From Sydney newspaper [28 April 2002]

Elizabeth Benz finds a new lease of life by tripping the light fantastic

by Kate Crawford

After two years of mourning her husband's death, Elizabeth [Gibson] Benz of Cremorne decided to let go.

"I needed something bright and happy in my life," she said.

Elizabeth Benz with certificate and trophies

By chance, Elizabeth came across a dance studio near her Cremorne business premises. Although aged in her 60s, she was immediately captivated by the flow of energy of ballroom dancing. So in 1999 she started lessons with local teacher Tony Leoni. Now less than three years later, Elizabeth is Tony's star pupil. She has reached gold level in record time, having faced the judges through multiple silver and bronze levels. She still takes lessons every week in Cremorne.

At the weekends, Elizabeth often trips the light fantastic on the dance floors at the Randwick or Russian clubs. And instead of a sedate annual holiday, Elizabeth spent her most recent holiday in October swirling around the ballroom of the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas. Competing against many dancers of her age in the international Nevada Star ball, Elizabeth came first in the American waltz. She also scored second and third placegettings in the other 12 dances in which she competed. As her teacher, Tony partnered Elizabeth for the dances but only Elizabeth is judged for the competition.

"I just love it--it's just a wonderful way to enjoy yourself instead of sitting at home and watching television," she said. "And I was determined to get to the gold level as soon as possible because at my age you never know what's going to happen."

Elizabeth's energy is amazing. On a night out, she can be on the dance floor for up to three hours, partnering other dance devotees in favourite numbers like waltz, the rumba and the bolero.

Ballroom dancing has been a saving grace for Elizabeth in the face of tragedy. She and her husband Karl were well-known figures in Neutral Bay and Cremorne where for many years they ran a repair business for office equipment. Elizabeth originally came from the remote island of Rotuma, 400km north of Fiji. . . . She met Karl, an Austrian, while she was doing nursing training in Sydney.

Elizabeth still runs the business and her ballroom trophies jostle for space in the shop among the typewriters and fax machines. Karl's death came only three years after their elder son, Eric, collapsed and died from a heart attack at Freshwater Beach aged 26.

Elizabeth hopes to enter more overseas competitions when the budget allows, as she has to meet her own travelling expenses and buy the odd glamourous frock required for this particular hobby. But that doesn't deter her.

"People often remark that I'm always smiling now," she said.