For 30 years two things have remained the same at the High River Spring Ball.

Dancing coaches Frank and Joanne van Donzel have been teaching students how to do the Jive, the English Waltz, the Viennese waltz and the Two-Step to the exact same music they started with.

Joanne says the program just keeps on rolling, and they keep on rolling with it.

"You think you should quit after a certain period, but it just starts again, and we have such nice people to work with," Joanne said.

The program began 30 years ago with the van Donzels, Maureen Dawson and Shannon Tannas with seven couples taking part.

Frank says the first year the program and learning to dance wasn't high on the to-do list of the boys.

"It wasn't part of the culture in those days. Now it's different."

Frank says every year they say it will be the final year, but the couple are still here, and they have changed their minds about leaving.

"As long as we can walk, I think we will keep doing this." Frank said.

The main reason they keep teaching the dance at the program is it gives them a chance to get to know the young people in town, and in spite of everyone believing they are all bad, they really are not.

He says they come in as little kids and leave as confident polished adults.

Joanne adds the program is modelled after the Queen's Ball in Nanton, which has been running for about 50 years.

"It started off with Maureen Dawson suggesting we do what Nanton did, because they would go there to do portraits. When we sat down together to figure it out then I said it would be great for grade 11, because I was teaching at the time."

Joanne said the students in grade 12 were too busy, and sometimes planning for graduation interrupted the work they needed to be doing.

"So I suggested we should do this for grade 11 so that they would have an escort and a dress for grade 12. They know how to walk in high heels and they wouldn't take their dress off after half-an-hour because they are comfortable wearing it."

She adds the reward for her is watching how the kids do their best during the program.

"We never have issues with disciplining. They love to be doing what we suggest they should be doing, and I think they are happy they made progress."

The couple did consider retiring at 25 years but someone special asked them to stay.

Their granddaughter Amelia Shortt.

A spring ball dance practice04

"That is why we stayed an extra five years. Amelia said, 'While you are not going to quit cause I am coming and I want you to be there when I come to Spring Ball,' so we said we would stay another five years."

Joanne said it is also nice to see Amelia interacting with her peers.

And despite 30 years having passed, the van Donzels said they will be back for year 31 because they have lots of good helpers and that makes the task a lot easier on them.

Liam Greer and Cydnee Parker, former royalty members, have been helping to teach the dance class for the last few years.

"The help has just been tremendous. When you look at our rehearsal tonight they look good and why do they look good? Because we have so much help. Every year it gets better," said Frank.

Over the years the etiquette program has evolved with several volunteers joining to help with everything from resume writing, to table manners and interview skills.

And in the begriming Frank had a station wagon with sound equipment to haul around, now he just needs an Ipad.

Some highlights for the 30th anniversary of the ball include Shannon Tannas returning as a judge, and the three Ellice brothers, Court, Caiden and Colin, who all won the Kings title in the past will be the Masters of Ceremony.

The committee consists of Carmen Sewell, Kylie Popowich, Sarah Hari, Brenda McCredie, Alison Laycraft and Erin Porter.

For links to RSVP for the Spring Ball on Saturday, March 9 go to High River Spring Ball Facebook page.


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