By Luke Voogt
Val Hannah’s mum “always vowed if she had a little girl” her daughter would learn to dance.
“My mother wanted to learn herself,” the 83-year-old told The Indy at Geelong Trades Hall.
“But in those days it just wasn’t the done thing – father wouldn’t let her dance.”
So Val’s mother enrolled her in dance classes in 1937.
“I started classes when I was four years old and I haven’t stopped,” the Herne Hill resident said.
Seventy-nine years later and the spritely octogenarian tap-dancer still teaches three classes a week.
“Although now I don’t have all the classes I used to,” Val said, “I’ve scaled it down a bit.”
For as long as Val can remember she has raised money for Bethany Community Support to help victims of domestic violence.
“Now I’ve got a troupe of 25 ladies and we go around to all the nursing homes,” she said.
“We don’t charge – they just give whatever they feel like.
“It’s lovely to go there because the residents just love it – the costumes are nice and bright and we do all the old tunes they know.
“I don’t actually entertain now,” she added. “I just tell everyone what to do.”
And Val is not even the eldest in the troupe.
“One of the ladies is turning 88 next week,” she said.
Val performed in the Ballet of the Geelong Musical Comedy Company for 50 consecutive shows over about 25 years since 1945.
She started teaching jazz and ballet classes in the ’60s to adults and “little ones” while working in retail.
Her own grandchild Cassie Bayden competes in elite ballroom dancing, she told The Indy proudly.
After 55 years teaching at Geelong Trades Hall Val is “part and parcel of the place”.
“I don’t know how many secretaries I’ve seen through the years – I’ve seen them all off.”
Certainly, she has won her fair share of friends during the last half century.
“Morning lovely!” union reps greeted her with as they walked in on Thursday morning.
“Val’s fantastic,” said current Trades Hall secretary Colin Vernon, “we love having her at the hall.”
And she plans to dance there for many years yet, to stave off “old people diseases” like arthritis and osteoporosis.
“I’ve got to dance to show (my students) what to do!” she said.
“I stiffen up if I don’t dance – I couldn’t do without it.”
“The doctor said ‘whatever you do don’t stop dancing’.”
Although another doctor had a different advice after Val fell and skinned her calf during a lesson.
“They said ‘do you think it’s time you started using a walking frame, dear?’” she said.
Not for a while, judging by Val’s dismissive laughter.