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Bringing the barre to the home office for better health and wellbeing

The curtains may still be closed in many cases on nights spent at the theatre, yet there are still ways to connect with the artistry of ballet that can also keep you healthy and active in the home office.

With many people finding they move less working from home, organisations are recognising the need for initiatives that encourage movement and exercise breaks during the workday to assist with employee health and wellbeing.

One simple, effective and surprising option may be to take ballet breaks.

The Australian Ballet, the Governance Institute of Australia’s inaugural collaborator in the Arts Support Program, has produced a series of 13 short ‘how to’ videos that can be practiced between video meetings, at lunch and tea breaks, or even as a team building exercise.

Led by Artistic Director David McAllister, The Australian Ballet videos introduce essential ballet techniques in order to get the muscles moving and blood pumping – with benefits for both mind and body.

Titled Dancing with David, the video series also reveals that ballet practice is more than a physical experience.

“We are a silent art form, but we still communicate,” Mr McAllister said.

“In this [COVID-19 pandemic] time, we’re on screen-time a lot, sometimes you’re on mute and you’ve got to say to your friend ‘I can’t hear you’, you could use some ballet mime to do that.”

The health benefits of ballet

While the physical benefits of ballet are clearly demonstrated by the lithe and muscular physiques of its dancers, ballet also has advantages for creativity and expression, alongside the boost to mental health and brain power, The Australian Ballet’s physiotherapist Sophie Emery says.

Physically, ballet training can be especially beneficial for the muscles that support good posture, such as those that run either side of the spine to support the neck and head. Strengthening and elongating these muscles can counteract the effect of so much time spent sitting in front of the computer, craning necks to screens.

Ms Emery says the key health benefits of ballet include:

Improved muscle strength and cardio-vascular fitness

Improved mobility — ‘move it or lose it’ applies in terms of range of movement

Improved balance — balance naturally declines with age unless you practise it

Mental agility — picking up and learning exercises is a great way to challenge your brain in a new way

Artistic fulfilment — express yourself to music through physicality.

Arts Support Program

Designed to support the not-for-profit arts community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Arts Support Program is focused on promoting essential governance skills, upskilling employees and helping organisations in the sector be best placed for the future.

One collaborator organisation will be announced each quarter, receiving access to two online Governance Institute of Australia Certificates.

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