Johnny and Jeanette Green have been dancing together for thirty-three years. In fact, it was dancing that brought them together.
Johnny worked at Tamaki Intermediate as a caretaker, and was also an international referee for Olympic styles of wrestling. When time allowed, his other passion was dancing.
He would often go to a tea dance at the Blockhouse Bay Community Centre and dance with the ladies who, like him, had no regular partner. One Sunday in November, shortly after returning home from refereeing at the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Johnny’s fancy was taken by a new lady who was sitting on the other side of the hall.
In Johnny’s words: “After watching her dance with other men I thought ‘she’s good!’ But every time I went to ask her to dance some other man beat me to it. So, I got clever; as soon as I saw the MC pick up the mike I started across the floor and most times I got to dance with her.
“I asked her to go dancing with me several times, then finally after about two months she said okay, but that she would meet me in the hall at Royal Oak School. Then when she did arrive it was with another lady dancer I knew. When I went up to ask Jeanette to dance the other lady stood up and said, ‘Come and dance with me Johnny!’ I said, “Sorry, I came to ask Jeanette,” and after that we would always dance together.”
Not long after that the couple who ran the Blockhouse Bay Community Centre Tea Dance stopped because of ill health and Johnny and Jeanette were talked into taking over. They since became qualified teachers in Old Time, (now called Classic), Modern Sequence and New Vogue.
Johnny is a Londoner from Edgeware, near Watford who emigrated to New Zealand with his first wife and two young sons in 1963, as a New Zealand Army recruit. Early on he was on manoeuvres in Waiouru and lost the use of his legs due to a slipped disc. Though initially paralysed from the waist down, Johnny eventually regained the use of his legs through determination and hard work, progressing from wheelchair to crutches to two walking sticks, and was eventually given a medical discharge from the Army.
After a recommendation from his specialist that he work his back hard to help strengthen it, Johnny answered an ad for a bricklayer’s labourer. He quickly learned the trade and eventually became a foreman.
Both Johnny and Jeanette were widowed early in life, Jeanette losing her husband when he was just 36, and Johnny losing his wife in 1965. They each raised their two children alone.
Both of Jeanette's two children were ballroom dancers, with Jeanette's daughter Sherrie competing at an international level.
They continue to lead very active lives, or as Jeanette puts it with a laugh, “we do quite a lot for old people!” They enjoy getting away in their campervan and look forward each February to Art Deco week in Napier, where they love to dress up in the clothes of the period and compete, often winning their categories and even the overall winner title.
The couple continue to teach dancing every Monday at the Blockhouse Bay Community Centre, as they have done for thirty-three years, and that doesn’t look like changing any time soon.