At 78, Satima’s dance classes delight SwanCare residents


Satima Flavell
Satima Flavell

Satima Flavell adjusts the position of her dance students, then switches to another student inside the SwanCare auditorium in Bentley. Her attention to detail and love of teaching dance is reflected in her many years of teaching and, at 78, her love of dance lives on.

Satima, of British descent, came to Australia with her family at the age of eight, trained in piano and voice at the NSW Conservation of Music. As a young adult she danced with the Australian Dance Theater, including a performance before the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in Sydney in 1963. After school, she attended classes with the Scully Borovansky School, on how to teach.

She also studied at NIDA while teaching and performed extensively in the cabaret. She holds an Associate’s Degree in Performing Arts (Dance) from the WA Academy of Performing Arts and a BA 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 higher education institutions and particularly enjoys teaching adults.

Now a resident at SwanCare, she started the ballet-based theatrical dance program for other residents aged 70 and over.

Bi-weekly group lessons are based on ballet, but students also learn belly dancing. Satima believes that ballet is the foundation of all good dance techniques. Although the students do not have a ballet barre, they instead use the stage as a support.

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

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

“It’s absolutely wonderful at my age to continue teaching.

“By the time you turn 60 a lot of people don’t exercise, but ballet is fun. We don’t do any jumps or deep knee bends, but other than that it’s a normal ballet class.

The group’s shoes were donated by a dance studio that had just closed, and the students are wearing comfortable clothes. Research shows that older people who participate in ballet classes experience higher energy levels, greater flexibility, better posture, and a heightened sense of accomplishment.

Born in Manchester, England, Satina has lived in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and New Zealand, teaching ballet in all of these locations. She saw Dame Margot Fonteyn dance with Michael Somes and saw Dame Margot’s dance fame soar when she teamed up with young Rudolf Nureyev, the couple taking the dance world by storm.

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

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

Among the dancers attending the classes are Catherine Charles and Judy Mackintosh, residents of SwanCare, who say they benefit greatly from the classes that help them stay fit and move.

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

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