102-year-old Strictly come dancing queen
PUBLISHED: 10:56 11 September 2010 | UPDATED: 20:32 01 May 2014
With millions of people eagerly anticipating their latest dose of hit TV show Strictly Come Dancing every weekend, MATTHEW WILLIAMS spoke to Weybridge resident, Dorothea Baxter, a former Come Dancing champion who is now 102
Originally published in Surrey Life December 2007
One of the most popular TV series of all time, the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing has become a reason for millions of people across the country to stay in on the weekend. Whether it's for the fancy sequinned dresses, lighthearted family entertainment or just for the simple love of dance, people just can't seem to get enough of the show.
Dorothea Baxter is one of the many who sit down every week to watch the programme - however she is anything but your average viewer. For starters, in 1965, she won the original version of the show, Come Dancing, as part of a formation dance group. But what is truly remarkable is that she recently celebrated her 102nd birthday and has been dancing for longer than any format of the contest has existed.
Early dancing success...
"My mother and father were dancers and they took me dancing from the age of 13," Dorothea recalls. "Then I started competition dancing and did well. I was then asked to audition for Come Dancing, they liked me and, in 1965, I won as part of a team formation dance group.
"The show was very different in those days. Even the dances were different; not even the waltz is the same any more!
"I always watch Strictly Come Dancing though. I don't particularly have a favourite person because I love all the dancing. The dresses, or what there is of them, are beautiful though with all the sequins. I do think it is marvellous today how quickly they all pick it up. They must practise very hard."
Dorothea has yet to fall for the bad boy charms of Brendan Cole, however, and instead prefers to concentrate on the moves rather than the rumours of romance that make the show a dancing soap opera of sorts.
"To tell you the truth, I don't pay too much attention to that sort of thing," she laughs. "I mainly just watch the programme for their footwork and to spot the mistakes that are made. I don't really criticise the people, just their steps.
"Sometimes it can be a difficult thing dancing though... I always had to be very careful who I had as dancing partners because so many of them always seemed to fall in love with me!"
Twice married, Dorothea now lives alone in Baker Street in Weybridge, just five minutes from her 73-year-old daughter Cynthia. She also has two grand-daughters and two great grand-daughters, one of whom, Emily, is a professional dancer herself and was performing in Chicago until recently.
Though she is now on her own, Dorothea admits that she does have a soft spot for one person - the loveable co-host of Strictly Come Dancing, 79-year-old charmer Bruce Forsyth, who presents the show with Tess Daly.
"He sent me a letter and photograph to me on my birthday, which was very kind of him," says Dorothea. "I have always liked him and I watched all of his programmes. I think he's charming. He doesn't live all that far away either."
You're my favourite!
It's no wonder Brucie is such a fan of this extraordinary lady, who at the age of 98 could still bring a cruise ship ballroom to a standstill.
"My last dance was about four years ago on the Oriana," explains Dorothea. "I went on the ship with my friend and, even though she wasn't a dancer, would spend a lot of time in the ballroom. Because my friend didn't dance, the MC would ask me to. He said, 'my goodness, you're a beautiful dancer', we got talking and he eventually asked me my age.
"I was surprised when later in the evening he spoke to the crowd and said, 'before we have the next dance, I have an announcement to make. We have a lady here; she is 98 years of age and is a beautiful dancer. To prove it, I am going to ask her for the first waltz'. Everyone stood to the side and just watched and clapped.
"Then he said: 'She is not only a great ballroom dancer but also a Latin American dancer.' So we did another dance and the people clapped and clapped. Afterwards, they just wouldn't believe my age!"
At 102, she may have hung-up her dancing shoes, but there is still one moustachioed entertainer who might well be able to persuade this dancing queen out of retirement...
"I've always danced, people just can't believe my age - I suppose it helps that I've still got all my faculties!" she laughs. "I think dancing has helped to keep me young, and despite in recent years having had my moments and become quite ill, so far I have always managed to bounce back. If I could have one more dance, I'd love it to be with Bruce."