A ballet class geared toward older adults at the E. 67th Street library is so popular it's outgrown its space
When you think about a ballet class, usually images of the New York City Ballet, or of little girls in leotards in an after-school class, come to mind. But in Jennifer Grambs' class on the third floor of the East 67th Street Library, many of her students have never even danced before. And the class of mostly middle-aged and elderly women (and a couple of men), is plié-ing for posture and confidence, not a year-end recital.
The hour-long weekly class, which began just over a year ago with a handful of interested women, has quickly grown in size and popularity. During one week, they had 30 participants - ranging in age from 27 to 87. The participants are trying to move it to another location - either a bigger room in the library, or a different library completely. Most of the participants come from neighboring Upper East Side, but one woman travels all the way from Brooklyn just to attend Grambs' class. For Grambs, it's all about giving these older men and women back their confidence and self-assurance.
"Remember, we are dancing all the time like we are on stage," says Grambs during a demonstration of fifth position during a Paul McCartney song. "Show your face and be proud! We're all beautiful."
Grambs, who is a theatrical costume designer and writer, said that even though she has taught exercise classes at the library in the past, she approached Jill Rothstein, the director of the 67th Street Library, last year with her true passion: teaching adult ballet. She believes that there are no classes like theirs throughout the city.
After every class, several of the ballerinas and danseurs (male ballet dancers) stick around to discuss the class, what they learned and to get to know one another. Besides confidence, many of the women noted a change in their physicality.
"I got this attitude from this class because we have to stand up straight and hold out stomachs," said Elaine Russo. "Whenever I think of it, I sit up straight!" Another woman, Ana Martinez, said that the class has helped her with balance, which can become a problem for seniors as they age.
But the class is not perfect. Not only do they lack space with 28 dancers crammed into a small mirror-less room, but they also lack a barre. Instead, the dancers have been using chairs and tables to balance themselves. Grambs pleaded that if any Upper East Sider knows where they can find a relatively-cheap barre, that they can contact her via the class website at ourballetclub.weebly.com. Even with a lack of equipment, Grambs stays positive, and reminds her students that we can look great at any age.
"Ballet takes us back to being lovely women and handsome gentlemen," says Grambs. "We have to learn to love our bodies, no matter what age."