New Year Honours 2022: British Empire Medal for Yorkshire dance teacher who taught Zoom classes in lockdown - aged 83

Barbara Peters has been awarded the British Empire Medal for services to dancing in the New Year Honours.

At 83, and with a lifetime of dancing behind her, Mrs Peters has helped inspire thousands of young people.

She made her first moves at the age of two and later became a dance teacher in Huddersfield. And in later years she even appeared on a BBC television programme.

And in more recent years she has been involved in baby ballet, helping tots to feel the music.

Barbara Peters BEM at her home near Halifax

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“I have loved dancing all my life,” said Mrs Peters, who now lives in Greetland near Halifax. “I have been very lucky. I started when I was two and I have never really stopped. I have had a lifetime of dancing and that is rather special. It has been my passion.”

Born in Huddersfield, she won a place at the Royal Academy of Dancing in London to study to be a teacher of ballet and classical dancing. The Greenhead High School pupil worked as a bus conductor in town to pay the fees and danced at Huddersfield’s Theatre Royal.

She became an examiner for the Royal Academy and at 25 was the youngest person at the time to qualify. In 1961 she launched her own dancing school in Huddersfield.

Aged 11

Some 40 years later, in 2005, Mrs Peters and her daughter Claire, launched “baby ballet” which grew to become the UK’s leading pre-school dance brand.

She also worked as an examiner for the RAD and has rubbed shoulders with Dame Margot Fonteyn and Dame Darcey Bussell.

More recently she appeared on It Takes Two, the weekday Strictly Come Dancing programme.

Of the baby ballet, Mrs Peters said: “When we launched it there wasn’t much around for the under-fives. Now there are lots of things like football and golf and the like.

She began dancing over 80 years ago and has never stopped

“Babies love the ballet. It’s very magical with great stories. It has been very successful.

“It’s a fantastic thing to be involved with. I just love it.”

During Covid-19 she gave free dance classes online via Zoom to a wide international audience. Her virtual international class has not only kept people physically fit but has been vital and indispensable in maintaining their mental wellbeing and participants included NHS workers.

In 2019, at 80 years old, she performed on The Greatest Dancer and went on to appear on national TV. At 81 she completed her Grade 8 and is now teaching Silver Swans and the Discovering Repertoire levels.