By Aliki Kraterou
A gran has been dubbed one of the UK’s oldest ballerinas after taking up ballet aged 71.
Pensioner Angela Gabbot, from Tewkesbury, Gloucs, overcame heart problems, asthma and arthritis to pass her Grade One exam with merit even though she has only been taking classes for a year.
As a young girl the retiree wasn’t encouraged to start ballet because she was told she ‘wasn’t the type’ due to her 5ft5in height, bigger build and size seven feet – even though she really wanted to.
But in September last year she decided to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a ballerina and start lessons – and now can perform plies and pirouettes with aplomb.
Married mum-of-two Angela said: “Ever since I can remember, I have loved ballet, but I was always too self-conscious to do it.
“I was not a dainty little girl, and I was told I ‘wasn’t the type’.
“I am not big, I am 5ft5in but when I was a child you had to be daintier.
“Last year I heard about some adult ballet classes, and thought ‘why not?’
“I also wanted to keep fit, as 70 is really the time when people need to be working harder to keep fit.
“The experience has been fantastic, especially as I have always wanted to do it.
“The thing I love the most about ballet is the movement to music, the freedom, the expression, the use of the whole body.
“It’s uplifting, it’s good for the soul, it’s an all-round good experience.”
Angela, who is gran to eight-year-old twins Elijah and Sebastian, was extra proud to pass her Grade One as her heart condition meant she was forced to stop and use a ‘heart spray’ halfway through the exam.
She had also had an operation to pin the bones in her foot just before the test, but this didn’t stop her performing the perfect plie.
Angela, who lives with husband Joseph, also suffers from an autoimmune disease called Sjogren’s but is in excellent physical condition as she exercises regularly through dancing and swimming and says dancing and especially yoga has helped her with tiredness and lower back problems.
She is now working towards her Grade Two qualifications at the Hilary Saxby School of Dancing in Evesham’s Health Hub.
Angela said: “I will keep going with my ballet of course, but in the future I would like to try something different too, such as jazz classes or modern dance.
“There are some other ladies who do ballet, but none of them are my age.
“I believe I must be one of the UK’s oldest ballet dancers.
“I would recommend other women not to be hesitant – find a good class and go for it.”