Ninety-nine-year-old tap dancer inspiring classmates – ABC listen

Ninety-nine-year-old tap dancer inspiring classmates – ABC listen

Sally Sara: Well for Lorraine Kaemphel, tap dancing was a childhood passion that was put on hold for decades. The great-grandmother from Coffs Harbour had a couple of lessons as a kid and then didn’t start tap dancing again until she was aged in her 70s. Now at the age of 99, Lorraine is inspiring younger generations to put on their dance shoes, as Luke Ryan reports.

Luke Ryan: Dancing keeps Lorraine Kaemphelfeeling young.

Lorraine Kaemphel : I don’t even think about it. I don’t even think about my age. I was only saying to someone this morning, I don’t need a toy box when my young great-grandchildren come to visit. They like playing with my turkey neck, as they call it, and they like running my loose skin up and down my arms.

Luke Ryan: The tap dancer from Coffs Harbour on the New South Wales mid-north coast is just months away from turning 100.

Lorraine Kaemphel : When I was a little girl about 10 years old, I was living in a very tiny little country town and a lady came to the town and she was a tap dance teacher. She had two daughters and they happened to be in my class and they said, oh my mum’s, so I went along. I had two lessons. All I learned to do was shuffle and she left town with someone else’s husband.

Luke Ryan: It was about six decades before Lorraine Kaemphelnext put on a pair of dancing shoes, but this time they stayed on. Mesmerised by a tap dance performance at a local RSL club, Lorraine took the instructor up on an offer.

Lorraine Kaemphel : She said she was running the classes for fitness, fun and friendship for older ladies. So I went along with my eldest daughter. I was 70 and she was 50. They all went along to the class and I was the only one that stayed.

Luke Ryan: She’s still dancing, almost 30 years later.

Lorraine Kaemphel : I’ve got all my joints. I’ve never had any replacements. I had triple bypass back when I was 76. It’s the only health issue I had and the heart’s best to say don’t ever give it up.

Luke Ryan: Not everyone has had faith in Lorraine’s resilience. Her original teacher advised her to give up when she reached her mid-80s.

Lorraine Kaemphel : I got a call from the teacher and she said I think you’re getting too old, you should give it up. I don’t think your family realises you’re too old. I said they’ve got nothing to do with it. I tried Zumba, I tried line dancing, I tried clog dancing. Nothing was the same.

Luke Ryan: But then she found instructor Julie Ross.

Julie Ross: We’re talking people in their 60s who are coming to me and saying, oh no, I’m too old to start that Julie or oh I wouldn’t be fit enough or I’ve got diabetes. All their arguments go out the door when they see her. It’s like well what am I doing? Why am I thinking this way? And it is, it’s a state of mind.

Luke Ryan: Lorraine’s fellow dancers Sue Vial and Janice Gregory can attest to her impact.

Dancers: We all like to aspire to be as good as her. We’re still very much amazed at the way she remembers the routines. Yes, her memory is amazing. She sometimes picks us up on if we make a mistake. She’s quite cheeky sometimes too.

Luke Ryan: The great-grandmother isn’t oblivious to the health and safety risks that come with tap dancing at her age. Age-related macular degeneration has limited her eyesight to peripheral vision and she uses a walking stick. But her instructor Julie Ross says dancing comes with significant health benefits.

Julie Ross: The social side of it I think really is the most important part of it. But the agility, the exercise, the memory, the cardiovascular because we do practice things and as they get better they perform them faster.

Luke Ryan: Lorraine’s class has planned a special performance for her 100th birthday in November.

Lorraine Kaemphel : I have a six-year-old great-grandson. He said to his mum just recently, I hope great-nanny lives till she’s one million years old. I said to Julie, they’ll have to inject something into you so you can keep teaching me for a while.

Sally Sara: She’s fantastic, isn’t she? That’s 99-year-old Lorraine Campful, tap dancer from Coffs Harbour, speaking to Luke Ryan.

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