A lifelong love affair with dance

Story and Photos by Britton Ledingham

Fall 2019

“We think there are a lot of seniors out there who would benefit tremendously from the social side, and also the health side”

Dave and Norma Stevenson have been sharing their passion for dance for decades.

When they moved to Airdrie from Nanaimo three years ago to be closer to their sons and grandchildren, they were disappointed to find little for organized dances. So, this fall the Stevensons are hosting pattern dance classes at the Over 50 Club in the Town and Country Centre.

“We want it to be dancing for pleasure,” says Norma. “It’s really open to people who have either never danced, or danced a long time ago and would like to come back.

“We think there are a lot of seniors out there who would benefit tremendously from the social side, and also the health side.”

Norma notes the physical benefits of the gentle exercise, which also aids memory while repeating moves over and over. She suggests that partners are required for the activity, leading is not often necessary and ladies frequently dance together to make pairs. The pattern dancing they trained in is very similar to two-step pattern dancing, but uses different music and more genres.

Both diabetic, the Stevensons see the benefits of continued physical activity, proven by their fluid motion on the dance floor of the Over 50 Club when they demonstrate some of their favourite steps.

Norma once had a herniated spinal disc and was kept off the floor for over three years.

“I was actually in a wheelchair,” she recalls. “They told me it was going to be a hard thing to get back, but I was determined.”

After two surgeries and a gradual recovery, she dances like nothing ever happened.

Dave also had open-heart surgery.

“He was up and about very quickly, and they reckoned it was due to excellent balance that he had learned through dancing,” says Norma.

Dave and Norma’s fire for movement to music was instilled by each of their parents at a young age in England. Norma fondly recalls the memory of her father teaching her.

“I was only about 12, and he said stand on my feet,” says Norma. “So, I stood on his feet, and he showed me how to waltz.”

With dancing in their blood, they were introduced to each other at a local dance in Wallasey, England.

Dave was competing already, and the two started to date.

“My dad wasn’t very pleased, because Dave kept disappearing with this other woman to these competitions,” says Norma.

Dave chimes in about his competitive partner.

“And don’t forget, she was lots older than me, almost the same age as my mother,” he says in his defence.

Dave and Norma continued to date, took lessons from top instructors and started to compete in ballroom dances together.

They visited Canada and decided “the future here looked a lot rosier than it did at that time in England.”

“So we were married on the Saturday, and emigrated on the following Friday on the Empress of England,” recalls Norma, noting they settled in Toronto where they found dancing peers to join.

Through continued training and competition, they “gradually got to quite a high standard of dancing.”

The pair rose to the Championship grade in ballroom dance competitions.

Dave was a founding member of Canada DanceSport (originally known as the Canadian Amateur Ballroom Dancers Association) in 1979. He served on the executive committee as the secretary and treasurer for five years, and held the president role from 1985 until retiring in 1990.

Moving to Nanaimo, BC, in 2001, the Stevensons kept dancing, and ran classes for the parks and recreation department, as well as various workshops for competitive and social dancers.

They added pattern dancing to their repertoire in Nanaimo by training twice a month in Victoria. They were soon asked by that instructor to open a similar class in Nanaimo in 2002.

“The Nanaimo group of people are still dancing today,” says Norma, beaming with pride.

The duo travelled to England for professional examinations in classical sequence dancing (or pattern ballroom dancing) with the International Dance Teachers Association in the United Kingdom in 2010.

Dave passed and became an associate, while a knee injury kept Norma from completing her waltz routine.

“Unfortunately, I trained so hard. I had a problem with my knee and decided at the last minute that the exam just wasn’t for me,” says Norma. “We felt as though we’d reached our goal.”

The two say they’ve made lifelong friends through dance.

“We’ve made (a) tremendous amount of friends and have had a really good social life, and that’s what we aim to do here in Airdrie,” says Norma. “We think dancing should be enjoyed. If you take it too seriously, you could take all the fun out of it.”

To register for a class at the Over 50 Club, you or your dance partner must be over 50 years old. Cost is only $5 per person for non-members and $1 for members. For more information, contact Dave and Norma at or (403) 980-2779.