How dancing is getting Doncaster’s over 55s fit
The rhythms are Latin. So are the dance moves.
A group of women are enthusiastically embracing the beat in a small classroom in a former a primary school building, as their leader calls out the next move.
But there’s nothing Latin about the venue. This is not Ecuador – its Edlington.
Today there are half a dozen in the group. Some days it is more, with as many as 35 having thrown themselves into sessions in the past.
Most of them have not done serious dancing for many years. perhaps when they used to pack the dance floor at venues like the Top Rank club in Doncaster town centre in the 60s and 70s.
But now, they have signed up for sessions paid for by Sport England to get the borough’s women back on the dancefloor.
It is a world away from the smoke filled clubs of their youth, but the women taking part in the latest session, at the Hilltop Centre in Edlington, are throwing themselves into the dancing just as much as they did all those years ago.
Officials at the Doncaster community arts group Darts have turned to dance as part of a scheme to get women across the borough moving.
They have recruited professional dance artist Charlotte Armitage to run the sessions.
The scheme was drawn up because of concerns there had been identified that there were not enough opportunities for women aged over 55 to get active.
Charlotte is working to change that.
She said: “We want to change that by offering something different.
“There are lots of groups for things like craft or social cafes, but not being active and raising the heart rate for 10 minutes a day. There is yoga and tai chi, but nothing like this.”
The Dance On sessions started in September, with enough money behind them to run them for two years. The plan is to make sure they are sustainable in the long run too, so that they keep going after that time.
The first sessions were run at The Point. Now they are also taking place at the Hill Top Centre, at Polton Close Community Centre in Stainforth, and at Thorne Moorends Miner’s Welfare Centre.
Charlotte is relishing trying something new.
In the past, her work has seen her choreographing shows and performing in places as diverse as London theatres and Whitby Goth Weekend.
The 44-year-old said: “This really interests me, and this sort of thing is becoming more and more common. People have realised that we can keep people well and prevent illness by keeping them fit and well.
“The most important think is that is fun. It is bespoke for the group. We’re creative and we’ll do every dance style you can imagine – if the group wants to do it, we’ll try to engineer it.
“This group have done Irish, they’ve done Bollywood and today they're dong Samba.”
The women taking part come from the local estates – and say the Bollywood styles sessions have been their favourites.
Marion Fleming, aged 67, of Balby, a former receptionist at the Martinwells Centre in Edlington, loves the group and comes every week.
She said: "I think its fair to say none of us are very fit. But we come here and laugh a lot.
“We do lots of dances in a lot of different styles, and I've enjoyed them all, although the one I loved doing the most was the Bollywood style one."
Mary York, also of Edlington, is a 69-year-old retired nurse who worked in the operating theatre at Doncaster Royal Infirmary.
She heard about the Dance on Doncaster sessions at the Hilltop Centre while doing yoga at the same venue. Her yoga class finished, and she signed up for the dance group, along with some friends.
"I like it because it's a bit of fun," she said.
"My favourite has been the Bollywood dancing, too."
Carol McEwan, 68, from Edlington, a former council care officer, said she loved dancing in her younger days and used to go for a bop at the Top Rank club in the town centre in the 60s.
But she has mixed memories of 60s music. She once fainted at a Small Faces gig at the Doncaster Gaumont and thinks it was through dehydration as she danced.
Their has has been no fainting at the sessions at Hill Top though and she agreed the sessions were good fun.
Group member Connie Parkin, 77, used to run the Markham Main Officials Club in Edlington, holding sequence dances there.
But she said in those days, she too busy to dance herself.
She said: "It's good to keep active. We used to go to Zumba at one time, although I was never really a big dancer. This has been fun though."
Jackie Hobbs, 68, of Edlington, a former employee at the village's Wavin factory, said she and her pals had previously been regular line dancers, back in the 90s.
"We used to go every night, pretty much," she said. "We used to go to the Granby, to Wath, Bentley and Dunsville, all for the line dancing.
"We like coming here. We don't judge each others dancing - we just do it and have a laugh."
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