Why Yorkshire's oldest ballerina proved a hit on The Greatest Dancer

It is nearly eight decades since she first donned a leotard - but Britain's oldest ballerina puts her ability to carry on dancing to a high standard down to luck, genes and 'not stopping.'

At the barre: Barbara Peters
At the barre: Barbara Peters

Mrs Peters, 81, from Greetland, Halifax, proved it is never tutu old to dance, wowing judges and the audience on Saturday’s hit BBC dance audition show, The Greatest Dancer.

Judges Cheryl, Matthew Morrison and Oti Mabuse were all on their feet as the mirror opened after Mrs Peters - who practices her pliés while putting on the kettle - won more than 75 per cent of the votes, getting her through to the next round.

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Mrs Peters, who watched the show from her home on Saturday night, with her family around her, said when the mirror opened it was a “bit of a surprise, a bit of a shock,” adding: “I didn’t think it special. It is just me.”

Barbara is still teaching at the age of 81

The great-grandmother, who has been dancing since she was two, only recently got her grade eight award from the Royal Academy of Dance on the same day her granddaughter, Mia, 11, got her grade two.

Asked the secret of her long dance career, Mrs Peters, who ran her own dance school in Huddersfield for over 50 years, but only returned to dancing herself three or four years ago, said: “I put it down to not stopping. Dancing is what I do.

“If you stop - go to university - then in 10 or 15 years you want to go back, that’s quite hard because the body had got set in a different way.

“I’ve always done it - I had three children in three years and three weeks off for each baby.”

She has been dancing for almost eight decades

Her passion for ballet has seen her own offspring - two boys and one girl - and eight grandchildren, also boys and girls, dance.

She took her first dance exam when she was just nine-years-old and had achieved grade five by the time she was 12.

She gained a place at the Royal Academy of Dance to train as a ballet teacher in 1956 and opened her own school six years later - which became the Barbara Peters School of Dance - aged just 24, going onto to teach many thousands of children to dance.

The school on Market Walk remained open until five years ago.

Mrs Peters still teaches with the company babyballet she founded with her daughter Claire O’Connor for pre-school children and thanks “her lucky stars” that she has been able to carry on doing what she loves.

She builds in dance and exercise into her everyday routines - but insists she is no fanatic. She eats what she likes and has the odd glass of wine - but all in moderation.

She said: “While I am waiting for the kettle I will be rising onto my demi-pointes, or stretching my back or doing pliés. Your body is an instrument if you are a dancer, so you have to keep it in tune.

“I don’t do any aerobic type exercise apart from dancing, which I do all the time.

“The only other thing I do is walking quite a lot in the summer, for a couple of miles.

"If I was ill or had arthritis I couldn’t do these things.

“You have to be so grateful and thankful and I thank my lucky stars every day.

"I have lots of friends who have been dancers but are not fortunate enough to be able to keep doing it - a lot of it is luck and genes.”

Impressing the judges

Mrs Peters chose a “gentle, lyrical, expressive” routine to dance on the TV show, and was delighted afterwards to see comments from ex-pupils “saying lovely things and how they had fond happy memories of when they were dancing.”

It also impressed judge Cheryl, who said: “I used to do ballet when I was young. You’ve inspired me to want to get back into it. Because if I can get back into ballet and end up looking like you at 80 years old, job done.”

Dance captain Matthew was moved to join her on stage for a waltz.

Mrs Peters said it was “just a bit of banter” - but had made her younger friends “who think he is dishy very envious.”