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Ballet class gets baby boomers dancing

Women are rediscovering ballet — or trying it for the first time — in a class specifically designed for the 50-year-old and up female body.

Instructor Gianaclis Caldwell launched Ballet for Baby Boomers and Beyond after she couldn’t find a class that suited her needs.

“I took some adult ballet classes but they were geared for younger bodies with an emphasis on getting ready for a recital,” she said. “I wanted to do it to enjoy the dancing. I felt a little ridiculous in the class.”

She started her own classes for older women in the Evans Valley Community Center at 8205 East Evans Creek Road in the community of Wimer, seven miles north of the town of Rogue River. The center is housed at the former Evans Valley School, which ceased operating as a school in 2010.

Caldwell, who attended the school as a kid, said people who study ballet develop better balance, strength and endurance.

Plus, the class provides social time for local women.

Ballet for Baby Boomers and Beyond includes stretching, drills, choreographed dance sequences and a warm-down. Caldwell breaks up each class with short rest and water breaks.

Class members work out on a floor covered with mats for padding. They check the precision of their moves with full-length mirrors.

Using metal piping, Caldwell built a ballet barre herself that members use during certain drills and stretches.

Class member Kimber Vaccher had zero ballet experience before she started attending Ballet for Boomers and Beyond a few months ago.

Vaccher said she had been visiting a fitness room with weight and cardio machines in the community center when she saw a flier for the ballet class.

“There’s no pressure to be really good at it, but there’s a gentle urging to perfect what you’re doing and that works perfect for me,” she said.

Vaccher said the ballet movements help ease aches and pains in her joints.

Janet Stiver, who did ballet in high school, said she appreciates the convenience of the class for people who live in the Rogue River and Wimer area.

She said everyone in the class has been welcoming, and she appreciates how Caldwell helps them improve their skills.

“She’s absolutely great. She goes to our speed, but challenges us,” Stiver said.

Susan Panisello studied ballet as a girl, but hadn’t done ballet in decades before joining the class.

“I knew it was something I wanted to do because it’s such a great way to strengthen your core and help with your balance as you get older,” she said. “I thought it would be fun.”

Because of a prior knee injury, Panisello can’t do jumps in the class. She goes next door to the fitness room to continue her work-out during jumping drills, then returns for the rest of the class.

“It’s great to see the old facility of the school used in such a positive way for everyone,” Panisello said of the adjoining fitness room and ballet room, which is also used for yoga classes.

Ballet for Baby Boomers and Beyond is held on Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m. until 10:30 or 11 a.m. Newcomers can come at 9 a.m. for an introduction or brief refresher on ballet techniques.

Joining the ballet class requires the purchase of a $15 annual membership to the nonprofit Evans Valley Community Center. The annual membership includes access to the fitness room plus ballet and yoga classes for the first month.

After that, the membership fee is $10 per month.

Caldwell said she hopes the ballet class will draw in even more members for the community center.

No matter how long the class continues, she said it will always be designed for women who want the health benefits of ballet without the pressure.

“We’ll always be at the beginner level — even if we’re advanced beginners,” she said.

For more information on the ballet class, call Caldwell at 541-582-8883.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.

Janet Stiver, left, Kimber Vaccher, Susan Panisello, instructor Gianaclis Caldwell and Jo Murphy enjoy the health benefits of ballet in a class designed specifically for women age 50 and up. Photo by Vickie Aldous