Swan Stories

Read what some of our Silver Swans have to say about their classes.

Anna (age 74)

Where do you take Silver Swans classes?

I take classes with Sarah in Harpenden.

I lived for dancing when I was young, but have done nothing for 50+ years! I was thrilled to find Silver Swans & although I obviously can’t do things as I used to or would like to, the sheer joy of moving to music is still there – all the old steps & exercises – such fun. We are all in the same boat so it doesn’t matter, we all do what we can.

Ballet is such a wonderful discipline, mentally & physically. Remembering sequences, flexibility, balance & co-ordination all decline with age so the challenge can only be beneficial.

Carol (age 57)

Where do you take Silver Swans classes?

Rawlins Academy in Quorn, Leicestershire.

Have you danced before?


I started attending Silver Swans when Caroline started her classes in Quorn in 2017. I saw an advertisement in a local magazine and it caught my eye straight away. As a child, I dreamed like a lot of little girls of being a ballet dancer and of course read the classic Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. I did not go to ballet classes as a child but thought what a wonderful opportunity it was to have a go as a ‘silver’ swan. So I went along and thoroughly enjoy the classes. It has been fun and challenging learning some basic ballet positions and trying to move gracefully to music. Outside of the class, I think I am more aware of my posture and try not to slouch! We laugh a lot and enjoy ourselves in class and I always leave with a smile on my face.

Carole (age 58)

Where do you take Silver Swans classes?

Gorse Covert, Loughborough with NellieBee Ballet.

Have you danced before?

Yes, from the age of 7 – 17yrs (Ballet and achieved Grade A, O Level) and since then different kinds of dance but this renewal of Ballet lessons has thrilled me, reminding me of the joy it gives me and boosting my fitness and well-being.

I joined Silver Swans because, having tried other fitness classes and found them unsuitable for me, I decided that my body probably is best suited to work as it used to without straining the wrong muscles in the wrong way. I felt confident being with other people in my age group and the non-competitive atmosphere made me enjoy it immensely. As well as having fun, I have been impressed by my teacher Vanessa’s conscientious attention to detail and her thoroughness in teaching the correct technique. I am concerned about my memory as I get older and feel that the memorising of sequences is helpful. I love the music and always feel that I will push myself more when there is music. The chance to express ourselves freely to the music is freeing and exhilarating while the chat over coffee afterwards with like-minded dancers is a very enjoyable part of my week. I have been inspired to join other Ballet classes including Vanessa’s class for students at Grades 3-5 and this has given me fresh confidence.

Deirdre (age 72)

Where do you take Silver Swans classes?

Gorse Covert Community Centre in Loughborough.

Have you danced before? 

I joined the Silver Swans Ballet class in October 2017. I started ballet classes at my local town dancing school at the age of three and continued until I was fifteen years old. I have been interested in ballet all of my life having danced in Amateur Dramatic shows up to the age of 40.

As I reached middle age I found Adult Ballet classes too demanding, so at over 70 years old this Silver Swans class is perfect. Ballet has always been good for posture, fitness and helps with memory, add to this the beautiful music, a group of friendly ladies, fun, and Vanessa, our delightful teacher, I just wish I found a class like this 15 years ago.

Ian (age 60)

Where do you take Silver Swans classes?

Leatherhead, Surrey (Centre Stage Dance and Drama).

Have you danced before?

No. Joined Silver Swans in Sept 2017.

Why did you join Silver Swans?

I don’t really know why, having never danced anything before!

But since retiring early I’ve looked for something interesting to do in the way of “formal” exercise. The gym has no interest so when Angela Rippon began to talk about Silver Swans, I looked to see if there was anything near me (I didn’t want to travel any distance just to exercise). Leatherhead is only 5 miles.

The benefit is so far hard to tell yet. It is great fun and I’m enjoying the challenge. We have a lovely bunch of women of all abilities in the class (most of the time I’m the only man).

I am told I am getting better and I think I am, but it is a very VERY long way to the Royal Opera House!

Jane (age 63)

Where do you take Silver Swans classes?

The Priory, Monmouth. Tuesdays with Hannah La Trobe.

Have you danced before?

Yes, I did Ballet as a child. I loved it, but never had the stamina or good health to continue beyond the early stages.

At 17 I got accepted into Dartington College of Arts to study Drama and Dance (Martha Graham and Release Technique) and on graduating became the actress for a professional dance troupe Dance for Everyone for a year.

In between our two daily performances we had alternating ballet/contemporary classes. I couldn’t hope to reach the standard of the highly trained ballet dancers, but I fully enjoyed learning from and dancing with them. What I lacked in technique I compensated for by just expressing the feeling that ballet conveyed. I danced it. Some years later I worked at the Bristol Dance Centre and took up classes there.

Why did you join Silver Swans?

