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Raising the Barre: Senior Women Reclaim Their Confidence Through Ballet



Quick Smiles:

  • Golden Swans, a group of senior women, embrace ballet and find joy, grace, and friendship in dance classes offered by the Oklahoma City Ballet.
  • Led by ballet pro Macaira Pinto, the Golden Swans focus on feeling beautiful, improving posture, and enhancing balance and flexibility rather than aiming for perfection.
  • These inspiring women defy age stereotypes, proving that it’s never too late to pursue your passion, find confidence, and build a supportive community.

Step aside, youngsters! The ballet barre in Oklahoma City has become a hotspot for a group of extraordinary women who are proving that age is just a number.

They’re not your ordinary ballerinas; they’re the Golden Swans!

These fabulous senior ladies, aged 50 and above, have taken center stage at the Oklahoma City Ballet, twirling through pliés, tendus, and relevés under the expert guidance of the fabulous Macaira Pinto.

And guess what? These twice-weekly dance classes are not only good for the soul, but they’re also absolutely free!

For the Golden Swans, grace is the name of the game. But here’s the secret sauce: it’s not about being perfect, but rather about feeling beautiful and embracing their own unique style.

As Pinto puts it, “We just want them to be the most gorgeous ‘Swan’ that they can be. Not to worry about being an ugly duckling.”

So, if their grand battement reaches 45 degrees instead of the full 180, who cares? It’s all about dancing with joy and passion!


But why the name “Golden Swans”? Well, it’s a nod to both the program’s 50-plus-age students and their golden 50-year anniversaries, as well as the legendary ballet “Swan Lake.” These ladies truly embody the spirit of grace, elegance, and enduring beauty both on and off the stage.

The Golden Swans program was originally started by the charismatic Laura Jane Ward in 2015, and although she’s no longer with us, her legacy lives on through the tutus and pliés. Macaira Pinto, the ballet pro extraordinaire, has taken the reins, working her magic to enhance the participants’ flexibility, posture, and stability.

These skills aren’t just essential for ballerinas; they’re superpowers for seniors, helping them maintain their balance, prevent falls, and feel independent.

Let’s meet some of these sensational swans!

Lise Hilboldt, a 69-year-old former actor who once shared the screen with the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer and Diane Lane, found her groove with the Golden Swans last year. Not only did she learn the art of intentional movements, but her ballet skills even came to the rescue during a shopping mall mishap.

As Hilbolt humorously recalls, “I collided into this heavy guy and I went flying… I landed in a plié. It was like he threw me across the floor, and I landed in plié… That’s something I learned as an adult — how to think through my limbs. My hands, my hips… Everything is said through movement, and you think through your body.”


Then there’s Robin Martin, a 72-year-old ballet aficionado who danced her way through three decades and even snagged the role of the Snow Queen in the Nutcracker. Life took some unexpected turns, but the Golden Swans resurrected her confidence and brought back the twinkle in her eyes.

“As you age, life beats you down, you kind of lose your confidence and things like that… (These classes) resurrected all that for me,” Martin shares with a sparkle in her voice.

And let’s not forget the unstoppable Nancy Brawner, who embarked on her ballet journey in her 60s, proving that it’s never too late to pirouette into the spotlight.

With a reflective smile, Brawner says, “It’s kind of brave to step out and try ballet at 80 years old… Everything else comes to a halt when it’s ballet time. The ballet takes precedence.”

Bravo, Nancy! You’re an inspiration to us all, showing that age is just a number when it comes to pursuing your dreams.

Since its inception, the Golden Swans program has spread its wings and now boasts over five locations throughout the metro area, including retirement living centers. Similar ballet classes for seniors have been popping up across the country, proving that the joy of dance knows no boundaries.


And guess what? The Golden Swans have even embraced technology to ensure that no one misses a beat.

Carol Sokatch, an 88-year-old Golden Swan and member of the women-only piloting program the Ninety-Nines, has joined the virtual dance sessions. Attending class online hasn’t slowed her down one bit.

Sokatch joyfully shares, “It doesn’t matter what your body image is. You just go ahead and enjoy the motion… When I started out, I used a cane (in classes). Now I’m not using a cane.”

Beyond the physical benefits, the Golden Swans have discovered a newfound sisterhood. Through the ups and downs of life, these amazing women have become each other’s pillars of strength.

Whether it’s checking in on one another, giving rides to classes, or offering support in and outside of the studio, the Golden Swans have formed a bond that goes far beyond the dance floor.

Emotionally recharged and physically invigorated, the Golden Swans inspire us all to chase our dreams, no matter our age.


So, let their graceful movements remind you to embrace life with passion, dance to the rhythm of your own heart, and always remember that it’s never too late to shine in the spotlight.

As these Golden Swans take flight, they show us that the magic of ballet knows no limits, and the joy of dance can be found at any stage of life.

Keep spreading your wings, Golden Swans, and continue to inspire us all with your grace, resilience, and unbreakable spirit.