Two canceled trains and all-day rain have failed to put a damper on a royal occasion for a woman dubbed ‘Britain’s oldest ballet dancer’.
Barbara Peters, 84, born in Huddersfield, received the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s New Year Honors List.
And last week, Barbara and her daughter Claire O’Connor, founder of the babyballet franchise, accepted an invitation to a garden party at Buckingham Palace to celebrate with the royal family.
Despite two canceled trains which meant a detour to York before they could catch a train to London – and persistent rain – Barbara had a fabulous time.
“We had two canceled trains and it rained all day and the sky was gray but it didn’t matter at all,” Barbara said. “We had a great time and I was so honored to be invited.
“The gardens were beautiful to see and I’ve never had a buffet like this. Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were there and we were able to mingle.
Born and raised in Huddersfield, Barbara trained at the Royal Academy of Dance in London and became the academy’s youngest examiner at the age of 25.
She returned to Huddersfield in the 1960s and founded the Barbara Peters School of Dancing, which has helped generations of young dancers for half a century.
Barbara performed TV’s ‘The Greatest Dancer’ at the age of 80 and also appeared in ‘Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two’ and has been dubbed ‘Britain’s oldest ballet dancer’.
At 84, Barbara still dances and leads a group called Silver Swans at Dance Arena Ballet & Stage School in Brighouse. She is also studying for another ballet qualification.
Barbara, who recently became a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Dance after a lifelong association, is always busy.
“I’m 84 and people think you should hang up your ballet flats and watch TV, but if you’re lucky enough to still be mobile and fit, why not keep going?” she says.
Barbara has another TV appearance as she takes part in a new series by Dr. Michael Mosley called ‘How to Live to be 101’.
It’s about staying healthy and active well into old age and Barbara’s ballet class was also included in the shoot.
“It’s about showing how ballet keeps your muscles flexible and strong and improves balance,” she said. “It was very fun.”
Barbara admitted she suffered mentally during lockdown when isolated from family and friends, but a busy few months helped her get back into shape.
“I have to admit I was devastated the day after going to the Palace but London is always tiring,” she said. “This year has been very busy but I think I’m doing well!”
Claire, Barbara’s daughter, surprised her mother by decorating the train seats and handing her a belt with the slogan: “Queen for a day!”
Barbara said one of the best parts of the day was being able to spend some quality time with her daughter and Claire loved the day too.
“It was amazing to visit Buckingham Palace and celebrate with my mom,” Claire said. “I am so proud of all his accomplishments. She is such an inspiration.