At 78, Satima’s dance classes bring joy to SwanCare residents

Satima Flavell
Satima Flavell

Satima Flavell adjusts the stance of her dance students, then moves on to another student inside the auditorium at SwanCare in Bentley. Her attention to detail and love of teaching dance is reflected in the many years she has been a teacher and, at 78, her love of dance endures.

British-born Satima, who came to Australia with her family aged eight, trained in piano and singing at the NSW Conservation of Music. As a young adult she danced with the Australian Dance Theatre including a performance before the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in Sydney in 1963. After school she did classes with the Scully Borovansky School, on how to teach.

She also studied at NIDA while teaching and has performed widely in cabaret. She holds an Associate Diploma in performing arts (dance) from the WA Academy of Performing Arts and a Bachelor in religious studies from Edith Cowan University. She is also an author and writer for various publications including The Australian, Dance Australia, ArtsWest and other journals. Satima has taught privately and for tertiary institutions and especially enjoys teaching adults.

Now a resident at SwanCare, she started the ballet based theatrical dance program for other residents who are aged in their 70s and older.

The twice-weekly group lessons are ballet based, but students also learn belly dancing. Satima believes ballet is the foundation of all good dance techniques. While students don’t have a ballet bar, they use the stage as a support instead.

Satima Flavell
Satima Flavell (third from the left) and her class use the stage as a ballet bar

“Class sizes can vary from three or four women up to a dozen,” Satima said.

“It is absolutely wonderful at my age to be still teaching.

“By the time you reach 60 many people don’t exercise, but ballet is something enjoyable. We don’t do any jumping or deep knee bends but apart from that it’s a normal ballet class.”

Shoes for the group were donated by a dance studio which had recently closed and students wear comfortable clothing. Research shows seniors who take part in ballet classes experience higher energy levels, greater flexibility, improved posture and an enhanced sense of achievement.

Born in Manchester, England, Satina has lived in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and New Zealand, teaching ballet in all those places. She saw Dame Margot Fonteyn dance with Michael Somes and watched Dame Margot’s dancing fame skyrocket when she teamed up with the younger Rudolf Nureyev, the pair taking the dance world by storm.

“Ballet has been my life since a young age,” Satima said.

“I always wanted to dance from when I was about five and one of my sisters was doing ballet and tap. But I really wanted to teach, which I did from the age of 14, under guidance of course.”

Among the dancers attending class are SwanCare residents Catherine Charles and Judy Mackintosh who say they benefit greatly from the classes which help keep them fit and moving.

Satima’s passion and commitment to dance shows no signs of abating. Her joy in helping others is evident as she instructs the women, introducing them to her special world.