Kevin Bennion has been dancing for 67 years and founded Dance Experience 60 years ago. Mr Bennion is dancing with Jane Di Bella.
Kevin Bennion has been dancing for 67 years and founded Dance Experience 60 years ago. Mr Bennion is dancing with Jane Di Bella. Contributed

Kevin dances to his own tune for 67 years

KEVIN Bennion has been dancing for 67 years and has taught hundreds of north Brisbane residents over the past 60 years.

Mr Bennion was just 16 years old when he attended an end-of-year high school dance.

"I did ask a girl to dance with me but it took me half the night to pluck up enough courage to walk over and ask her. I stood on her toes so many times. I was happy when the music stopped.

"Shortly after that terrible night I attended Len Hourigan Dance Studio in Fortitude Valley with a mate to learn to dance - without standing on girls' toes. I concentrated on New Vogue before I started Modern Ballroom.

"Six months on I felt like yelling out 'I'm dancing'. I felt like I was dancing like the movie where Gene Kelly was dancing with Jerry the mouse.

"Unfortunately I was not like Gene Kelly, I was more like Jerry the mouse. Within three years I became undefeated Queensland Champion. My next goal was Modern Ballroom.

"I went to another studio in the Valley and I found the way I was taught New Vogue (Australian Choreographed Old Time) complemented the Modern Ballroom style. Len Hourigan, my first teacher, was ahead of his time. Looking back, he was teaching me to be a good professional.

"I turned professional in January 1956 and invaded Nundah by hiring the Nundah Memorial Hall. I commenced social dance classes on a Monday night and within three years had a total of 198 pupils and 30 boys and 30 girls on my amateur staff.

"Over a period of 10 years our average class was approximately 180 pupils each Monday night.

"Those were the days when you had to be 21 years of age to go into a hotel. The only other option was to go to the movies or a dance so all studios were well attended.

"Once I turned professional there was the study of correct technique and everything required to become a qualified teacher. I studied for and successfully obtained my Associate, Member and Fellow Degree in Modern Ballroom, New Vogue and Latin dancing in four of the highly acclaimed dancing associations in Australia.

"In my spare time I became involved in exhibition dancing. Today it is known as cabaret style which is like modern contemporary ballet using lifts in the appropriate places relative to the music. I did my own choreography for all our numbers and placed second in the World Championships in Melbourne in 1962.

"Over a period of almost two years we were regular dancers with our own spot on Channel 2 show Anything Goes and also many appearances on Channel 7 show House Party and Channel 9's Theatre Royal and on stage at the Theatre Royal in Elizabeth Street. Such a wonderful experience was had dancing on TV and on stage.

"I was also honoured by my peers to be invited to adjudicate International and World Championships in Europe and South East Asia and have taught in Rome, Italy for the late Ariel Mannoni.

"I lived for awhile in London where I studied under the world's best coaches and teachers in Modern Ballroom and Latin dancing. I found everything fell into place and gave me a different outlook on dancing.

"Dancing has kept me feeling young. I still run my class every Friday night and keep active through the week with teaching and have had a lot of fun and a sense of satisfaction out of teaching from eight-year-old school children to secondary school students over many years.

"At our studio at the Nundah Memorial Hall we teach Modern Ballroom, New Vogue, Old Time, Latin Dancing, Street Latin and Argentine Tango.

"I encourage everyone to dance, it is good for you. Instead of going to a gymnasium to work out, it's much more fun to attend a dance class with a qualified teacher.

"When we dance we use both sides of our brain. We must remember what we should be doing and then the creative side comes into the equation.

"In terms of fitness, health and well-being, dancing is possibly the most beneficial recreational pastime known. It is a year-round active physical pastime. Dancers benefit both socially and physically.

"Socially, dancing helps overcome shyness, develop the art of conversation, provide a way to meet people and make new friends, keeps people mentally alert and it's fun.

"Physically, it's great exercise for overall muscular tone, it's great for the cardiovascular system, it develops co-ordination and balance, helps maintain improve posture, it's relaxing and great for stress relief and it's an activity for all ages

"Dancing is the only active physical pastime which does not place a premium on strength. Dancing is first and foremost a living communication between man and woman. Through the language of their choreography, the couple communicates with one another. It's a great way to go through life.

"Little did I realise the effect the words, 'Would you like to have this dance with me?' would have on my life. My nutrition, working out in a gymnasium at least once a week, learning how to walk and learning correct technique and trying to understand the dynamics of movement to obtain a free flowing movement which appears to be devoid of any physical effort - an impossible task to a beginner.

"I'm 84 years old and I wouldn't change a thing. I've been lucky, I've met some lovely people and I got to do what I wanted to do."

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