Grantham's Silver Swans take leaf from Angela Rippon to encourage older generation to take up ballet
While Angela Rippon wowed the nation on Strictly Come Dancing, a quieter dance revolution has been unfolding just outside Grantham.
Many viewers were stunned to see the 79-year-old journalist and presenter’s dancing prowess on the TV competition last year and a whole generation of women inspired to get into dancing by her moves, including an impressive leg raise with dance partner Kai Widdrington.
In the quiet outskirts of Grantham, at Waltham on the Wolds, however, a blossoming group of Silver Swans is also breaking stereotypes and proving that age is just a number by twirling gracefully to the rhythm of their own dance.
Under the guidance of dance instructor Amy Taylor, these ladies, some inspired by Angela's dance feats, are not just watching Strictly Come Dancing; they're living it.
The Silver Swan programme, led by Amy, is organised by the Royal Academy of Dance and is designed to get over 55s to get involved and get back on their feet at all levels of experience.
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The academy started the initiative in 2017 in response to a growing demand for ballet classes for older learners.
Sessions are based on research into dance practice for older participants from the RAD’s Dance for Lifelong Wellbeing project.
The Grantham group has members aged up to 85 years old.
“It’s really a fantastic way of exercising and keeping fit; it’s great for your mental health and it builds a social group,” said Amy.
“The programme is designed for everyone to be included; we take out things like the hardest steps and jumps to make it suitable for all.”
“They are amazing and always working really hard; they’re so enjoyable to teach, a real pleasure.”
There is no requirement for attendees to have danced before.
Amy, who has been teaching dance for about 10 years and also runs Babyballet for youngsters from six months to six years, said the group has been running for about 18 months.
She added: “It’s very beautiful and different. It’s quite creative and quite inspiring to see some of the older ladies who have never danced before and see them doing these lovely beautiful dances.”
The group was recently invited to London for the Royal Academy of Dance’s Silver Swans Day.
There they even had the opportunity to meet and talk to Silver Swan ambassador Angela Rippon, who attended their rehearsal and watched the performance.
“It was just amazing; we took part in a number of workshops and then performed our own act,” said Amy.
The group danced to “A Million Dreams” from the Greatest Showman.
Queen Camilla, who is also a Silver Swan and patron of the Royal Academy of Dance, sent a special message to those taking part.
Amy said seeing Angela’s performance on Strictly had caused a stir in her group.
“Some of my ladies were like ‘oh wow, why can’t I do that?’
“We have some show-offs, but I don’t think anyone can get their leg up quite that high yet!”
“Meeting her was lovely and really inspiring for my dancers. It was such a lovely day; it was really friendly, and they felt so inspired and welcomed.”
Anna Duval, one of the seven Silver Swans in the group, said: "I look forward to our ballet class every week, and performing the ballet was wonderful; it was the highlight of my year.”
Silver Swans classes are delivered exclusively by licensees who have trained to safely adapt ballet techniques for older adults.
The RAD has Silver Swans Licensees in over 50 countries around the world including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Mexico.
Speaking following the recent event, Angela Rippon spoke about the importance of the programme.
She said: “What a joy it was to come to the RAD and see over 200 swans from all over the country demonstrate the very thing Silver Swans was set up to do - which is to give people over the age of 55 an opportunity to dance.
“In an ageing population, we should do all we can to keep people fit, strong, and healthy. Silver Swans demonstrates just that.”
For further information on the Silver Swans classes, contact Amy on 07496 374358 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you taken on dance classes at a later age? Or do you have an interesting group you’d like to let us know about? Share your stories in the comments.