Ella's well-rounded dance career at 87

Ella Whyte still queen of the round dance at 87

Latest News
SUNNY SIDE UP: Ella Whyte founded Sunnyside Rounds with her late husband Ron in 1958. The club is one of only two in the world that have run for 60 years or more.

SUNNY SIDE UP: Ella Whyte founded Sunnyside Rounds with her late husband Ron in 1958. The club is one of only two in the world that have run for 60 years or more.

Aa

'People say it's amazing to have gone this long, but I just get in and do the job,' says round dance teacher Ella Whyte, after more than 60 years.

Aa

Sunnyside Rounds in Heatherton, Victoria, is one of only two round dancing clubs in the world that has been running continuously for 60 years or more.

The other is Merry Rounders in Bettendorf, Iowa in the USA.

But Sunnyside is unique in that it has been run by the same person the whole time: Ella Whyte who is now 87.

Ella started dancing when she was four - and hasn't stopped. She has danced, and taught dance, for decades. She started cueing and teaching on her own during the 1980s.

Round dancing is choreographed cued ballroom dancing. It involves a caller and couples dancing in a circle, performing a range of modified ballroom dance moves. It is sometimes included at square dance clubs.

"It looks lovely when everyone is in a circle doing the same thing," Ella said. "Some ballroom dancers don't take to it because there's not enough freedom. They prefer doing their own moves but if you tried that in round dancing, people would be bumping into each other.

"My late husband Ron and I started the first round dancing club in Victoria. I actually taught him. I always said he was my star pupil.

"Before he died 27 years ago he said I should keep the club going. I wasn't sure, but the dancers told me I was their lifeline and I suppose I loved it too much to stop anyway.

"You don't realise where the time goes - people say it's amazing to have gone this long, but I just get in and do the job, and I love the people."

The couple started the Australian Round Dance Association in 1983, and it continues today as round dancing's national body. In 2000 the Round Dancing Association of Victoria began and Ella has served on the committee in various capacities.

There are five round dancing clubs in Victoria. Ella said major social nights involve multiple clubs to ensure good numbers.

"As the years have gone on we now have a lot more seniors - we lack young people. They see things like Dancing With the Stars with its quick movements - sometimes round dancing can be quite slow.

"But we do lots of foxtrots and rumbas and so on, and there are sessions for beginners, intermediate and advanced dancers," she said.

Ron and Ella lived for many years in Moorabbin where they converted an area of their house into a ballroom. Ella ran weekly classes teaching three levels of dancing.

In 1999 she moved to Heatherton and converted a shed on the property into a fully equipped dance room, which is used almost every night of the week for round and square dances and meetings.

READ MORE:

Aa