Dancing through life – at 70


Royal Academy exams keep grandmother on her toes

STUNNED by her own ability to spin, stretch and jump, a Mossel Bay grandmother who last year passed her Grade 7 Royal Academy of Dance ballet exams with distinction is planning on doing the Grade 8 exam this year – at the age of 70.

Marianne van der Merwevan der Lecq defied the odds by passing the exam which is usually undertaken by students of about 15 years old.

The grandmother of four was a professional dancer with the Performing Arts Company of Transvaal (Pact) Ballet Company in the 1960s but gave up her career to become a mother and housewife.

But the yearning to dance remained and two years after moving from Gauteng to Mossel Bay in 2009 she joined the Mariki Viviers Ballet Studio, at the age of 64.

The energetic dancer says her ability to master the art again came as a surprise.

“I was more shocked than anybody else. I was going just to get the feeling of dance again. My intention was simply to do one or two activities and then watch the other dancers.

“But after hearing my story, my instructor encouraged me to try Grade 5 ballet.

“I couldn’t believe I still had the ability and managed to complete the entire sequence. I must admit I have always kept fit with things like jogging, yoga and so on.

“Obviously, I can’t jump as high or get my leg as far up, but I think I did pretty well.”

The mature ballerina said she realised her good health was a gift from God.

“I was speaking to a few dancers who were with me in the Pact days. And they were all astonished that I am still dancing as many of them are suffering from knee problems and arthritis in their toes.

“They asked me why I’m still dancing. I said because I can!

“This is a blessing from God. The activity has helped to keep my body supple and strong and has helped with my breathing as well,” she said.

Instructor Mariki Viviers said of her 40 students, Van der Merwe-van der Lecq was one of the most energetic.

“I’m very impressed . . . The standard of dance at Grade 7 is [high] as it is an international exam.”

Van der Merwe-van der Lecq turns 70 on Sunday.

-Tremaine van Aardt

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