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Modern dance troupe Pilobolus pivots to helping seniors stay on their feet

Dance company Pilobolus keeps seniors moving
Modern dance company Pilobolus keeps seniors moving during pandemic shutdowns 04:02

The modern dance troupe Pilobolus is known for its ability to manipulate the human form – connecting with each other to create gravity-defying feats that look fluid and nearly effortless.

Members of the dance company Pilobolus perform.  Pilobolus

The company was founded in 1971 by Dartmouth College grads with very little exposure to dance.

Correspondent Nikki Battiste asked, "Pilobolus has been dubbed the 'rebellious dance company.' Why?"

"I think that part of it was, from the start, with not having any dance training," said Pilobolus' education director Emily Kent. "They also didn't like wearing clothes. So, there was a lot of nudity!"

But deep in the woods of western Connecticut, these rebels have found another cause: They're training seniors in a skill critical to their choreography – the art of balance.

"Pilobolus really is about, movement is for everybody," said Kent. "This is a way that people who maybe never thought they would be dancing are dancing and moving their bodies in ways that they never would have."

Pilobolus' Emily Kent leads a class in balance. CBS News

They're exercising in a way to ensure they can move throughout their lives.

"We're doing some things with our eyes," Kent said. "We're working on mobility of different joints, and cardiovascular, or strength of picking up something that's heavy."

"Everything that she does for us is helping us grow old," said class member Ellen Heydet.

"That's the main reason we're here, is to live healthier as we age," Lou Heydet said.

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Battiste asked Fourgie Smith, "How has Pilobolus changed you?"

"I have more stamina for things," Smith replied. "I don't have empty arms as much as I did."

Patricia Werner said, "I feel like, for years, I was working too much to do the right amount of exercise. And so, I actually feel better than I felt when I was younger."

They're also boosting their ability to simply stay on their own two feet.

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Batiste asked, "What have you learned about the importance of balance in your life as you've gotten less young?"

"It's extremely important," said Lou. "Even as a firefighter, we went to calls where people have fallen down the stairs, older people. And I still struggle with it. But if I'm gonna fall, you can regain yourself after these classes."

Kent used her time in quarantine to expand the class's reach, Zooming with folks across the country and developing a video series. There is a small fee for the classes. 

To watch an introductory video, click on the player below:

Connecting with Balance Introduction Video by PILOBOLUS on YouTube

In-person classes also continued through much of the pandemic. It was a physical and mental lifeline for participants.

"This was our social life," said Ellen.

"Especially during COVID, my God," Lou said.

Smith said, "The value of the COVID pod we formed, I think it was a really important part of our feeling connected to life."

Kent said, "This really is that power of connection to art and movement and to each other as human beings."

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