Since moving to the Wye Valley 24 year ago I’ve been hoping to find a local adult ballet class but have never done so till now. The longing to dance has never gone away so I leapt at the chance to try Silver Swans a month ago. It’s fantastic that neither age or ability rules you out and it’s turned out to be the most perfect class for me. We have an amazing teacher, Hannah La Trobe. She’s inspiring to learn from and it’s obvious from the start that she’s a very talented dancer, but her ability to teach is outstanding. She creates imagery that immediately helps you get the right positioning or step, she’s quirky, funny and gets you dancing a choreographed routine straight away. You do classic bar exercises but they don’t feel intimidating or overexerting. It’s a class where you can work at your own humble level but dance as if you were a pro.

I joined the class for the love of dance, but also in recognition that my body needed toning and sustaining as I glide into older age. It’s also in protest of getting old and a bid to seize the day. Ballet is superb for core strengthening, grace and subtleness and once you start you immediately feel you’re holding yourself in a better way and moving more freely and confidently. Ballet music is particularly inspiring and it helps you release the beauty in movement. I’ve also found that it challenges my mind-body connection so I think my coordination will be improved. I really look forward to each class and never feel like I’m going off to exercise. It’s a joy, not a boot camp.

At Dartington, I remember seeing a hugely dignified performance by a 70-year-old woman. She danced with such grace, within her own limits but demonstrating how beautiful old age could be. She was very moving. A role model to be all you can be at any stage of your life.

I hope your article encourages both men and women to give the class a go. Hannah creates a completely non-judgemental environment for everyone to come and just express themselves through dance.

Jenny (age 51)

Where do you take Silver Swans classes?

I take Silver Swans classes at Studio One (DCPA) in Ferndown, East Dorset – with Denise Booth. I took ballet lessons as a child but not for very long. I had almost forgotten I had ever danced or enjoyed dancing.

I joined Silver Swans not that long after the class started – probably October/November 2017 and I have been going ever since. It is difficult to explain why this is such a great class. There is still a beauty of feeling and movement in people even when they are older; this is seldom recognised. The feeling of the movements with the particular pieces of music can really take you to another world; you can feel elegant and spiritual again. The classes not only help me connect with my body but they raise me up – they are incredibly good for your soul. I have often been in class and thought about doing artworks based on the movements of a line of beautiful older women’s hands as they move together – it’s a lovely experience.

The other thing is that the atmosphere is so caring and non-judgmental – we are all too old to compete and compare and so we are free to enjoy the shared connection and involvement.

I do feel that there is a huge market for engaging the rising older population and this is a fantastic example of the kind of thing which will grow. It’s not really an exercise class however it is still incredibly good for you. I am generally hopeless at going to exercise classes but get so much out of Silver Swans that it is easy to go each week.

Finally, it is wonderful that the class is run by someone who is not only an extraordinary dancer and teacher, but she is also able to understand the lapses of memory and physical ability that come with older age. To top it off – we all have a laugh and don’t take ourselves too seriously!

Patricia (age 75)

Where do you take Silver Swans classes?

Alton Bell House Dance Studio. Teacher: Judy McDougall.

I have danced before. I joined last September.

Ballet has been in and out of my life since the age of six. During my 20s to my 40s, I went to classes given by a former member of Ballet Rambert and Elizabeth Kennedy, one of Anthony Dowell’s teachers. I was devastated when they retired and often wished there were classes for those of more mature years.

I couldn’t believe it when the Silver Swan project started – my dream came true. We are all different shapes and sizes and varying ability, but it doesn’t matter – our teacher is so encouraging. On Mondays mornings I am transported to another world.

On a practical level, it certainly keeps me supple – very important at this stage in life.

Penny (age 70)

Where do you take Silver Swans classes?

I take Silver Swans classes at Matlock, Peak Ballet.

I have been registered blind for over 30 years.

I have never danced before – except at discos in my youth!

I joined Silver Swans at the end of September last year, and it was to fulfil a childhood ambition. As a child, I had always wanted to learn classical ballet, but there was nothing like that where I lived. I did try adult beginners’ ballet later in life when I was living in the NE, but the teacher found my severe visual impairment too difficult to work with.

Before trying Silver Swans in Matlock I approached Lara Ross, our teacher, and she was immediately prepared to do whatever it took to be inclusive. I have loved living the dream that I had when I was a child, and being able to join in with everyone else. Lara talks everything through and makes sure I am positioned where I have the best chance of seeing. If I am a bit behind the sighted people, it doesn’t seem to matter – Lara just wants us all to feel like ballerinas, and be happy, and that works.

I definitely feel stronger and more supple than before I started. My balance was never good because of my not getting enough feedback from my eyes, but it has improved through the practice I am getting at Silver Swans. I have also made a lovely group of friends – what more could anybody want?

Rosemarie (age 65)

Where do you take Silver Swans classes?

I attend the class run by Vanessa Burzynski, at Gorse Covert in Loughborough.

