Nicky Ansell has always felt like a closet show-off. Now, once a week she lets that part of herself out to play at The Garage’s theatre class.
“It’s lovely. This is the antithesis to my quite serious, grown-up job. I give a lot of myself to other people, so this is an opportunity for me to do something just for myself. For me, it was about exploring that different side and doing something that’s fun and active,” she said.
“From a female perspective, some women feel less confident so this is an opportunity to express themselves in a safe place. I’ve started to think maybe when I’ve got a little more time I might start auditioning.”
Confidence was also a benefit for Max Ellis, who recently joined the singing class.
He said: “I’m enjoying it very much. It was something I had a great interest in but had a very low opinion of my rudimentary ability. I’m in a choir but I wanted more individual insight into technique. My faith in my ability has improved. The broad depth of ages is strengthening because we all take something from each other.”
There are nearly 100 classes for all ages here including theatre, singing, ballet and contemporary dance for ages 50-plus. None make work about being older. It’s about channelling that life experience and rekindling a past passion or finding a new one.
Vanessa Owen wanted something she could enjoy as much as tennis, which she recently gave up.
“I’ve a friend who comes to various dance programmes at The Garage. I decided I would try singing. I’ve no experience whatsoever except in the shower but I wanted a group class because it’s very sociable and there’s a lot of happiness and joy. People should have the confidence to try something new in life because it’ll lift your spirits.”
The friendly environment appealed to Sally Hart, who’s been doing Pilates at The Garage for years.
“I suffered with a profound depressive illness and know that singing is extremely good for that so I’d been looking for a group for a long time that doesn’t then want to go on to do concerts. I’ve no interest in actual performance,” she said.
“My interest is in enjoying the group and the variety of different music we do. Singing gives me the discipline to get out and do something and I can feel an improvement. There’s no judgements at all so it’s very easy for me to enjoy it. The atmosphere is always warm and friendly.”
Every participant mentioned how their tutors continue to push them creatively.
Josephine Delaney, who switched from contemporary to ballet, joked she’d begun to feel her age dancing alongside younger participants but added: “I still find the class a challenge and I like that.
“I came to the six-week ballet basics class beforehand and that was helpful, I met some people there which was friendly. We then all moved to this class. I absolutely love it, I’ve never missed one.”
Liz Hughes’ love of dance began when she was three but had “30-40 years off” - until discovering the same class about 18 months ago.
She said: “It all came flooding back. It’s structured as a professional class but our teacher Laura is wonderful, very encouraging; inspirational really. She lets everybody go at their own level. Some of us have done dance training, some have never done any before. It’s a real mixture which is lovely. I’m over 70 now but age doesn’t really matter, just come and do it.”
Members of The Garage’s Mosaic Performance Company were recently invited to perform a new piece at the Lilian Baylis Studio at London’s Sadler’s Wells.
Jeannie Sowler hadn’t danced regularly since her 20s, revisiting her love for it when she retired 16 years ago. She said: “I read all the Wells books – Rosanna Joins the Wells, etc. – when I was 10-years-old. The fact we were dancing there was quite a thrill.”
Roz Taylor wanted some structure after finding herself free one day a week. “It was something I’d never done before but something I got completely lost in. I could forget everything on the outside.”
There’s the social side too. Many members meet up for coffee after class or arrange social events.
Ed Cairns, from the theatre class, recently moved to Norwich and said: “It’s nice to have anything that’s a way to meet new people and it’s never too late to learn new skills.”
An am-dram enthusiast since he was in his 30s, he hadn’t a millisecond of structured training which is why the class appealed to him.
“It’s nice not to be at the oldest end of any group but that wasn’t really what drew me in. Having something more structured in terms of developing skills with a very knowledgeable but also extremely relaxed teacher is nice.”
To find out more about all The Garage’s classes, visit www.thegarage.org.uk/take-part, call 01603 283382 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow us on Facebook @garage.norwich, Twitter @_thegarage and Instagram @TheGarageNorwich
*Adapted from a piece in the September edition of Let's Talk magazine.