Music and memories at our Valentine’s Day dance

28th February 2019

On Thursday 14th February, Pensioners, staff and volunteers joined nostalgic dance group Swing Dance UK for a Valentine’s Day dance party. For one guest, 88-year-old George Stevenson, the occasion triggered memories of his own special Valentine.

At the event, guests tucked into delicious Valentine-themed food and drink while they enjoyed favourite tunes, from Vera Lynn to George Formby, and watched some joyous swing dancing. Those who were willing and able got to their feet and joined in, or followed the dancers – dressed in vintage style – in some simple routines.

“I loved seeing people dancing and enjoying themselves”
George Stevenson stood out among the guests, looking dapper in an evening suit, brocade waistcoat and a white silk tabard bow, decorated with a silver and amethyst brooch. He told us why he’d come along: 
“I went to the dance because I like conviviality, speaking to different people. I’ll have a go at everything!”

Although George uses a walking frame, he put it aside to have a dance – including a jive with matron Susan Williams. As a former Army bandmaster, George loves music and found the occasion moving and uplifting: “It was the swing that got me, dancing and seeing people enjoying themselves”

It also brought back memories of his beloved wife. “The clothes reminded me of Dora – it was a long time since I’d seen seamed stockings. I used to draw seams on for Dora, with an eyebrow pencil!”

Sixty years of love and dancing 
George met and fell in love with Dora while serving in Germany. “I was marching with the band, and she was a nurse in Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps. The first time I saw her, it was love at first sight. I pointed her out and said: ‘That one there, third one along, that’s the one I’m going to marry’. It was a bit of bravado, but I married her a few weeks after meeting her, at the end of the war.’”

George saw Dora at a dance a few days later. “I went across the floor and asked her to dance” he remembers. “She said ‘yes’, put down her bag, and we danced all night.”

George and Dora met and danced again the following week. Then he asked if he could see her in England and meet her family. She agreed, and soon after they got married. The couple brought up three children and stayed together for 60 years.

Although George is a widower, Dora is always in his heart and thoughts, and a double frame by his bed holds photographs of them both. “We’re together but apart now”, he says.

Dancing remained an important part of George’s life. “Dora and I always danced, whenever we were together” he recalls. “Our youngest daughter was a ballet dancer too. I once broke my toe trying to show her how to do a jeté over a glass table!”

Active ageing all year round
Events like the Valentine’s dance are an important part of our active ageing ethos here at the Royal Hospital. Not only did it give the guests an opportunity for some gentle exercise, but it also allowed them to socialise and reminisce together. George summarises the benefits neatly: “I like to keep myself occupied mentally and physically” he says, “it keeps me young!”

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