A GRACEFUL group of “Silver Swans” are not letting age be a barrier to ballet.

Each week the ladies – ranging in age from 55 to 80 – flock to the Janet Lomas School of Dance to practise their pliés and pas de chevals.

“It’s good for your body and soul,” said Mrs Pauline Burgess of Holcombe Lea, Holcombe Brook.

“I love all kinds of dancing and when they said I wasn’t too old to join Silver Swans, I was delighted,” added a sprightly Mrs Burgess who, at 80, is more supple than most teenagers.

She is one of the many balletomanes who are making the most of their senior years by taking part in the classes at Blackford Bridge United Reformed Church.

Mrs Anne Parker, aged 73, of Westcombe Drive, Bury, signed-up in the hope that – along with yoga – ballet might help her slipped disc.

“It’s not only eased the pain, it’s improved my balance and posture,” she said. “Learning and remembering the choreography has really helped my memory too.”

The classes are taught by Johanna Hadley who was one of only 120 teachers in the world who qualified to teach Silver Swans when the renowned Royal Academy of Dance first launched the classes in September.

“Silver Swans is very inclusive. It’s for people aged 55 and older and accommodates all abilities - from professionals to those who have never done a step of ballet in their life,” she said.

“I teach simplified and very gentle ballet with the more strenuous elements, like leaping and twisting, removed.”

As a child, Shirley Payton dreamed of going to ballet classes but her parents could not afford it. Now, more than six decades later, her dream has finally come true!

“It makes you feel alive and is good for the soul,” enthused Mrs Payton, aged 74, of Overstones Road, Turton,

“I enjoy the music, the exercise and the friendships I have made. I look forward to it every week.”

Another enthusiastic student is Mrs Lindsay Eavis of Hawthorn Avenue, Holcombe Brook.

From the age of four to 16, she trained in ballet at the Maureen Williams School of Dance in Bury.

Her passion for it led to her gaining a place to study ballet and drama at the prestigious Arts Educational School in London. But, after graduating at the age of 18 and landing her first dancing job in pantomime in Leicester, she realised she “wasn’t the right shape”.

Instead, she put her dancing on hold and spent ten years working as a professional stage actress before entering a career as a non-clinical service trainer for the NHS.

But now aged 63, Mrs Eavis is thoroughly enjoying her return to the barre.

“I love being able to express myself through dance. In acting, you need your voice and expression but ballet is all about using the body,” she explained.

“I leave each class buzzing - my muscles are tingling and I feel so happy.”

It is a sentiment shared by Mrs Jan Morris, aged 66, of New Church Road, Rawtenstall.

“Ballet is for everyone – it’s so enjoyable! I was on the waiting list for three months and I was so excited when I finally got a place,” she said.

Each term the class focuses on a particular ballet and then learn simplified repertoires from them. Since the sessions started in September, the ladies have worked their way through The Nutcracker and Coppelia and are currently practising Swan Lake.

Johanna runs four one-hour Silver Swans classes each week and they have proved so popular that there are waiting lists for all of them.

Mrs Mary Baynes, aged 76, of Belmont Drive, Bury, is another one of the lucky ones who managed to get a place.

“I’ve always had three left feet but I’m really enjoying the classes,” she said.

“Everyone is so at ease and Johanna has the ability to make you feel like you’re Darcey Bussell.”