I have previously taken RAD classes and exams, firstly in Basingstoke in the 1950s and then in Nottingham in 1960s and beyond. Our family moved from Hampshire to the East Midlands in the early 1960s. I never really gave up ballet and have always carried on with my ballet exercises. I still do some ballet exercises every morning, not quite as mobile as I would like to be… but I had been looking for a ballet class for ages, as I realised I needed the discipline of a class.

After returning from a long trip away in Australia, I found Vanessa’s class. She is a brilliant teacher and it has taken me back to those earlier days in class…I love it! The combination of the discipline of a group in class works so well plus having some fun together, as we are a very friendly bunch, who all enjoy our ballet.

Being in this class has sparked an amazing issue of probability too…I used to be a pupil of Peggy Rainbird, in May Place, Basingstoke from when I was very young. We lived in a village nearby and I used to attend classes on a Saturday morning from 1957. At the Silver Swans class in Loughborough, I recently met another dancer from the same ballet school in Basingstoke…60 years later!

Last week I also met someone who joined the class in Loughborough, who was at the same ballet school in Nottingham when we were pupils of the dynamic and inspirational teacher Nora Morrison, who ran the Morrison School of Dancing.

I do remember this dancer and I have also found a couple of old programmes from the charity performance shows we used to dance with the Nora Morrison School, at the Nottingham Co-operative Arts Theatre each year. The show was a fundraising event held each year, to raise money for the RNIB. The old programmes I have found are from 1963 and 1964. The information contained in the programmes is very informative and lists the names of dancers, their achievements and career progression. Some went on to join professional dance companies.

I have two grown-up daughters who both took RAD ballet classes for many years. One of the pupils who were at the Nora Morrison School when I was a pupil there, was Margaret Hurd, who became an RAD Examiner. Many years later Margaret was the examiner for my daughters’ RAD ballet exams!

The Silver Swans has unleashed the inner ballet dancer in so many of us. The class is a very pleasant group, a mix of those who have danced before and those who are new to ballet. Vanessa is such a good teacher, pitching the exercises appropriately for everyone’s physical capabilities and addresses the technicalities of steps too. We have a lot of fun and enjoy the class. A couple of weeks ago we were all working at the barre and everyone was in step when we realised the “swish” sound of the feet and ballet shoes together…it took us back instantly to those days in class when we were much younger!

Sue (age 55)

Where do you take Silver Swans classes?

I take Silver Swans classes in Derby.

I will soon be 55 and never thought I would be doing ballet again having hung up my ballet shoes when I was about eight. Although I had musicality, I was a “little heavy on my spring steps”, I had (and still have) “interesting knees”, and sadly was never destined to be the next Fonteyn!

Life took its course with 2016/2017 a particularly bad period as I lost my mum, a good friend, and then my partner in the space of six months. I needed to develop a new life, a new outlet and in September 2017, a friend asked if I’d seen that a new class was starting for mature ladies to do ballet. Caroline, the tutor was reassuring, fun and skilful in taking these clumsy ducklings and making them feel like dancers.

I so look forward to my Mondays now. I love it, the music, the focus, the concentration, and the giggles as we all struggle to remember the routines and master the steps. We have a great group of people, each with their own story. And we are all developing and gaining in confidence through dance.

It’s helped my balance, my flexibility and stamina, but more importantly, it’s enabled me to meet some lovely people and feel joy again, through music and dance.

Trudie (age 56)

Where do you take Silver Swans classes?

I am a member of the Silver Swans in Bexley, London.

For me, joining Silver Swans was serendipity. Until last September I had been living and working in northern Norway for the previous 5 years but had missed my family and friends and had decided to move back.

As a child, although money was tight, my mother had taken me to ballet lessons, which I had thoroughly enjoyed and was so proud of giving a stage performance in my first tutu.

When I had my own daughter, May, I too ensured she went to ballet classes, until she decided to try other activities when she became older. However, she knew of my frustration in recent years, that ballet was only for small girls and ballet for adults was non-existent, unless you happened to live near the Pineapple studios!

It was just a couple of weeks before my move back to the UK that she told me about the article she had read on the Silver Swan initiative by the Royal Academy of Dance, for the over 55’s. I could not believe my luck. For once, age was not against me, being 56, so I immediately investigated and discovered a local class and that the lessons started just one week prior to my return. Perfect. But then it got even better.

On the day prior to my first lesson, I mentioned to Mum, who is now 80, that I was joining this ballet class for the over 55’s and no prior experience was necessary. To my utter surprise, she asked to come with me and we have been attending together ever since. We have both thoroughly enjoyed our time together at ballet class. Mum has found that her balance has improved and for me, not only has my posture improved, I’m walking taller, I am generally more supple and less stiff than before. The best part though for both of us, and I am sure for many of the attendees, is when our exercises stop, the ballet dance commences, and we lose ourselves to the music and the moment, finding our inner ballerinas as swan-like, we glide across the floor.

Well, that’s what we think we are doing! The reality of watching us is probably different, but that’s the joy of it – it doesn’t matter. We have such fun in the process. I really cannot recommend these classes high enough for anyone who would like to try.