Quick! Step this way to life-changing dance
Last updated at 12:51, Friday, 28 September 2012
A Cockermouth woman said that dancing saved her life.
Thérèse de Vos Southgate, 70, of Mayo Street, used to work with her husband as a founder member of co-operative Woolclip, which organises the annual Woolfest event, and as a volunteer at Cockermouth’s Wordsworth House, but after her husband Hugh died suddenly in 2008, life became too hard.
She instead turned to dance, a hobby she had to give up in the 1970s because of serious spinal injuries, and it has turned her life around.
On the day of her husband’s funeral, Thérèse’s daughter-in-law also died. Soon after, her aunt passed away.
She said: “Having three bereavements meant I really struggled both physically and mentally.
“I couldn’t carry on with the things I had done with my husband as I couldn’t cope so I had to find something different.
“Dancing has given me a new life and it has given me something to live for.”
Thérèse almost gave up everything but thanks to the support of her dance partner John Rainford – whom she met when she returned to her hobby – she has now rediscovered her love of the art.
She started Foxes Dance with John, 85, of Scafell Close, Cockermouth, which teaches ballroom, Latin American and Latin Line Dancing.
She said: “Dancing really has saved my life. John encouraged me to go back to my studies but I didn’t want to set out on my own and I didn’t know whether I would be good enough.
“People cope in different ways and I hadn't danced for so long I didn’t think I could do it again but John helped me through.
“He had lost his wife Dorothy so he fully understood what I was going through and we both had a very similar outlook on life.
“He helped me at a time when I didn’t think I could carry on.”
Thérèse was always part of a dancing family and her mother was world champion in ballroom and Latin in the 1930s.
She was training to take her dance teacher qualifications in the 1970s when she was diagnosed with spina bifida.
She was told she would never dance again and would be in a wheelchair by the age of 40.
She said: “I started getting back ache and I went to the doctors and they told me it was this spinal problem.
“They told me I would be in a wheelchair before I was 40 and it was just absolutely horrendous.”
Following her diagnosis of back problems she went into part-time teaching and had an operation in 1981.
She taught English as a foreign language at an independent language school in Kent, while at the same time teaching herself to walk again.
She decided to take on a challenge of walking up all the highest mountains in Britain and in 1986 climbed Skiddaw. It took her two years to complete the entire challenge.
In 2006, she had two hip replacements and then managed to gain the professional qualifications with honours that she started in the 1970s.
She added: “I am continuing to look to improve them. I am currently studying with the view to becoming an international judge.”
Following her experiences, Thérèse decided to hold a number of charity events, and a ball in May raised £750 for the Lillie-Mai Jackson Trust, which is helping to raise money to buy new prosthetic legs for the Maryport tot after she lost hers to meningitis. The ball was held for Thérèse’s 70th birthday and John’s 85th and instead of presents they asked for donations.
They are holding an evening of ballroom and Latin American dancing tomorrow in Brigham Memorial Hall from 8pm to 10pm to raise money for Lillie-Mai.
Thérèse said: “I enjoy helping other people and having not been able to walk means I understand what Lillie-Mai and her parents are going through. I know what it is like to be faced with tragedy and how difficult it is to overcome adversity.”
For more details about the dance, call 01900 825382 or 01900 828492.
First published at 11:49, Friday, 28 September 2012
Published by http://www.timesandstar.co.uk
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