Rosalie not the retiring type
The cha-cha, the samba, the waltz — Rosalie Davis does them all on Friday nights.
She’s part of The Jasmine Dancers, a group of ballroom lovers who dance in the Jasmine Lounge at the Fairmont Southampton each week.
Restaurant patrons often think they’re part of the hotel’s entertainment.
“They pull their chairs around us and clap after a dance. Sometimes they ask me how old I am and when I tell them, they don’t believe me. They say, ‘No, you can’t be 74!’
“I’m the second oldest. One person in our group is 80. We dance from 9pm to midnight and take time out for a drink at the bar. My drink is a San Pellegrino.”
She’s always been energetic, something she attributes to a childhood spent in rural St Elizabeth, Jamaica.
“We had to walk everywhere,” she said. “And the first thing we had to do in the morning was walk a mile to get water, then walk back a mile to fill a drum in our yard.”
She came to Bermuda on her 21st birthday in 1965, shortly after marrying Boyd Davis. They divorced, but remained friends.
“All my life it’s mostly been work, work, work, with some time out for the occasional course,” Ms Davis said.
She spent 30 years working for the Bermuda Telephone Company, then two at the Southampton Princess before taking some time out to travel the world.
With her three children now responsible adults, she insists that “life begins after retirement” despite still being employed.
“I’ve tried [to retire] three times; maybe it was four times,” she laughed.
For 14 years, she has worked in The Beach Shop at Coral Beach Club, although she took 12 months off in 2007 to help her daughter, Janet, with her newborn.
She’s now back at Coral Beach where she loves interacting with guests.
Ballroom dancing helps her live out a childhood fantasy.
“We didn’t have a television in our house,” she said. “But I would sometimes go to other friend’s houses in Kingston, and see Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire dancing on the television.
“I’d dream that one day, that would be me, but I didn’t really think that dream would ever come true because there I was in Jamaica, the third of nine children.”
She couldn’t believe it years later when she met George Chamberlain, a professional dancer and part-time Bermuda resident.
“He’s 93 and he dresses the way men are supposed to with ballroom dancing,” she said. “He’d come in a jacket and take it off while dancing.
“He likes big space, so we would dance all over the room. People would come up to us and compliment us. OMG, I really felt like Ginger Rogers.”
She picked up the hobby 15 years ago while visiting a friend in London. She remembers feeling a little nervous because she didn’t have a partner.
“My friend explained that in the dancehall there’s a ‘bus stop’,” Ms Davis said. “All the women go there if they don’t have a partner. I said, ‘Oh no, I’m not going there. What if no one chooses me?’
“That would be so embarrassing. But she explained the etiquette of ballroom dancing to me.
“There are men there without partners and they will come up to you and invite you to dance. If they ask nicely it’s considered rude to refuse.
“And it’s really rude if you refuse and then immediately accept someone else’s request. Then they think you must be there for something other than dancing. Afterward the man escorts you back to your seat.
“This is not just out of politeness, it’s so he can figure out where you’re sitting and maybe ask you again. I just love all the niceness involved.”
When she returned to Bermuda, there wasn’t the ballroom dancing scene that there was in London; nine years ago she found a group that shared her passion.
In her spare time she loves gardening, and is a devoted member of the Bermuda Garden Club.
In the shop at Coral Beach, she always keeps a fresh flower arrangement, mainly because it interests guests.
“I also have a photo of night-blooming cereus flowers because many guests have never seen them before.”
She makes hats and fascinators from natural plant materials and is known for organising English-style tea parties.
The first she arranged a few years ago to raise money for a renovation project at St Joseph’s, the Roman Catholic church she attends in Sandys.
“I like the elegance of the English afternoon tea,” she said. “I invited people to wear a hat if they wanted to.
“People could buy a hat or fascinator from me. We had tea in china cups, scones and English cucumber sandwiches. We raised $2,000.
“We held one the next year in the MSA auditorium and raised $5,000. Now I’ve gotten myself in trouble because they want to do it every year. Everyone keeps asking when the next one is.”
Ms Davis said all her life she has tried to live by wise words from her mother, given to her on the day she left Jamaica.
“She said, ‘It is all to do with your integrity.’ She said it is all about manners, honesty, ambition and you should love everyone, because you don’t know who you will meet or need along the way.”
• Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Tuesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or email@example.com with their full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them
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