Updated: Aug 28
She had always danced. When she was really little she and her friends would put on her Mum and Dad’s records and dance in the lounge room. She was around 5 years old when she started ballet lessons, and discovered that dance class is the best way to find your happy place.
Step out of your comfort zone
Being one of those people who just loved to dance, Marg Whelan has always been someone who would step out of her comfort zone if it meant she could dance. But just because she would step out of her comfort zone, it doesn’t mean she found it easy. It’s just that she knew what the reward for doing so was worth.
“I learnt ballet and did a bit of modern and jazz. And danced until I was around 15 or 16. I was quite heavily into it. I went back to it again when I was at uni and did classes with Elizabeth Dalman. That was confronting actually. I wanted to dance again and because I was studying in the city I thought I’d go in there. When they asked what dancing I’d done before, I told them and they they recommended a class, and it was with the ADT dancers. I think they overestimated me, and I struggled to keep up. But I hung in there.”
But as a young teacher in training, there came that inevitable time where Marg had to leave the city of head out to the country for her first teaching gig.
“When I first went out to the country teaching I stopped dancing, and it wasn’t until my kids were dancing that I got brave enough to do a dance class at the school they went to, and hung in from there.”
Actually, that’s where I first met Marg. I was also at the same dance school, which was Tenison College of Dance. I taught her son Ben, and her daughter Kate was one of the founding dancers in the original Dragonfly Dance performing company (then called Move Through Life) when we started in 2004. So you can imagine how delighted I was when she signed up for our Mature Dance class in Morphett Vale, and then eventually joined my Seacliff morning class.
Moving past the obstacles
She danced for years at Tenison, but then she was forced once again to stop dancing because of a frozen shoulder.
“My shoulder was so painful and it took me out of it for about four years. I wanted to get back into it and thought belly dancing was something I could do while recovering, and it doesn’t have as much movement in the shoulders. And I love the femininity and the female energy of it. I have been doing that for quite a few years now. But I jumped at the opportunity to join Dragonfly Dance’s classes when I heard of it. I guess my first love is, not necessarily ballet, but some sort of jazz / modern / contemporary.”
“I’ve always loved to dance and Dragonfly Dance has given me an opportunity to take classes as a mature dancer and there’s not many opportunities out there for mature people.”
Taking a step beyond fear
You’d think that someone with a lifetime of dance behind her, Marg would be very confident joining a dance class for mature dancers, wouldn’t you? But even she had some misgivings about starting something new.
“I wondered if I’d be able to do it. Will I be able to keep up? Will the teacher push on and leave me behind? As you get older, you realise you don’t have the body you used to have and can’t move the same way. But the stuff I read about Dragonfly Dance gave me the impression that it was very inviting and non-threatening, and it gave me the confidence to get in the door and meet the teacher. And then after that first time, you realise that it is for everybody. It’s welcoming and very supportive.”
Exercise that’s not a chore
Her weekly dance class has given Marg a great deal of pleasure, and helped her to kill two birds with one stone.
“I’m not a keen exerciser. Certainly running has never interested me. I find the gym boring and repetitive. So Dragonfly Dance has given me an avenue to exercise that I will go and do and enjoy doing. It motivates me to exercise and participate with others too. I can get on in my own little world and spend a lot of time alone, and it’s lovely to have the class there that I go to because I want to and it gives me the opportunity to see likeminded people as well, who are enjoying the same thing.”
An emotional connection
Marg can’t even imagine what her life would have been like without dance in it.
“I just feel that dancing and even going to performances and losing myself in the dance has given me a lot of pleasure and a happy place to go through my life. It’s an emotional connection, and joy. I enjoy music but dancing takes music to another level when you enjoy moving to music and expressing yourself.”
Dance has given me the opportunity to express myself through movement, even when doing steps someone else has choreographed. I can put my own style into it. It takes me into myself, my true self, and I feel connected with my spirit in some way, and can express myself through dance without needing words. For me there is some deep connection with the essence of me I get through dance. And coming to dance classes really lifts my spirit. I always feel happy and feel endorphins.”
Balance, flexibility and fitness
But it’s not just the emotional and spiritual aspect. Marg also commented in the physical, mental and social benefits.
“I know that my balance has improved, and flexibility and fitness. Even with having had frozen shoulders I still have some restriction of movement, which in my normal life isn’t apparent, but when dancing I extend it a bit further so it really keeps that moving.”
“I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older I don’t feel as secure in my balance. It’s not a huge problem, but I’ve just been aware, when gardening or generally moving around. I just feel a bit safer since my balance has improved. Even things like travelling. If I go on a trip and have to do a lot of walking, I just feel that the dance class helps me prepare for that sort of thing as well. My improved flexibility helps me with everyday stuff, just doing the housework, gardening. It makes me more able to do those things and I don’t suffer consequences after doing heavier work in the garden.”
“It’s also that concentration, remembering routines and following instructions. It’s good to be challenged. Socially, I’ve enjoyed meeting new people and developing new friendships. That’s been a real bonus!”
And one of the things she loves about dance is that it’s not a chore.
“If I go to the gym I’m sitting there thinking ‘how many more of these do I need to do?’ Whereas when I’m dancing it just takes me somewhere else. I’m just totally with my body, and what I’m doing and the music. So I think that’s an important part of it. I’m a real thinker. I can spend hours thinking and trying to sort things out and solve problems and whatever. Often that’s good, but I can just go into my head and send myself crazy. Dance is an escape in some ways. It takes me to a positive place. Not just away from whatever is bothering me. It transports me to a lovely place.”
I asked Marg what she’d say to someone thinking about starting a dance class.
“I’d say give it a go! No matter what you past experience is. If you’ve ever thought about dancing, come along. Especially at Dragonfly Dance. Everyone is welcome. I would share my experience of how inclusive it is, which is what I’ve done when people have asked. There are people there who have never danced, and people who have. It just doesn’t matter.”
Dragonfly Dance offers dance classes to adults of all ages in ballet, contemporary, jazz, and tap. We pride ourselves on offering you a place to indulge your love of dance, whether you’re a complete beginner, had a long break from dance, or danced all your life. Our classes have a broad mix of ages, and our philosophy is that you are never too old to dance, it is never too late to start, and you can dance forever!
If you have any questions, give us a call on 08 7073 2069 email@example.com