Meet the Dancer Who's Using Ballet to Help Senior Citizens
Aspiring ballerina Katarina Jakimier, a Dallas, TX, native, was just 12 when Dance Spirit first featured her, highlighting the innovative pointe shoe recycling program she created in her community. Now 16, Jakimier is still studying ballet intensively—this past fall she started training at the John Cranko Schule in Stuttgart, Germany—and is still on a mission to make the world a better place. Recently, she founded the Silver Swans Ballet Program, which allows senior citizens in retirement homes to experience the magic of ballet, and to reap all of its health benefits. Here, she tells us how the initiative came to be. —Courtney Bowers
Katarina Jakimier (photo by Brian Guilliaux, courtesy Mary Jakimier)
I created my Silver Swans Ballet Program as part of my work toward earning the Girl Scout Gold Award, which is the highest award given to Girl Scouts. I first got the idea in 2015, while I was studying at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, Russia. I heard about dance benefiting seniors with mental challenges, and I knew that I wanted to explore that idea when I returned home. Ballet seemed a wonderful way to help aging populations stay as physically and mentally healthy as possible, for as long as possible.
I planned to create a single simplified ballet routine for seniors at a retirement center. But I started talking to assisted-living staff and memory and health-care unit staff, and they said it'd be great if I could do a more elaborate program. Ultimately, I created three separate routines. The first routine was 30 minutes long and made for fully independent seniors who could stand. The second was also 30 minutes, but could be done seated, with the option to stand for part of the class. And the last was a fully seated, 20-minute class for residents in memory and health care units.
Katarina leading a standing class for independent seniors (photo by Mary Jakimier, courtesy Mary Jakimier)
I spent a lot of time choreographing each routine. I chose the music carefully, selecting well-known classical ballet pieces and familiar songs from musicals like The Sound of Music and The Little Mermaid that I thought would be both stimulating and soothing. I consulted with geriatric nursing specialists, seniors ministry at my church, adult dance teachers at my studio, and senior living community staff to get a sense of what would be most beneficial for residents. And I observed a yoga class for independent and assisted-living residents and a music therapy class for wheelchairbound dementia and health-care center residents to get a better feel for their challenges.
Because Gold Award projects are designed to be self-sustaining and to live beyond the involvement of the Girl Scout, I taught my routines to senior center staff members, so that they could keep the classes going. I specifically designed each one so that someone with no ballet experience would be comfortable teaching it. But I was also able to get the senior center staff complimentary ballet classes at my studio, Texas Ballet Theater in Dallas, so they could get more familiar with ballet. They all adapted so quickly—I was really impressed.
Speaking about her project at a senior center on International Women's Day (photo by Mary Jakimier, courtesy Mary Jakimier)
My project ended up reaching more than 700 senior citizens, and the feedback I've gotten has been so positive and heartwarming. A couple of women in their 80s told me how much stronger their knees felt after the class, and how much more confident they felt walking and moving around in general. In one of the centers, a few ladies were even advocating for a second class every week. It was amazing to see these seniors fall in love with the art I love so much
A version of this story appeared in the December 2017 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "The Gift of Ballet."
Get in, losers. We're going to Broadway.
OK, not losers, actually—more like the bajillion die-hard fans of Tina Fey's 2004 cult hit Mean Girls, who've been wearing pink every Wednesday since a musical adaptation of the film was first teased back in 2013.
Now their world is like a cake filled with rainbows and smiles, because Mean Girls the musical, which had a trial run in Washington, DC, last fall, is set to open at Broadway's August Wilson Theatre April 8. And in a very grool twist, it turns out the show—with direction and choreography by Casey Nicholaw and a book by Fey herself—is delightfully dancey.
Today in Ballet Dancers Are Actual Superheroes news:
You've no doubt heard that the fabulous Alicia Vikander is playing Lara Croft in the newest iteration of Tomb Raider, which hits movie theaters this Friday. But while her training for the high-octane action role was crazy tough, she says, studying at the Royal Swedish Ballet School was far tougher.
Everyone loves a good viral video, especially when there's dancing involved. And though many viral videos are contrived and created for the soul purpose of instafame, the story behind the latest video catching the eyes of millions—including Rihanna, super model Naomi Campbell, and Diddy—is even more unique because it features children who don't even know who those celebrities are.
A dance troupe in Nigeria has become the next internet sensation, thanks to their exuberant dancing and passion with which they perform. Their enthusiasm for dance is evident in every step and it's hard not to smile as you see these children (who range from ages 6 to 15) express pure joy in something as simple as dance. These nine kids are part of The Dream Catchers, an organization started by 26-year-old Seyi Oluyole, that gives impoverished children a place to live while teaching them how to dance.
For 16-year-old Amanda*, dance is everything: her passion, her escape from the daily grind, and her career goal. Her parents see things differently. "I have siblings who are active in sports," Amanda says, "and my parents would rather I play soccer or basketball. They don't see dance as something I can earn a stable living from in the future. They often tell me I should just quit."
Some parents aren't able to, don't know how to, or choose not to give you the kind of support you need to thrive in the studio. And when your parents are adding stress to your life, rather than alleviating it, there's a lot at stake. "Dancers who don't have the support of their parents might struggle with self-doubt," says Dr. Linda Hamilton, a former dancer with New York City Ballet and a clinical psychologist specializing in the performing arts, "while those whose parents are too involved can crack under the pressure." Whether your parents aren't there when you need them or they're always there, practically smothering you, try these tips to improve your situation.
On Friday night, the iconic RuPaul made history as the first drag queen ever to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And it didn't take long for the world's most fabulous RuPaul fan/one of our favorite human beings, Mark Kanemura, to commemorate his idol's accomplishment with—naturally—a WALK to end all walks.
What do you get when a hoard of dancers collaborate to the catchy tune of "Love Somebody," by the band Frenship? The most epic dance party ever, of course! Said dance party was directed by the talented Michael Riccio, who's choreography has appeared in "La La Land" and "Dancing with the Stars."
They say there's no "I" in "team"—and nowhere is that truer than the world of college dance teams, where precision reigns, uniformity is key, and a single misstep from any given "I" can cost a group a championship trophy. So it's unsurprising that securing a spot on one of the best dance teams in the country is no easy feat.
Members of these highly athletic teams rehearse for hours every week—on top of academic classes and commitments—and perform at football and basketball games, annual concerts, and nationally televised competitions (hi, ESPN). And "no I" rule notwithstanding, each of these top teams is made up of highly trained, highly technical, highly hard-core individuals, who come together to create a ready-for-victory pack.
These six teams aren't one-off success stories—they're consistently strong, and earn the top spots at major competitions like UDA and NDA nearly every year. Up for the challenge? Here's what to know before you go to auditions.