One would probably advise an elderly friend or relative to rest more and not carry out activities which they used to do during their prime years. However, Barbara Peters has proved them all wrong by becoming Britain's oldest ballet dancer, as she passed her grade seven dance exam from the Royal Academy of Dance at the age of 80.
60 years after winning a place at the elite dance academy, Barbara took her 55-minute practical dance test last month, and received her results last week on the eve of her 80th birthday. She received the good news in the form of a text message. Barbara shared, “It [text message] told me I had passed with merit the grade seven exam and have become the country's oldest dancer. I am thrilled, it was the best gift I received... My mark was 67%. The pass mark for merit is 55% and a distinction in 75, so I am pleased I did so well.”
Barbara took her practical test 58 years after her last ballet exam. She said, “Ballet has kept me fit and raising my leg a metre high to place my foot on the barre was easy. 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 but still do cartwheels, though I haven't done the splits for ten years.”
The inspirational dancer started dancing at the age of 2, and took her first exam at 9 years of age, and went on to gain a place at the Royal Academy of Dance in 1957. She was the daughter of a mechanic and a domestic servant. She said, “I couldn't get a grant so I worked on the buses as a conductor to earn money to fund my course.”
During the 1950s, she was unable to take her final exam. “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.”
Passing her ballet exams has renewed a sense of energy and purpose into Barbara's life. She states, “I've no plans to hang up my dancing shoes just yet. In fact, there is a grade eight exam I might consider doing.”
Barbara Peters is indeed an inspiration to one and all. She proves that if you put your mind into doing something, then undoubtedly you can achieve it. She also reinstates that age, is in fact, just a number.