The Oldest Ballet Dancer
Great-grandmother completes test with a merit 58 years after her last exam and becomes the oldest ballet dancer in Britain.
- Barbara Peters, 80, from Halifax, UK, is the oldest ballet dancer in Britain
- She passed a top exam from the Royal Academy of Dance in London
- The great-grandmother has been dancing since she was a two-year-old
Any dancer would be delighted to pass a top exam from a world-renowned ballet school.
But when you do that at 80 – and pirouette into the record books as the country’s oldest ballet dancer – it is all the sweeter.
That is the birthday present that great-grandmother Barbara Peters has just received.
The widow from Halifax got a text from the Royal Academy of Dance in London on the eve of her 80th birthday last Wednesday.
‘It told me I had passed with merit the grade seven exam and have become the country’s oldest ballet dancer,’ she said. ‘I am thrilled, it was the best gift I received.’
She took the 55-minute practical test last month, 58 years after her last ballet exam. It has three sections: Classical, free movement and character.
‘Ballet has kept me fit and raising my leg a metre high to place my foot on the barre was easy,’ she said. ‘I also held my leg straight out front and side on at a 90 degree angle for a few seconds.
‘I can only do two pirouettes on the trot now but still do cartwheels, though I haven’t done the splits for the past ten years.
‘My mark was 67 per cent. The pass mark for a merit is 55 per cent and a distinction is 75, so I am pleased I did so well.’
Mrs Peters began dancing as soon as she could walk at the age of two, took her first dance exam at nine and has devoted her life to ballet ever since.
She gained a place at the Royal Academy of Dance in 1957 – a prestigious moment for the daughter of a mechanic and domestic servant.
‘I couldn’t get a grant so I worked on the buses as a conductor to earn money to fund my course,’ she said.
Britain’s oldest ballerina Barbara Peters looks back on career.
She graduated in 1959 and opened her own dance school in Huddersfield, going on to teach thousands of children.
She also worked as an examiner for the RAD for many years and has rubbed shoulders with Dame Margot Fonteyn and Dame Darcey Bussell.
Mrs Peters gained a place at the Royal Academy of Dance in 1957 (pictured below in 1958)
In 2015 she became a dance pupil again when her daughter Claire O’Connor’s pre-school dance academy, Babyballet, started classes for adults.
Talking of her time at the RAD in the 1950s, she said: ‘I passed all my exams but could not take my final grade six exam as I’d broken my arm.
‘There wasn’t a grade seven back then. So when I got the opportunity to take the test I thought, “Why not?” I trained for two hours a day over three weeks and the exam went without a hitch.’ The RAD has run exams since 1924 and it is thought Mrs Peters is the oldest person to ever take any of its tests in Britain.
Michelle Groves, director of education and training at the RAD, said: ‘It’s a fantastic achievement.’
Daughter Claire said: ‘Mum is Babyballet’s most senior pupil and I’m so proud of her. It was certainly role reversal – me nervous as I took Mum to her exam.’
Mrs Peters added: ‘I’ve no plans to hang up my dancing shoes just yet. In fact, there is a grade eight exam I might consider doing.’
“We are absolutely delighted and grateful for all of the support and media coverage surrounding my mum’s inspiring story. We are all so immensely proud of her and would like to congratulate her for this incredible achievement. What a true inspiration she is to all our babyballet stars and to all ballet dancers across the world.”
Miss Claire, Barbara’s daughter and founder of babyballet.
If you’re a parent, looking for a dance class, or have dance experience or dance teaching experience, we would love to hear from you!
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Watch the ITV News coverage here …
Barbara’s Story has been covered by:
- The Daily Mail
- The Times
- ITV News
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- ITV Lorraine Show Video Coverage – Watch Now!
- Channel 5 News Video Coverage – Watch Now!
- Channel 5 News Video Coverage – Watch on YouTube!
- ITN News Video Coverage – Watch on YouTube
- The Huddersfield Examiner