The graceful art of ballet is usually the preserve of young girls, with only those dedicated enough to progress to professional level continuing into adulthood.
But now a new age of dancers can be found taking to the barre in Sheffield and North Derbyshire.
Noodle Ballet Fit is a adult exercise class using classic ballet steps to tone, sculpt and strengthen the body launched by Noodle Performance Arts, based in Beighton
Run from community venues in Sheffield and Chesterfield, the workouts were thought up by dance teacher Natalie Neale as a way for more mature ladies to keep fit while reliving an element of their youth.
Natalie, aged 31, of Balborough, says: “I danced from the age of three with hopes of going professional, but after several audition knock backs due to my height of 5ft 9in, I got a regular day job and continued to dance as a hobby,
“I noticed just how difficult it was to find adult ballet classes that weren’t regimented. I thought there must be others like me who enjoyed dancing growing up and wanted to continue, without taking it too seriously.”
Upon taking up a part-time job with Noodle Performance Arts, Natalie put forward her idea of Ballet Fit to director Nikki Johnson, who gave the green light.
The sessions, which kicked off in February, are open to ladies of all ages and ability, who are encouraged to dust off their ballet pumps, or even take to the boards barefoot, to give it a go.
Attendees at the group in Beighton range from those in their late teens to early fifties and include an ex-professional ballerina as well as ladies who, up until recently, thought a frappé was simply an iced-drink.
Beginner Lauren Brooker, from Hackenthorpe, caught the ballet bug after seeing sessions advertised when dropping off her three-year-old daughter Ruby for a ballet class at the centre.
The 31-year-old says: “Reaching my thirties I’d noticed I’d put on a bit of weight so was keen to slim down and tone up.
“I despise the gym – I join and never go, so I wanted something challenging, engaging and enjoyable.
“In just two months I’ve got a definition in my abs and my bum is back to what it was like at 21.
“The classes bring back fond childhood memories – for me there’s no better feeling than putting on my ballet shoes and feeling like a ballerina, despite my age.
“Myself and Ruby can often be found practising our pliés together in the front room.”
* For more information about the Noodle Ballet Fit classes, visit Noodle Performance Arts
There are no old ladies playing classical tunes on a dusty piano at Noodle’s classes – instead the dancers are more likely to be found pirouetting to the sounds of Ellie Goulding and Bon Jovi.
Natalie says: “The class is split into two halves.
“The first part focuses on a cardio warm up, then limbering up at the barre, which increases flexibility and mostly consists of core, back and leg exercises.
“During the second part of the class we take to the floor to do proper ballet steps such as battements frappés, developes and pose turns. These are done repetitively to tone and strengthen muscles, while providing a great workout.
“The ladies have a lot to think about – posture, positioning and balance. They need to be aware of their eye-line and the positioning of their rib cage, tummy and bum to hold themselves correctly.”
In addition to expert Natalie, the group is fortunate enough to have former professional ballerina Lisa Bates in their company to help critique.
Lisa, aged 46, from Beighton says: “Despite dancing professionally for several years, the classes still challenge me. I help the ladies where I can by demonstrating the steps – it’s hard work but we have a right giggle.
“Some ladies struggle to remember the steps’ names so they’ve made their own up – a ‘turny spinny thing’ is a pirouette, a grande battement is a ‘bad man’ and Natalie’s killer leg move is the ‘criss cross’.”
However, it is not all laughs and jokes – the ladies have a competitive side too. At the end of each class dancers are invited to take part in a splits challenge to see how low they can go. There is also a planking challenge, the title for which is currently held by fitness instructor Sasha Hurdley.
The 29-year-old, of Frecheville, says: “It’s the one thing I have on the other girls. I can hold a plank for about five minutes, but I’m totally new to ballet.
“I’m used to doing high intensity classes with equipment, but I love how ballet works totally different groups of muscles, it’s already strengthened my legs and abs.
“If I can do it, having never been to a ballet class before, anyone can.”
* Began dancing aged eight at June Fletcher’s Ballet School, Sheffield
* Aged 15 secured a place at The Legat School of Dance, a Russian ballet school in East Sussex
* Performed at venues across England’s south coast with the school’s touring company, Legat Ballet Classique
* Won the prestigious Nadine Nicolaeva Legat Memorial Scholarship award in 1986 to help fund dancing career
* Upon graduating performed cabaret dance in Greece
* Professional dancing career brought to an end in 1989 due to a shoulder/back injury
* Continued dancing as a hobby at the June D Gill school in Broomhill, before joining Noodle Ballet Fit in February.