Ballet dancer Suzelle Poole has the sort of internet following Millennial influencers would kill for. At 78, she’s a web sensation thanks to an inspiring three-minute video showcasing her dance skills, her young students and the nursing homes she visits to encourage seniors to exercise.
The film clip, made for the BBC’s “Amazing Humans” series, has attracted almost 60 million views since its release in December 2017. Here it is:
Now, Dallas-based Poole tells Senior Planet about her seven-decade career and offers her take on aging with attitude.
You started dancing at seven and made your professional debut at 10. Did you ever think you’d still be dancing at 78?
Poole: I grew up in London, England, and we always went to the ballet. I had marvelous teachers and ultimately I performed professionally all over the world. I was 26 when someone who had worked with all of the Russian greats offered me a teaching job but I thought I didn’t have many years left as a dancer and I wanted to keep on dancing. That’s funny. I’m 79 in August and I am still performing.
How did you end up in Texas?
Poole: My husband Jonathan Poole was an opera singer and he wanted to move to Germany for his career, so we went there and then all over the world. We performed and taught in Canada, Scotland, South Africa, London and Texas. I was a soloist at the Houston Ballet for 10 years. I came to Dallas in 1986 and now I teach at the Royale Ballet Dance Academy. My youngest student is three, the eldest 63.
Tell us about the Poole Ballet Company and your visits to senior centers.
Poole: I am usually older than a lot of the people there, who are sick and in wheelchairs. I always think there for the grace of God, go I. Thank God I can dance. I’d been teaching children when a lady approached me and asked if I would do ballet for a senior home. I didn’t want to because my late husband had been in one and I thought it would be too upsetting. But we had a lovely marriage and I know he is smiling down on me, so in 2008 I said yes and I’ve been doing it ever since every six weeks or so. I create new works and always try to take some of my young students from the Poole Ballet with me. I hope it encourages older, disabled people to do exercises.
How did the BBC film happen?
Poole: Local TV stations in Dallas featured me, then the BBC. There have been 50 million viewings on the BBC, then someone put it on You Tube and that’s another 5 million and there are more sites in Russia and China. Isn’t it incredible? It’s fun being famous.
Tell us about your own health and fitness regime.
Poole: I dance six, sometimes seven, days a week. I take no medications, only vitamins and minerals. I haven’t been in hospital since I was a baby. I eat everything, bread, potatoes, vegetables. But I like what’s good for me, like salads. I am always out doing something and talking to people. I have some wonderful young friends and working with children keeps me young.
Any advice for seniors who worry they can no longer do the activities they once enjoyed?
Poole: People must do what they love. I am a published poet, I have choreographed a dance to my husband’s singing voice, I am learning every day. No one should feel too old to do something. Exercise is good but it shouldn’t be onerous. Do something you enjoy, be it tennis or walking.
What does aging with attitude mean to you?
Poole: I love doing ballet and one of the main positions is called an attitude. You hold your leg bent with the knee up. So I really am aging with attitude.
Suzelle Poole’s tips for staying healthy:
- Be active, always move your body around.
- Get out into the fresh air.
- Enjoy eating but you don’t need to eat it all.
- Be opening to learning something new.
- Talk to people, even strangers. Conversation is good.