It may be 40 years since they last hit the dance floor, but local ballroom duo Anne Fraser and John Templeton are proving age is no barrier when it comes to enjoying the many benefits of dance, as Ingrid Nelson discovers.
Ask anyone who knows me and they will attest to my absolute love of ballroom dancing. The glitz, the glamour, the bling, the fake tan … I love it all!
I vividly recall the very first lesson my mum took me along to as a child and being mesmerised by the music and in awe of the dance couples moving together as one in perfect unison, not to mention the stunning costumes.
Some of my fondest memories are of my dancing days and they came flooding back to me recently as I watched local dance couple Anne Fraser and John Templeton waltz effortlessly across the floor at Templeton Dance Studio in Eumundi.
This isn’t your average dance couple either. Remarkably, Anne and John were a competitive ballroom duo more than 40 years ago and after both enjoying successful careers as teachers in different fields, Anne in jazz and ballet and John in ballroom, they have recently reconnected and are hitting the competitive dance scene as a couple once more.
Unfortunately, these days people are time poor and they want instant results but you have to work hard for the rewards.”
“I have been dancing and teaching ballroom for a long time,” says John. “Anne and I competed for almost seven years back in the ‘70s before a knee injury took me off the dance floor for some time and we went our separate ways. Anne started her own jazz and ballet dance studio, which is still highly regarded on the Coast today.”
Although the couple kept in contact over the years, both referring dance students to each other from time to time, they had not danced together since their youth, until recently when John finally took the plunge and invited Anne back onto the ballroom dance floor.
“Even though I was teaching, I was really missing the social aspect of dancing with a partner so I made the call to Anne and suggested she come back to ballroom as my partner again, and thankfully she said yes!” says John.
Despite Anne’s commitments with her dance school, where she still has a hands-on role, she didn’t hesitate to accept John’s offer.
“I thought about my busy life, but I missed ballroom and it wasn’t until I got back into it that I realised just how much I missed it. I love the social connections you make with ballroom and although
I love teaching, I jumped at the opportunity to dance for myself again.”
Now known as Dancesport, ballroom has come a long way during the past decade, with popular TV shows such as Channel Seven’s Dancing with the Stars influencing the comeback of what was once known as somewhat of an “old fashioned” style of dance. But despite its modernisation, both John and Anne agree the basics really haven’t changed.
“It’s just our ages that have changed really,” John quips.
“It all comes down to good technique and hard work,” adds Anne. “Unfortunately, these days people are time poor and they want instant results but you have to work hard for the rewards.”
And work hard they do! In fact, the talented couple is about to compete in their first competition just a few months after reuniting under the tutelage of John’s nephew, champion ballroom dancer, Luke Brown, and John couldn’t be prouder.
“Even though Luke started his ballroom dance career with me as his teacher, he has gone on to learn from other great teachers in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and overseas. He has trained much higher than I ever did and is more qualified, so I enjoy learning from him now,” says John.
But Luke is quick to point out his appreciation for the strong foundations his uncle instilled in him as a young dancer and says he still uses those techniques with his students today.
“It is an honour to pass on what I have learnt to John and he is an awesome student, as is Anne,” says Luke. “Nothing is too hard and they always try their best no matter what I throw at them. John provided me the opportunity to travel and have lessons all over the world but I still use the techniques and even the words he used when he taught me all those years ago.”
I was lucky enough to see Anne and John in full swing as they rehearsed for an upcoming competition in costume on the day of our interview and despite being more mature than when they originally partnered in their 30s, both look fit and fabulous thanks to the hours spent in the dance studio.
Donning an elegant white ballgown, Anne’s slender limbs glide effortlessly across the dance floor, John’s strong frame-hold guiding her with ease. Her black latin costume is just as glamorous as they heat things up with a cha-cha.
“The costumes have changed a lot over the years,” says Anne. “They were more conservative when I last competed. It took 75 metres of tulle for the underneath of a ball gown and the latin dresses were more fluffy with less skin exposed,” she laughs.
The attire might have changed but one thing is clear, people from all walks of life continue to love to dance and Luke is passionate about sharing the benefits of partner dancing with the Sunshine Coast community.
“Ballroom hasn’t changed, it’s the atmosphere that has changed. There are not as many places to do it anymore. People love to see couples get up and dance. When John was starting out it was a very common thing to have dozens of couples up on the RSL floor, now you would be hard pressed to find one couple, I want to change that. The health benefits are wonderful too and it doesn’t have an age barrier, it doesn’t discriminate, it’s for everyone to enjoy!”
So what advice would Anne give to those thinking of taking some ballroom dance lessons? “Don’t hesitate, just get out there,” she says.
Couldn’t have said it better myself. Now where did I put my dance shoes?