SAMMY Murray has choreographed many hit TV dramas including Victoria, Endeavour and Grantchester.

She taught Victoria Wood to tap dance for Acorn Antiques the Musical, and has worked with other stars such as Emma Watson, Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton.

Now Sammy is helping older people to discover the pleasure and general wellbeing of dance. Her Ballet Swans classes, blending classical moves with fitness, are proving popular with people who are either taking up ballet for the first time or re-visiting it in later life.

The classes help with toning, core muscle strength, weight loss and stamina.

“There are lots of classes for younger people but not so many for the older generation,” says Sammy. “This is classic, simple, pure ballet and you don’t need any experience to join. Some ladies say: ‘It reminds me of when I did ballet as a child’. Others say: ‘I’ve always wanted to do this’.

“We do basic disciplines at the barre and floor work. It’s mainly designed to help the core. Some people have had hip replacements and bad backs and find it really helps to re-build their fitness.

“I’ve had ladies coming to class who’ve had cancer, shoulder replacements, bad knees, bunion operations.

“As well as being good for fitness, ballet exercise strengthens balance, improves posture and energy levels, and develops a lovely sense of wellbeing. It help you to 'walk tall'.

"One lady who came for the first time had tears in her eyes as she said to me: ‘I wish I’d found this class 20 years ago’. ​

“I look around the class and I get goosebumps. People get so much out of it. They love the feeling of gracefulness moving to the music, and the sense of escape from just turning off the phone for an hour. It takes you away from the everyday. No phones, no technology - it’s our little piece of heaven.

“It’s good for bringing down stress, and it’s a great way to socialise and make new friends. We organise social events together at Christmas and Easter.

"If you do something creative and joyful, it can help you live longer.”

Adds Sammy: “People often request music; sometimes we play a piece of music that means something to them. We dance to everything from Swan Lake to Tom Jones!”

​Sammy, a former Royal Ballet School pupil, started teaching dance exercise with BalletbeFit classes and went on to launch Ballet Swans in Saltaire. Now she has a new Ballet Swans class in Ilkley.

“You don’t have to be over-55 to join, but many older people find it offers them something that gyms and other dance classes don’t have,” she says. “It’s not just for women - we have two men coming along too.”

After training in ballet, Sammy learned jazz, tap and contemporary dance and enjoyed a successful West End theatre career, performing in such shows as 42nd Street, Sweet Charity and Beauty and the Beast.

She went on to work as a choreographer for film, TV and theatre. For period dramas such as ITV’s Victoria - a hit worldwide - she teaches a wide range of historic dance styles. “I’ve worked on every series of Victoria. Dances were introduced from Europe throughout Queen Victoria’s reign, and styles changed over the years," says Sammy. "I have to make sure the actors are confident in their steps. One of my biggest dance scenes was a ceilidh in a Scottish castle.

“In Grantchester I’ve worked on dance hall scenes and an after dinner party. There are often moves going on in the background which look spontaneous and casual when you watch them on telly, but they’re actually choreographed in great detail, because you have to get the period style just right. I did a scene with the children of Robson Green’s character; they were just dancing around while he was in the kitchen but I had to teach them very specific 1960s moves to make it look right.”

Sammy worked on a ballroom scene for Sally Wainwright’s forthcoming series Gentleman Jack, starring Suranne Jones as landowner and feminist Anne Lister, which was partly filmed in Bradford. She has also choreographed new Warner Bros. series A Discovery of Witches.

Sammy credits her much-missed friend Victoria Wood for her TV break. “If it wasn’t for Vic I wouldn’t have a television career,” she says. “I met her in theatre and she gave me the opportunity to work on the TV drama Ballet Shoes which she was in with Emma Watson.”

Sammy met Victoria when she was assistant choreographer on the stage musical of her popular soap spoof, Acorn Antiques. Sammy taught Victoria and Julie Walters to tap dance when they shared the role of Mrs Overall in the West End, and she later directed the show on its UK tour.

Sammy went on to choreograph Eric and Ernie, Victoria’s drama about the young Morecambe and Wise, and That Day We Sang, her TV musical inspired by the Manchester Children’s Choir. It was the last television production from Victoria before her death in 2016.

“I’ve worked with lots of people in this industry but there was something about Victoria, we hit it off instantly and she became a very close friend. She came to my wedding,” says Sammy. “I miss her such a lot, it’s such a huge loss when you think of what she would have created. She was coming to something very different when she became ill.

“I have a photo of her in my kitchen. I will always treasure the friendship we had. “

It was combining a busy job with running around after her young twins that led Sammy into dance fitness. “I was working away a lot and struggling to get to a gym,” she says. “I missed the fitness and discipline I’d had doing eight shows a week in the West End.”

She discovered BalletbeFit and became an instructor. “My twins are 10 now and I’m still racing around after them, but I love teaching because it helps me keep fit too.

“I find Ballet Swans particularly rewarding because it gives older people a chance to learn something new, have some fun and keep fit at the same time,” she adds.

“The disciplines I learned at the Royal Ballet School have helped me in life. Dance stays with you.”

* Sammy's Ballet Swans classes are:

Monday: Saltaire Ballet Swans at Victoria Hall, Saltaire, at 11.30am.

Tuesday: Ilkley Ballet Swans, at Ilkley Fitness Centre at 11.45am.

Wednesday: Saltaire Ballet Swans, Victoria Hall, Saltaire, at 11.15am.

Each class last an hour.

* For more information visit, email

or call 07831 847627.