In 1949 a young couple met in Brisbane at dance classes, which were a very popular pastime. Norman had an eye for Nancy McGovern who had a family nickname of “bumble foot”, so they practiced together as a dance couple, becoming dance partners. They were engaged a year or so later and married in 1951. Competitive dance was a coveted event and Norm an optometrist and Nancy a bank clerk at TC Beirnes put in countless hours, after work and weekends to enter these prestigious competitions.
Three years of training saw Norm and Nancy win the “Bantam” championships – dancers under 5ft 7 tall” Norm for a second time. The couple trained under the direction of Sandy Robertson and as was not uncommon after winning a title, also commenced teaching in their own right with both Sandy Robertson and Jack Busteeds’ studios around 1953
Dance competitions were much admired occasions – a time where 30 competitors for dance titles could attract a crowd of 2000 to watch as was the case in 1952 when Norm and Nancy won one of their numerous titles of Dance Champions.
This multi talented couple went on to a variety of arts related professions and depending on what era you are from you may have been entertained by them in one form or another over many years.
When asked by the Queensland Dance Society for an overview of their undertakings in 1997 Nancy provided this:
After we won the Championships, we decided to start classes of our own, one at Nundah and one in the City. At the same time we were performing at the Brisbane Theatre Royal and decided that we wanted to perform rather than teach. So we packed up and went to Sydney. Asking Kevin and Betty Bennion to take over our classes.
In Sydney we contacted the theatrical agent Ted James who was instrumental in advancing our career. Teaching at Phyllis Bates studio was another of our activities that brought us in touch with overseas artists who came to Sydney. In addition to Adagio we learnt Tap dancing, Spanish dancing, modern Ballet, even sword fighting as we did a routine of Tap dance and sword fighting.
Dancing gave us a very happy life and opened alot of doors for us.
We were lucky enough to appear with the American artists “Waltan an O’Rouke” for six weeks. They are the gentlemen who did the puppets on the movie “Lili” and won an Academy Award for it. They suggested we try a puppet act. The result was, we learnt how to make our own puppets and established our own puppet act.
Eventually we were invited to the workshops at Disneyland America and while we were there, we were put in touch with suppliers for our act, so this made it alot easier for us.
After we had been doing the Puppet Act for a couple of years, we had a contract to appear in Japan. We took both the dance act and the puppet act but found the Puppets were what they wanted. It was on this trip that we were selected to appear with Frank Sinatra a the famous Mikado Theater Restaurant which seated 2000 people twice nightly, and were also asked to do a TV appearance at NHK for which they brought the full symphony orchestra in to play our music. This was the start of all our commercials that were shown in Japan. Kyodo Advertising Co saw this TV show and contracted us to do a Commercial. This was to run for 6 months total. We completed this , left Japan and went to Hong Kong and around other countries then back to Sydney. One morning there was an ad in the Australian (Kyodo took out an ad in all English speaking countries) to find us, as the Advertising Agency had lost touch with us. The commercial had won their National TV Award and they wanted us to make more. This was the start of a very happy association. To date (1997) the commercials have won 7 awards there and are the longest running TV commercial series ever. The first one was made in 1961 and the series was still running in 1997, During this time, we have made numerous trips to Japan to perform and make commercials.
Norman and I have been nominated twice for the Mo Awards and have appeared with most of the named overseas artists who have come to Australia. Norman changed the double act to a single act which he decided he would like to present to the Arts Council. This he did and a long association of 14 years developed. He would do four school events for them, which was around 500 shows a year and in between school terms perform in Sydney and other parts of Australia.
Norman was selected to represent Australia in Canada at Expo 1986.
As I was no longer performing, I went into the administration side of show business as a Director of the Col Joy and Kevin Jacobson Company. This company brings most of the named artists to Australia, presents theatre shows (currently Beauty and the Beast) and manages names Australian Artists. A very interesting and pressurized job.
As a relaxation, I wrote a book on Show Jumping which was published by Ure Smith. Horses are one of my main loves. Four years ago we shifted back to live in Queensland, cutting down on performing and concentrating on making videos and written instructions on “How to make puppets” as a school resource.
All the success that we have had is due to our training in dance, we will be forever grateful for all the hours of torture that Sandy Robertson put us through.