Sprightly Maureen Leathley is believed to be Britain’s oldest ballerina – at the ripe old age of 91!
Maureen began dancing in 1938 at the tender age of 12 and went on to tour the country with operatic companies as a prima ballerina.
The nonagenarian still loves to dance and 79 years on she regularly takes to the floor to practice her routines at a community centre she attends five days a week.
Maureen, who never married, even became an associate of The Royal Ballet School.
Despite battling the early stages of dementia, Maureen continues to defy the odds and perform as an on-pointe ballerina.
She even puts down her youthful looks down to daily exercise and the moves which moulded her into a prima ballerina.
Speaking about her early love of dance, Maureen, of Hull East Yorks., said: “My mother worked many jobs to pay for my dance classes.
“She was a very good waitress.
“We weren’t wealthy people, so she changed my life by allowing me to dance.”
Maureen, who still lives independently and has no other family, went on to run her own dance school.
She starred in operatic performances around the country, while choreographing many of the pieces herself.
Maureen said: “I loved everything about it – I was fortunate to dance on stages all around the country.
“I can’t remember them all now, but I can remember that a lot of the time the costumes didn’t fit, so you had to make do.
“If we needed more dancers in a certain place, I would go to the nearest dance school, ask for six or so of their best dancers and teach them the choreography for the night’s performance.”
While Miss Leathley still exudes the gracefulness required of a prima ballerina, and still has a cheeky twinkle in her eye while singing some of her favourite show songs, she is the first to admit how painful dancing is.
Speaking about the pain she went through, Maureen said: “For a lot of the dances you were required to stand on the knuckle of your toes, meaning you had to keep them bandaged up so the blood didn’t soak through while waiting in the wings.
“It was the pirouettes that especially hurt and made your feet rub – you have to really love what you are doing as a ballerina.”
She added: “But, if you can do ballet, you can do anything.”
Now suffering with dementia, Miss Leathley attends Endike Community Care five days a week, and with the help of staff has written down some of her memoirs.
She said: “I don’t always remember my appointments or what I had for lunch, but I remember what I did in the time that was mine.”
A Endike Community Care spokesperson said: “Maureen is a trooper – and she’s still going strong at the age of 91.
“We love seeing her every weekday to see how she’s doing and what she’s been up to – she’s still very independent.
“Her memory box is a wonderful piece of art and despite her forgetting her day-to-day activities – she will never forget she was a wonderful ballerina.”
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