At Orford House, the Coulsdon-based residential care home run by charity Friends of the Elderly, twinkle-toed resident, Norma Cordwell, has been celebrating her 100th birthday in true dancing queen fashion.
Norma, was born in Hong Kong and raised by her Grandmother, has been a resident at Orford House since January 2020. Norma has always been passionate about dancing and has fond memories of teaching children to dance when she was younger. “I can’t remember going to school in Hong Kong and as a child, I was unable to read and write,” said Norma. “I would have liked to have attended school like other children, but back then, it wasn’t to be.
Not attending school didn’t stop Norma. She turned her hand – or rather feet – to dance. “I cannot tell you how much I loved – and still love – dancing,” Norma continued. “Back in the day, I gave lessons to local children, teaching them Ballroom and Latin dance steps, which were all the rage at the time.
“By far, my favourite dance is the Cha-Cha. I remember it was so popular in the 50s and it’s one of the dances that I love watching on Strictly Come Dancing. When the couples do the Cha-Cha, it makes me want to get up and start dancing myself. I suppose I love it so much as you can really get your hips moving to the music. My second favourite dance is the Jive, as that really gets you moving as well,” Norma added.
The Cha-Cha, which originated in Cuba, was originally created from two other dances – the ‘Mambo’ and the ‘Danzon’ and has a basic step pattern of three steps and a shuffle. “Someone once told me that it was a dance teacher called Pierre Lavelle who brought his version of the Cha-Cha to the UK and that the famous American dancer, Arthur Murray put his spin on the footwork and simplified it to a 1-2-3 Cha-Cha rhythm as he believed it would be easier for his dance students to pick up. I found that quite interesting,” continued Norma.
Michelle Kennet, the Registered Manager at Orford House said: “Norma is a lovely, funny lady with a marvellous sense of humour and beautiful smile. She is adored by all of the care team and the other residents and a much loved member of the Orford House family. Norma is the life and soul of any party and is not one to sit still, she’s always on the go, taking part in lots of our activities, especially anything to do with dancing or exercise.
“Norma is particularly fond of dancing and often tells us tales of her dance teaching days. However, Norma is a woman of many talents and also loves to sing. When we have our regular visiting entertainers, Norma is the first to take her seat to cheer the performers on and join in with any songs.”
For her milestone centenary birthday, the care team made sure Norma had a day to remember, with banners, gifts, cards – including a very special congratulatory card from The King – a delicious birthday cake and afternoon tea – along with, of course, plenty of music for dancing.
“Dancing is a great form of exercise, for anyone, but especially good for older people as it has so many health and wellbeing benefits. For example, dancing improves cardiovascular health, strengthens muscles and bones, improves balance and coordination, can improve memory and gives you a wonderful confidence boost. We are so happy that Norma still enjoys dancing, she’s an inspiration to us all,” added Michelle.
“I’ve had a wonderful 100th Birthday, it’s been a fantastic day, the care team have made it really special for me. The care I receive here is second to none. Everyone is so polite and caring, they always go the extra mile for us all and nothing is ever too much trouble,” added Norma. “To think,100 years ago when I was born so much took place. King Tutankhamun’s Burial Chamber opened by Howard Carter, Mount Etna erupted and construction started on the Sydney Harbour Bridge – and the dance phenomenon of the year was The Charleston – I think I’d love that dance too, as it would definitely get my hips moving,” concluded Norma.