He calls himself the ‘Rovin Rocker’- and he has the qualifications to prove it. Candice Rose finds out how champion Rock and Roll dancer and instructor Steve Tate dances his way up and down the coast.
> Steve, you’re a former Australian and World Champion Rock and Roll dancer. How did it all begin for you?
I was enjoying my early thirties – a solo dad and managing life quite well. The only thing missing in my life was the companionship of a woman, so I entered the world of dating … or at least, tried to! Having a son to take care of made things a little harder to organise, but I was lucky enough to have a good support group around me.
After a couple of weeks of looking, pondering and having one more drink for courage, I made my move, only to be told I would have to learn to dance before I could take out the lady of my choice. She was too good to turn down, so I met her at Rock and Roll Dance classes the following week!
Three weeks later, in the winter of 1979, I was doing my first demo at a local school fete. Two months later – Regional Club Championships collecting 1 x 1st, 2 x 2nds and a 3rd place for my efforts, which also gave me entry into the NZ Nationals, where I reached the semi finals in the open and second in Intermediate Adult section.
I spent the next ten years with that girl as my dance partner and life partner. Over the last 28 years I have competed both in the NZ Nationals, Australian Dance Sport Championship, State Champs, international events including the Australian World Freestyle Champs and Winter Sun International and many more … with great success, being a finalist or winner of many of those events.
I am now past the age of competing at that level and am happy sharing my skills.
> Why did you choose the North Coast as the spot to live and teach dance?
Why here? I still ask myself that question after being here for 13 years now. My son grew up and left home. My father died after a long illness, and his estate took a lot out of me sorting it out. My mother, a brother and two sisters were all living in Taree at the time, and I needed a holiday. The aim was to just cruise the East Coast for a while and then return home.
My brother talked me into buying a small café and staying for a while. So I did, and I am still here 13 years later! As for teaching here, I advertised classes at the local PCYC, and the demand just grew from there.
> I believe you travel a lot for your teaching classes. How does Port Macquarie rate in the Rock and Roll spectrum of skill on the coast?
For the first 5 years I taught at Taree, Forster, Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbou. Nowadays it’s at Taree, Old Bar, Forster, Bulahdelah, Harrington and Port Macquarie. There are some great dancers in the Hastings area, most of whom have no desire to compete, but have the potential to be at the top level if they so wished.
There is so much talent in the region, it’s no wonder the popularity of RnR in the region is at an all time high at the moment – from 50 to 70 students turning up each week just at the Panthers RnR Dance Club. There are three other smaller groups operating in the same area.
> You and some of the students regularly volunteer their services for demonstrations. Tell us why you think it is important for dance to be visible in the community?
Dancing is one of the oldest forms of communication; we can convey everything or every emotion through dance. It makes you feel good when you dance; it helps in the production of endorphins that lift your spirits.
It can do the same things for those watching, as their minds carry them off into their own world of memories … and even more so for those who can no longer trip the light fantastic.
So in short, the students are encouraged to help entertain, promote healthy activities and encourage the next generation to keep the dance alive. Dancing is also a great way to make new friends and meet people of all age groups.
Dancing is a great leveller; it does not matter what you have, how much you have, where you come from or what colour you are. To dance is to feel good.
> That is a great way to look at it, Steve. And you even have your own Instructional DVD on Rock and Roll – how has this been received in the market?
There was a flood of ‘how to’ DVDs promising to teach people how to dance, but none that broke the movements down step by step.
I have attempted to fill that gap by producing an instructional DVD that is easy for all to follow. Feedback so far has shown that the DVD works, and students do find it easy to follow.
It’s called “FLOOR PLAY; the Rock ‘n’ Roll Experience”. The next stage is to market the DVD commercially. The market is not necessarily my own students, but those from other areas of the country and/or overseas.
> How do people benefit from coming along to your classes?
1. They’re learning a new social skill they can use every weekend.
2. They’re joining a fun exercise class.
3. It’s a great cardio-vascular workout.
4. It’s really cheap entertainment.
5. They can meet lots of old friends and make lots of new ones.
6. It’s a great way to relieve stress.
7. They get to be part of a dynamic group of people from all age groups.
8. Or they can just enjoy watching everybody else on the dance floor.
> Aside from dancing, what else is important to you?
Dancing is my passion, but I am also into my pot plants – having up to 100 plants in my home and about 150 pots on my second floor apartment balcony! I grow them and donate them to aged care facilities, friends and anyone else who shares my love of plants and flowers.
I am an ex chef, an ex builder and work part time in aged care as a qualified AIN Nurse. I have three grown up children and seven grandchildren all back in New Zealand. I am a single man now and loving life! Loving dance!
> What age group are most of your students?
The average age group of the students is around 30 to 40, although there are some teenagers and the oldest is a 95 year old man from Forster who goes about dancing with up to 10 women every Saturday night! He tells me it’s what keeps him alive. This man can dance the socks of the average 30 year old!
> Thank you Steve!
Rock and Roll Dance Lessons are held every Tuesday evening at Flynns Beach Surf Club at 7pm.