of our Senior Ballet dancers, Tessa.

“3rd Stage’s motto is “Keeping dancers dancing” but actually it’s more than that. We not only want to enable existing dancers to keep dancing but we also want to make dance available to everyone and that includes older people.”

What is your dance background before attending 3rd Stage classes?

I studied at Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance from the age of 16. After graduating I joined the Vienna Festival Ballet touring in Europe and the UK performing in many of the traditional classics including Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, Nutcracker and my favourite – Coppélia. After leaving the company I moved back to Bristol and taught for a short while, coaching promising students who wanted to audition for vocational training. When I stopped dancing professionally I thought I would never dance again and I can really identify with Polly’s testimony of when she was forced to stop. For me, I couldn’t watch dance or even listen to classical music for many years, it was just too painful.

Some years later I was introduced to the idea of using dance in Christian worship. I had, until that time, only viewed dance from a professional’s perspective, always striving to perfect a technique which could never be perfect, always thinking I wasn’t good enough but here was a totally new concept which enabled me not only to dance again but to express my own personal faith and encourage others in theirs through the beauty and emotion of dance. Dancing for my Heavenly Father has taken me on the most amazing journey and one which I could never have imagined. I’ve danced and led workshops and seminars all over the UK and last year I had the privilege of travelling to Romania, Ghana and Holland to teach. I teach regularly for the Christian Dance Fellowship of Britain and recently set up “Dancercise” classes in less affluent areas of Bristol offering free community classes to those who are unemployed or on low incomes.

Why is 3rd Stage’s “seniors development” mission important?
How do you feel 3rd Stage contributes to this particular area of the community?

3rd Stage’s motto is “Keeping dancers dancing” but actually it’s more than that. We not only want to enable existing dancers to keep dancing but we also want to make dance available to everyone and that includes older people. Recent research has now proved what we dancers have always known: DANCE IS GOOD FOR YOU! The benefits of dance don’t stop when you get to 50 or 60 or even 80, in fact dance can help us sustain a healthy body and mind throughout our life. Dance improves balance, spatial awareness, cognitive skills and self esteem; I’m over 50 myself and I can really testify to the benefits and pure joy of still dancing. Having a “Seniors Development” part of 3rd Stage Dance means we can apply a focus on dance for older people and develop a programme of classes and community activity specifically designed to advocate the joy of dance to people in this age group who haven’t danced for many years or who perhaps are trying dance for the first time.

What do future plans include for this area (seniors development) with 3rd Stage?

We hope to see our Seniors Ballet class grow and develop to reach more people in the Bristol area and have recently been awarded some funding to help us in this endeavour. Moving forward we would like to provide opportunities for creative dance and choreography for this age group.

We are also interested in the role of the older experienced dancer. More and more dancers are seeking to extend their careers beyond the years the dance world has traditionally dictated we retire. 3rd Stage would like to be at the forefront of providing encouragement and opportunities for dancers to keep dancing but not as an imitation of their younger dance days but as affirmed dancers in their own right, in their current bodies with a wealth of maturity and experience.

I’m really excited about the future of 3rd Stage Dance and the role I can play in that future.

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