AS a child, Shirley Payton dreamed of going to ballet classes but her parents could not afford it.

Now, more than six decades later, her dream has finally come true!

“It makes you feel alive and is good for the soul,” she enthused.

Mrs Payton, aged 74, is part of a graceful group of “Silver Swans” who are not letting age be a barrier to ballet.

Each week the ladies – ranging in age from 55 to 80 – flock to the Janet Lomas School of Dance to practise their pliés and pas de chevals.

Joining Mrs Payton, of Overstones Road, Turton , is 78 year-old Mrs Judi Northam of Princess Road, Lostock.

They are just two of the many balletomanes who are making the most of their senior years by travelling to Bury to take part in the classes at Blackford Bridge United Reformed Church.

The classes are taught by Johanna Hadley who was one of only 120 teachers in the world who was licensed to teach Silver Swans when the renowned Royal Academy of Dance first launched the classes in September.

“Silver Swans is very inclusive. It’s for people aged 55 and older and accommodates all abilities — from professionals to those who have never done a step of ballet in their life,” she said.

“I teach simplified and very gentle ballet with the more strenuous elements, like leaping and twisting, removed.”

Each term the class focuses on a particular ballet and then learn simplified repertoires from them. Since the sessions started in September, the ladies have worked their way through The Nutcracker and Coppelia and are currently practising Swan Lake.

“I enjoy the music, the exercise and the friendships I have made. I look forward to it every week,” said Mrs Payton.

Mrs Northam said she loves everything about the classes – the ballet, the music and the social side.

“I did ballet from the age of three to six and then from eight to sixteen. I had an ambition to be a ballet dancer but I wasn’t good enough so I went into nursing instead,” she said.

Far from being an elitist or an exclusive hobby, the classes are for everyone and there is no upper age limit.

“You can be tall, short, fat or thin, it really doesn’t matter,” said Mrs Northam.

“It improves your concentration, your balance, your co-ordination, your fitness and your poise. I am enjoying it.”