Judith Ker, aged 93, says she is not hanging up her ballet shoes anytime soon. She teaches ballet students from her studio in Hobart, Australia, where she has taught for six decades.
Thankfully, there are some women who simply refuse to grow old. Age is more often than not, in the mind. Sure there is the natural aging process in the body, but the mind is ageless if we keep it active, providing there is no underlying disease. We can keep reaching out for new horizons and have no excuse in this day of the internet and modern communication devices.
Judith Ker still had memories of the day she knew she was destined to become a ballerina. As a young girl living in Edinburgh, she went to see Peter Pan with her family. As she watched the fairies performing on stage, she knew she would become a dancer.
Judith says, “I never had to think about dancing. It chose me.”
It took a lot of hard work to prove to others she was a serious dancer and an accomplished performer. “I went to England on a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dance, and was told that I was entirely unsuited for a stage career.”
That did not deter her. Ker went on to have a ten-year international career on the stage.
Adult Education Teacher
Judith Ker has been teaching for Adult Education since 1968. She never planned to become a teacher, but it was a natural progression after touring as a ballerina for so many years.
Judith toured Australia and New Zealand with the Borovansky Ballet Company and Europe with the International Ballet Company.
On leaving Borovansky, Judith went to Hobart, Australia, as a ballet teacher. Working with her Borovansky colleague, Mischa Slavensky, they staged ballets and trained dancers, besides appearing in musicals.
To further their teaching and study of ballet, Judith and Mischa travelled to Russia and visited both the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow and the Kirov Ballet in Leningrad.
Ker shares some fond memories from a life in ballet. She says One time she snubbed the world-famous dancer Rudolf Nureyev during a ballet class in Sydney. Ker had been doing barre work alongside Nureyev when she complained she had no room to move. She went to the other side of the class, only to realise afterwards who the male dancer was.
“I wouldn’t have moved if I had known it was Nureyev,” Ms Ker laughed.
Ker Cares For Others, not Hanging up her Ballet Shoes any time Soon
Ker is not hanging up her ballet shoes soon, as she continues to help others. Among the many people Ms Ker has assisted, is retiree Penny Parrish. She joined the ballet class in 2019 to help regain control over her legs after an operation on her Achilles tendon.
“I was falling over, I was getting concussion, and constantly losing my balance,” Ms Parrish said.
While the scars on her head remain, Ms Parrish no longer falls over and has regained control of her legs and her balance.
Judit Ker and COVID
Ker was a lifeline for many of her students during the pandemic when Hobart was locked down though COVID. Ker called Ms Parrish every Monday to go through the ballet class with her. They didn’t let their lack of modern technology get in the way.
“Neither of us had fancy communication devices so we taped our telephones to dress rails in our respective houses and Judith talked me through the class,” Ms Parrish said.
Student Yabbo Thompson first joined Judith’s ballet class as an adult around 30 years ago after dreaming of dancing as a child. “Look at the inspiration Judith is at 93 years old. She has never stopped dancing and still does it every day,” Ms Thompson said.
Like others in her class, Ms Thompson has seen the benefits of keeping fit as she has gotten older. The class also incorporates walks and strength exercises in the weekly schedule. “Ballet is good for balance and weight bearing, which is such an important thing when you get older,” said Ms Thompson.
Ballet Shoes Not Hung Up
Judith Ker is far from thinking of hanging up her ballet shoes any time soon. Kerr is another example of the elderly not having to yield to the stereotype of being slow, weak, feeble, and frail. Ker’s advice is “I’ve never had any plans to stop, just do what you can do for as long as you can.”
Another nonagenarian who has no thought of retirement either, is a living legend Gina Lollobrigida. She is among the last of the living, high-profile international actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema. Gina Lollobrigida is running for a seat in the Italian Senate.
Queen Elizabeth died at 95-years. Three days before her death, she was still working, when she accepted the resignation of Boris Johnson and appointed Liz Truss as the new Prime Minister of Great Britain. Boris Johnson said on the day of his resignation, the Queen was as alert as ever and deeply interested in the political scene. There is nothing like the wisdom that comes with age.
All too often, the elderly are overlooked, as being ‘past their use by date’. Not all elderly are get-up-and-go people, but then neither are all the twenty five-year-olds. Their voice can continue to be heard in their sphere of influence and everyone has a story to tell. They are worth listening to if we take time to listen and we can learn heaps from them. I had lunch with an 87-year-old who was raised by two blind parents. Her story is inspiring and nothing short of totally amazing.