When Cheryl Axell entered the Forever Young choir over 2 years ago, it may have involved a teeny, tiny white lie. To be in the Forever Young choir, members must be at least 65 years old as Cheryl quickly points out and she is nearly 66. Given her naturally youthful looks and personality, questions were asked!
Cheryl’s friend Pam from down the road, was already in the choir and talked of this particular choir as being one where everyone simply had a great time, so it was an easy sell to get Cheryl to join.
Cheryl has loved singing and music all her life, starting with her school days at Girton, where she attended back in the 60’s.
“I sang in the school choir and ballet was compulsory back then but it was not until I began travelling the world that my love for dancing really grew,” Cheryl said.
From traditional island dancing on Norfolk Island and Flamenco dancing in Spain, to Go-Go dancing in England and South Africa, Cheryl has just about done it all.
“On Norfolk Island, I met a beautiful local named Mavis Davis who taught me their way of dancing which turned out to be a great foundation for many other types of dancing.
“Norfolk Island was very remote with only one plane a week from the mainland. The population was small so most people had several jobs.
“With only one doctor on the Island, my nursing job alone was not going to get me by so I began dancing for the tourists as a means of topping up my savings. Even the dentist was also the local radio DJ!” Cheryl said.
This was just the beginning of travelling and working overseas for many years, mostly nursing but also dancing, working in bars and even trying her hand at being an air-hostess.
“I really did not like being an air-hostess and quickly returned to nursing and eventually moved back to Bendigo in 1986 where my parents lived, I was by then a sole parent with 2 beautiful girls so I was busy studying and working, now I have 8 grandchildren all over Victoria and elsewhere,” she said.
Cheryl’s dance moves have featured in two Forever Young concerts and she blames Choir Director, Laura Dusseljee for putting her front and centre.
“Being South African, Laura’s ears pricked when she heard that I had once danced at the Marrakesh Club in Johannesburg.
“The first time she got me up to dance at choir practise, the choir forgot to sing, which was an absolute hoot.
“Laura has a way of getting the best out of everyone and she boosted my confidence after having not danced for many, many years and she actually got me to Go-Go dance on stage in front of 800 people – this time, the choir remembered to sing!,” Cheryl recalls.
There are many things Cheryl loves about the Forever Young choir but she particularly appreciates the advice that she is able to tap into from other members of the choir.
“Culturally, I wish we would look to our elders more in this country. Experienced people have so much to give and this choir celebrates a stage of life that should be shared, not shelved.
“The older members of the choir were so supportive to me during the time that my own mother passed away and the collective wisdom of the group is priceless,” Cheryl said.