Angela Rippon: Why I’m joining the ranks of the silver swans

We found this fantastic article from The Telegraph on how Angela Rippon has joined a wonderful world of adult ballet. It details the benefits of these classes and how they can really enhance the lives of all ages. For more information on our classes please click here.

Like many before her, Angela Rippon is contemplating old age. The evergreen broadcaster and journalist best known for reading BBC One’s Nine O’Clock News for nearly two decades(and now for presenting Rip-Off Britain), will be 73 in October. But really, she is still going on 40.

“I’ve never grown up,” she announces down a phone line from her home in London on a day when she is moving house. “In my head, I’m still in my forties. I do all the things I used to do. I still expect my brain and my body to do what I want. I don’t ever feel my age. I don’t know what being 73 is supposed to feel like, because I still feel exactly as I did decades ago.”

From the outside, it appears little has changed either. Rippon’s perfectly swept-and-set hair has barely altered over time, nor has her skin which still looks as smooth as an ironed sheet of A4. She stays in shape by playing tennis regularly, stretching for 10 minutes every morning (she has done all her life), powerwalking, remaining teetotal and not smoking.

The only time, in fact, Rippon feels the full weight of the years is when people approach her in the street to tell her they remember watching her when they were 10 years old while doing their homework. “That happened to me in a shop yesterday,” she whoops with semi-delight. “It’s only on occasions like that that it comes home to you. You think, but I am still here!”

As well as good genes and an invigorating shuffle playlist for powerwalks, Rippon has something else to thank for staying young – the rejuvenating power of dance.

This week, she starts a new role as Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) ambassador for their Silver Swan ballet classes for over-55s, and is committed to spreading the word that exercise needn’t be boring and, as we get older, is never more important.

“I don’t know what being 73 is supposed to feel like, because I still feel exactly as I did decades ago.” Angela Rippon

The classes, run on a small scale for three years, have attracted a gamut of dancers up to the age of 102 and, thanks to soaring demand, are being rolled out nationwide fortified with more than 100 teachers to teach adult ballet safely to refine balance, flexibility and core strength.

For many, they can’t start soon enough. Last week, Public Health England published research that said 41 per cent of middle aged British adults do not even walk for 10 minutes at a time once a month. The danger of prematurely developing serious health conditions, such as Type-2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia and cancer, are all too real as a result.

Increasingly, we are in the grip of a sedentary pandemic, and the gym, especially to mature generations, can be an unappealing place found south of Hell. “What the heck is the point of doing an hour’s exercise in a gym if all you end up with is a bucketload of sweat and aches, when you can go to a dance class and actually have fun, use every bit of your body and meet people?” asks Rippon.

“Ballet is great for spatial awareness. It does wonders for your core and your flexibility and, of course, you have to exercise your brain to remember the steps. You don’t just sit there mindlessly watching TV, like on a gym bike. But the great thing is it is social. As we get older, isolation and loneliness are killers. If you are not getting out and meeting people, your brain function starts to be less effective. Dance is not just good for you physically, but emotionally and psychologically.”

Rippon’s foray into ballet is less surprising, given her reprisal of the BBC One series How to Stay Young, in which she investigates latest research designed to halt the ageing process. The new series, to be shown in September, takes her to Newcastle University to follow nine volunteers whose bodies have aged dramatically faster than their birth certificates for reasons including insomnia, stress and being overweight.

“There is one thing all women should know,” she says. “If you really want to ensure that you aren’t going to have collagen-starved skin, give up smoking and sugar. Insulin loves to bind itself to collagen and it stops the collagen from being as supportive in your system as it should be. Almost by default, I have ticked that particular box. I don’t eat a lot of sugar and have never smoked in my life.”

However, Rippon’s love affair with dance began long before her interest in beating the clock or, indeed, the famous sketch of her high-kicking her way around a Morecambe and Wise studio in 1976, a year after she became the BBC’s first regular female newsreader; it was in Plymouth, as a four-year-old with knock knees.

I suppose when Strictly started, they thought I was too strongly associated with dance. A few years ago, it would have been lovely if they’d asked me. “My mum took me to the family doctor who said we can do one of two things. I can either get some built-up shoes for her to straighten her legs, or you can send her to dance classes. Thank God my mother chose the latter.”

She attended Plymouth’s School of Dance then Geraldine Lamb’s Dance School. Her legs straightened and strengthened and she took to it “like a duck to water”. Until 17, she considered a career in dance, although her height – 5ft 6in – and a “lack of the exquisite talent that makes you a ballerina” held her back.

She would gratefully return to the Geraldine Lamb Dance School for several weeks before setting foot on stage with Morecambe and Wise. Later, Rippon presented Come Dancing – the British ballroom competition and a forerunner to Strictly Come Dancing – for four years.

Of the latter, she is disappointed never to have had the call-up. “I suppose when Strictly started, they thought I was too strongly associated with dance. Now I’m probably too old to do it and I’m really not on [the producer’s] radar any more. A few years ago, it would have been lovely if they’d asked me. But, as I say, for all sorts of reasons, it never happened. Now I just love to watch it.” Level the prospect of a women being too old to present and Rippon audibly fumes, quoting herself and Rip-Off Britain co-stars Gloria Hunniford and Julia Somerville, all of who have broached 70, as examples of when age can surpass youth.

“It makes me cross that people think it is important to talk about. I hope we have got over that. What we value is [presenters’] ability, their talent, their professionalism, their sheer quality of performance and work on screen as journalists, presenters or experts. Are you going to say because you’ve reached a particular birthday we’re going to chuck all that expertise out now? No, of course we’re not. We’ve gone way past that. Age is irrelevant. It has nothing to do with it.”

Her parting gift is a sage piece of advice delivered by Sixties fitness guru Eileen Fowler to her as a young reporter for Westward Television, which has always stayed with her and she has lived by since.

“She told me that our bodies are a machine and, like any machine, full of thousands of moving parts. If you don’t keep those parts well-oiled and moving, they seize up and rust. It doesn’t matter if a lawn mower, a car or a body – you have to keep the moving bits moving. If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

To read more please visit The Telegraph >

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