Local legends of ballroom dancing

nrhn 190511 FEATURE: The Wilsons pick up the trophy for the inventive dance competition at winter Gardens, Blackpool, 1966.
nrhn 190511 FEATURE: The Wilsons pick up the trophy for the inventive dance competition at winter Gardens, Blackpool, 1966.
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Ballroom dancers from across the region will have nothing but the fondest memories for an enigmatic Heanor duo.

Lewis and Joan Wilson were the inspiration for hundreds to follow in their foxtrotting footsteps.

nrhn 190511 FEATURE: Leis and Joan Wilson dance the quick step at a balroom compettion in 1953.

nrhn 190511 FEATURE: Leis and Joan Wilson dance the quick step at a balroom compettion in 1953.

But last month marked the end of a dancing dynasty with the sad announcement the Joan had lost a battle with cancer at the age of 83.

Lewis had passed away five years earlier, aged 79.

The pair of professional dance teachers won countless championships and awards in a variety of ballroom styles across the country.

Meeting at Donnerley and Kent Ballroom Dancing School, on Derby Road, Heanor, in 1942, they went on to have an illustrious career, performing alongside Strictly Come Dancing star Len Goodman and even facing Joan Collins in the judging chair in their glittering 60-year partnership.

nrhn 190511 FEATURE: 2x pics - on the left Lewis and Joan Wilson when they were 15 and 14 respectively. on the right a picture of them on their golden wedding anniversary in 1998.

nrhn 190511 FEATURE: 2x pics - on the left Lewis and Joan Wilson when they were 15 and 14 respectively. on the right a picture of them on their golden wedding anniversary in 1998.

But in our towns the duo were best known for their role running a successful dance school from 1954 all the way through to the mid 1990s, which was based at a number of venues, including Langley Mill Miners’ Welfare

Their only daughter Dawn Jalbert, 51, also a professional dance teacher, looks back with fondness at her ‘perfectionist’ parents.

She said: “Their life was dancing. They were a wonderful partnership on and off the dance floor because they had danced together since they were 14 and 15.

“My mum and dad had a wonderful way of making their lessons a social event,” Dawn continued. “Dad was a real joker and mum often had to reel his humour in sometimes!”

Fond testimonies have been given on the Wilsons’ teaching style from their ex-pupils this week.

Heather Clements, a teacher of a number of dance styles across Erewash and Amber Valley was taught by the Wilsons for 25 years, starting at the age of six. She used to keep a Saturday job just to earn enough pocket money to attend classes at the Wilsons’ Langley Mill ballroom dancing school.

Heather, now 47, said: “You could spot someone who had been Wilson-trained a mile off. They were real sticklers for footwork and style.

“Lewis was always full of beans and was a lot of fun, Joan was stricter, but we still went back every week.”

Heather said that pupils would travel hundreds of miles to attend lessons with the Wilsons.

And for good reason, as Joan’s and Lewis’s trophy cabinet was an impressive display.

In 1965 they were presented with the prestigious Carl-Alan award by Princess Margaret for their services to the dancing world.

And in 1968 the pair received another Carl-Alan award from Prince George of Denmark as well as being honoured with the Classique de Dance award in 1996.

Along with a flirtation with television fame as panel judges on BBC’s Come Dancing, the pair were nationally recognised for their extraordinary talents.

According to daughter Dawn, who remembers travelling to Blackpool numerous times a year for various competitions, even Joan’s final days were filled with the spirit of dancing. She and her mother were still working out an inventive quick-step dance routine even when Joan was in hospital.

Now, to carry on the legacy of her parents, Dawn intends to hold a charity memorial dance in their honour in the autumn. Dawn says she will recreate the award winning ‘Helena’ quick step her parents arranged in 1962 as part of the event.