Health: Trying old hobbies could be a step in the right direction

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Revisiting childhood hobbies can be good for you. Catherine Wylie reports.

It’s all coming back to me. My toes are pointed, my feet are turned out, and beads of sweat are running down my face.

I’m being taught the main routine in Riverdance by one of the show’s lead stars – an opportunity the six-year-old me, who watched the show repeatedly on video tape throughout the nineties, would have died for.

I’m in the Liffey Trust Dance Studios in Dublin, where Riverdance stars hone their art, just a skip and a jump from where it all began as a seven-minute interval act at The Eurovision Song Contest at the ‘Point Depot’ Theatre back in 1994.

That night changed everything. Irish dancing became sensational. Jaws dropped, audience members gasped, and composer Bill Whelan’s music made hairs on millions of necks stand on end.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only child who hotfooted down to the nearest Irish dancing school, kick-starting a passion that would continue right through my teenage years.

However, I allowed my well-loved hobby to drift after turning 18, and it’s as a rather unfit 26-year-old that I’m invited to take part in a masterclass with the Riverdance stars, to celebrate the show’s upcoming 20th anniversary tour.

Two decades on, Riverdance continues to thrill audiences worldwide and young dancers still dream of one day making it into the cast.

And while my own Riverdance dreams might be unattainable now, throwing some shapes with the cast in their rehearsal studio is not a bad second-best. I haven’t put on my dancing shoes in about seven years, so lacing them up, I hope that getting back into the groove is going to be like riding a bike. Thankfully it is.

As the super-talented Emma Warren, one of the principal dancers in Riverdance, embarks on teaching me the show’s most famous routine, I find my feet and legs naturally do the right thing.

It makes me feel very happy.

Even that little step I can’t quite get doesn’t leave me frustrated – I know I’ll get it with a bit of practise.

People quit hobbies for various reasons.

I gave up Irish dancing because life got in the way.

I had moved to a new city for university, and other pursuits had to take priority.

But with my dancing pumps on, my posture straightened, my toes pointed and my legs kicked high, it feels like I have wrapped myself in an old cosy blanket bringing back wonderful memories.

Going back to an old hobby that once brought us so much pleasure – or indeed taking up an entirely new pastime – can really be a real mood-enhancer.

It reminds us of a time in our lives when we were content, and we were achieving something.

In the case of trying something new, the act of challenging ourselves and moving out of our comfort zone shows that we can do anything we put our minds to.

I leave the class wanting to return to Irish dancing, and with a number of adult classes around the UK, we can all get tapping and kicking if we really want to.

As a way to keep fit and stay trim, I can’t think of a better hobby.

DANCE WITH DESTINY: Tom Holdsworth and Hannah Bateman of Northern Ballet at a Leeds2023 promotional event last year. PIC: Steve Riding

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