At Age 97, Ballet Dancer Joyce Harper is Still on Point

Joyce Harper began dancing more than 70 years ago, and she's still at it.

A 97-year-old British woman says what keeps her alive, and on her toes, is her lifelong love of ballet.

Joyce Harper still teaches twice a week at the same school she set up in 1946. Her students range in age from 2 to 16. Teaching them is what "keeps me alive," she said.

Harper, from Bristol, has been rewarded for generations of service to dance with a Member of the Most Excellent Order bestowed by Princess Anne.

Miss Harper, as she is called, has never married. Her charges are her life. "I have taught ballet to generations of children," she said. "I've seen some right through from when they were little ones, and then see them coming back with their own children and grandchildren."

She wouldn't know what to do with herself if she didn't have her school and her students, she said. "It keeps me going, it keeps me interested."

She danced as a child, but was never very serious about it, she said. But after World War II dragged to a close, she thought she would like to teach. "So I went and took my exams and set up the dance school in 1946," she said.

Four years, she broke an arm and a leg, but she fought her way back.

"I'm not as active as I used to be, since I had the accident," she said. "I can't move around the room like I used to."

But her students don't care. 

Fellow teacher Rosemary Carrington, 59, says Harper is sharp as a tack.

"Mentally, she's still all there. She's so active. We all love her," she said.