You are never too old to learn to jive, discovers our reporter

NEAL GUPPY has just had a cataract operation and will turn 79 this month. But none of this can curb the enthusiasm he shows for his love of dancing.

Neal – the force behind the popular social club that bears his name on Nunnery Lane, Guppy's Enterprise Club – has been running a jiving afternoon for the past five years for members of the University of the Third Age (U3A).

Members are all retired or semi-retired and range in age from mid 50s to 80.

Some will remember jiving from their youth. For others, moving to the rock 'n' roll beat is a new challenge that takes some practice.

Neal is only happy to oblige. He takes new members through their paces, and is hugely encouraging, with plenty of tips to keep jivers in step and in time.

"Don't look at your feet," he shouts at me over the music when I join the regular Monday afternoon class. "And don't look at your partner." Instead, my head should follow my body as I sway from side to side along to the Buddy Holly classic That'll Be The Day.

Neal has a firm grip and he is a great mover. He takes me firmly by the hand and begins counting the beat with me. "Follow my lead," he mouths. We go in and out, back and fourth, round and round. "And one, two, three, four," Neal counts as I twirl round – but keep landing on the wrong foot. "It's all about balance," he says. "The more you dance, the better it becomes."

We are in one of the main rooms of the sprawling building: upstairs where there is a wooden dance floor, lined with old fashioned velvet-covered nightclub chairs. Giant electric fans have been brought in to keep everyone cool. Most people take a rest after a couple of numbers. Neal uses this break in proceedings to grab a lady and demonstrate some new dance moves.

Although he clearly knows how to jive and wants to share this knowledge with others, he is no dancefloor dictator. If he sees someone doing the wrong move, or holding the incorrect posture, he may gently nudge or correct them, or have a quiet word. But the last thing he wants to do is to make people focus too much on the mechanics of jiving. Instead, he insists, it's all about feeling the beat and expressing yourself.

"It comes from here," he says, firmly patting the middle of his chest with the palm of his hand. "It is through your heart, not your feet that you dance."

And if you thought rock 'n' roll was the only music you could jive too – two hours in the company of Neal will prove you wrong. "We play modern stuff too. Mark Knopfler, Emmy Lou Harris... and Paulo Nutini." My face obviously lights up at the Scottish singer's name and before you can say: "Take your partners", Neal has fished out the correct CD and the familiar guitar-strummed intro of Nutini's hit Candy fills the room.

This time, my partner is Alwyn Taylor, some 80 years old, but looking a good 20 years younger. He didn't jive when he was young and professed to have two left feet. It was his idea to set up the jiving group when he was the chairman of the York U3A.

"I am rubbish at dancing and have driven my wife crazy over the years," he says with a laugh and a twinkle in his eye. Alwyn cuts a neat figure in his jeans and green polo top. It's hard to believe that he was once overweight. "I lost weight on the 5:2 diet and dancing," he says.

He must be a good pupil, because he leads me in the jive, energetically "throwing" me away, then "reeling" me in. At one point he indicates for me to fall back into his arms, but I decline. Not because I don't think he is able but because I fear for my modesty. I am wearing a knee-length skirt.

Perhaps they didn't worry about such things back in the rock 'n' roll era. Neal says one of the great things about jiving was that it was so liberating for people. There was a "go with the flow" element to jive which was refreshing

During the half-time break, we head to the groundfloor bar and enjoy a drink (mostly cups of tea and orange squash) and a catch up.

I take the opportunity to quiz the jivers about the session. Harry Weatherlake is 70 and has been attending the class for two years. He takes ballroom too and says it keeps him fit. "It's very energetic and great for my heart and getting my circulation going. There are many reasons people come: it keeps you fit, but is very social too."

Paula Caywood has been jiving for less than a year. "I was the shuffler at the disco and never danced," confesses Paula. "I did walking and cycling with the U3A and this sounded fun. Gradually it comes! You rely on the man to lead you in the dance and it is a great feeling. I really like the music."

Find out more about the University of the Third Age (U3A), at 15A Clifford St, York, telephone: 01904 633726/ or visit: