The North East dancers proving you’re never too old to be a ballet star

Stephanie Ford on stage at the Customs House in South Shields Credit: ID Event Photography

A group of older women who take part in weekly ballet classes in South Tyneside have taken to the stage for their first show.

They are part of the Silver Swans project, an initiative run by the Royal Academy of Dance aimed at people over the age of 55. The low impact classes can help prevent falls, strengthen muscles and help balance.

Dance instructor Rebecca Yates runs Silver Swans classes in South Shields, Boldon, Westoe and Cleadon. Since starting with online classes during the Covid pandemic she now has 80 members.

Silver Swans dance class in Westoe Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

They have just performed their first show at the Customs House in South Shields to a sell-out crowd.

Mrs Yates said: “We’ve just performed our first showcase. It’s quite a big thing as not many of them had danced on stage . We had costumes, an audience and smoke machines. It was very very different but we just loved it and the audience perception has been fantastic."

68-year-old Stephanie Ford has metal plates in her leg and foot and says the classes have been a huge help.

“In my mind, I think I'm five foot six and a size eight. Obviously I'm not but this is one of the beauties about this class. It doesn't matter how old you are, what shape you are, what ability you are or what medical condition you have, anyone can do it.”

Mrs Ford performed at the Customs House and says the most special moment was her daughter being there to see it.

She said: “She was in tears and she said, 'mam, I've never been so proud of you.' It was that moment, that is what it is all about. You are proud of yourself and people are proud of you.”

The Silver Swans performing at the Customs House in South Shields Credit: ITV Tyne Tees
Maggie Davison during one of the dance classes. Credit: ID Event Photography

Maggie Davison, who was given a present by her husband following the show, said: “My husband came to the show and thought it was brilliant. The the next day he gave me this necklace, which was my medal, to say I was a ballerina.

Mrs Davison said coming to the Silver Swans classes had made life better.

“There is a real of joy of being in a dance with other people, especially when we do a show and I eventually get it right. And because it's such a joy, it's something I take home with me. I look forward to every class.”

Women attending the dance classes say they have changed their lives. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees
The Silver Swans dance class in Westoe. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Angela May, who is in her 40s and one of the younger Silver Swans, described the classes as life-changing.

Mrs May said: “I absolutely love it. I do have quite a few serious medical conditions, which means exercising in groups that are aimed more at my age group is not really very practical for me. So coming here, it's more adapted for me.

I can do it up to my limitations instead of sitting at home doing very little. It means that I've got somewhere safe to come and exercise and all these ladies have become really good friends for me.”

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