Shaftesbury’s answer to Shirley Ballas enjoying a new life at Hardy Lodge

A chance discussion about an afternoon Tea Dance at the local Town Hall led to the discovery that Hardy Lodge in Shaftesbury has an international star of the dancefloor amongst its Owners.

84-year-old Jillian (Jilly) La Valette – with her dancing partner Jimmy Arnell – was International Professional Latin American dance champion six times between 1955 and 1965, winning every year they entered.  They were also third placed in the World Latin American Dance Championships of 1961. 

Looking back at her dancing career Jilly says:

My passion for dance began when I started ballet lessons as a child in India. I also learnt ballroom dancing, and in the process I discovered a real love and talent for Latin American dancing.

I was coached by Monsieur Pierre & Lavelle of Soho, leaders in bringing this style of dance to UK audiences.  I still have one of my competition dresses from that time, which has a 22 inch waist! One of the highlights of my career was in the 1960s, appearing with Victor Sylvester in a tango lesson on the TV programme ‘Come Dancing’ when I was selected as his partner.  He was such a lovely man, but I don’t know who was more nervous – him or me!

Until a few years ago Jilly enjoyed teaching professionally, but a bad knee injury sustained on a family holiday brought that to an end. However, she still loves to dance for pleasure and she and her husband, David, enjoy the social tea dances in the area.

Jilly and David moved from their home in the iconic Gold Hill area of Shaftesbury to Hardy Lodge in July 2018, and are enthusiastic about what the move has meant to them. 

“We still have access to everything we enjoy about the town and surrounding area,” says Jilly. “But at Hardy Lodge we’re in a safer, more vibrant and worry-free environment.  Our lovely apartment on the second floor has a balcony which looks out over the town to the Blackmore Vale countryside in the distance.  Throughout the long, hot summer last year we made use of the balcony every day, enjoying a ‘sundowner’ most evenings.”

Churchill Retirement Living at Hardy Lodge means that Jilly has more time for the things she enjoys doing most, with hobbies ranging from dancing to table tennis, theatre and cinema.  She has also recently introduced Mah-jong to her fellow Owners at the Lodge, a game of skill, strategy, calculation and chance which they all enjoy playing when they get together in the Owners’ Lounge.

Lodge Manager Rosie adds: “Now that the secret of Jilly’s talent is out, we’re hoping that she will also host regular Tea Dances here at the Lodge for the enjoyment of our other twinkle-toed owners!”

About Hardy Lodge

Hardy Lodge is a collection of 42 privately owned one and two bedroom retirement apartments and shared facilities, designed exclusively for the over 60s. Apartments boast spacious rooms throughout and an ideal combination of design and functionality. The fully fitted, stylish kitchens include a built in fridge and freezer, hob and an oven, which is located at an easy-reach height. All of the properties benefit from illuminated light switches for added convenience. Owners also enjoy ultimate peace of mind from a fitted video entry system for the highest level of security and a 24 hour emergency call system.

With less to worry about, Owners have more time to do the things they enjoy, such as having family or friends to stay in the development’s well-appointed Guest Suite, enjoying a chat with neighbours, or attending one of the regular social events in the Owners’ Lounge. 

To find out more, call 0800 458 1856 or click here.