Dancing through the ages

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Dancing through the ages


Save the last dance for me: Shirleyanne and Glenn Wright are hanging up their dancing shoes after 25 years of training debutantes.


GREAT dancers aren’t great because of their technique; they are great because of their passion.
And a passion for dance is something Glenn and Shirleyanne Wright of Leongatha certainly have.
However, their attributes do not end there. They also have a great deal of time and patience, having trained debutante couples for 25 years, totalling almost 2026 dancers – and that’s a lot of left feet.
Shirleyanne spent many years on the Debutante Ball committee and helping out at practices before finally taking over with husband Glenn, at the insistence of former trainer, Jack Roughead.
Although the couple has never been formally trained in dancing, they learnt through many nights attending balls whilst growing up.
“We just loved to dance; that’s all we did when we were teenagers going out,”  Shirleyanne said.
“We used to dance three or four times a week.”
Shirleyanne fondly remembered her parents attending football club balls and with four girls in the family, her father taking turns to dance with them all.
“You get an appreciation for the music,”  Shirleyanne said.
“We say to the kids today, ‘we know it’s not your type of music’, but I think the majority of them appreciate learning to dance and the time and effort we put it.
“It is a big commitment.”

A history of dedication: this photo featured on the front page of The Star in 2004, stating Glenn and Shirleyanne deserved a medal after 18 years training debs. Seven years later, they deserve a trophy!

This year, after the balls on April 8 and 9, after endless hours of training and 80 debutante balls,  Shirleyanne and Glenn will finally be hanging up their dancing shoes.
“It’s time,”  Shirleyanne said when asked why now.
“Glenn still plays cricket, while dancing was my sport, but he’s getting near retiring age too.
“I think back to when we were 16, anyone in their 30s, let alone 40s, were over the hill and I think ‘What must they think we are?’”
Shirleyanne admits a lot has changed over the quarter of a decade they have been volunteering their time.
“I’ve always said two words: respect and discipline. Now I add a third word: attitude.”
“We are strict, but we’ve had a reputation to live up to from when Jack used to train. The Leongatha Netball Deb Balls have been known for their standard, so we’ve just tried to uphold that.”
And what else has changed from 1987 to today?
“The dress,”  Shirleyanne exclaimed.
“They were more covered up. Twenty-five years ago it was puffed sleeves and bows!”
And there are some things  Shirleyanne and Glenn will never understand about the younger generation.
“They don’t dance together male and female. It’s boys dance with the boys, and girls dance with the girls. In our time, you couldn’t wait to dance with the boys,”  Shirleyanne said and laughed.
“They just really stand and bop, for want of a better word.”
But no matter the era, she said the highlight of training the debs remains the same.
“I love to see the kids dance,”  Shirleyanne said.
“And the transformation that takes place on the night.”
Many of the young people taking part enjoy it for the same reasons.
“Sometimes you see the boys in particular, are a bit blasé but as soon as you put a suit on them there’s a whole new demeanor – and they think they look pretty good,”  Shirleyanne said laughing.
“Not everyone can be Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but the important thing is that they try their best,”  Shirleyanne said.
“Seeing them dance beautifully on the night – that’s the
real reward.”

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Posted by on Apr 5 2011. Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Community. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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