Sarah Patricia “Paddy” Jones hold the Guinness World Record for being the “oldest acrobatic salsa dancer.” Born on July 1, 1934, she turns 82 today! The British dancer rose to fame when she won “Tu si que vales”, a Spanish talent show, along with partner Nico in 2009 (at the time, she was “only” 75 years young). The duo went on to compete in the 2014 season of “Britain’s Got Talent” where they placed ninth, but won the hearts of salsa lovers around the world.
Paddy was born in Stourbridge, England and began dancing when she wasn’t even three years old. By the time she was a teenager, she’d been taking classes in numerous disciplines for years. At 22 years old, she gave up dance to marry David. Together, they relocated to Gandia, Spain after a lifetime together and when David was ready to retire. Sadly, he passed of leukemia after just two years in their new country.
Staying in Spain, and by now honing her Spanish, Paddy stayed in her adopted country and began taking flamenco classes at the Nicolas “Nico” Espinosa dance academy. There, she also began experimenting with salsa. Nico immediately saw her talent and partnered with her to form the “Son del Timbal” duo. He says the fact that he’s 40 years younger than her doesn’t impact their professional dance relationship at all.
When the pair won the Spanish competition, they were awarded 10,000 Euros and fans began comparing Paddy to British reality talent legend Susan Boyle. They took their fame and competed in “Bailando 2010,” which is the Argentinian “Dancing with the Stars” rendition. They also tried “Showmatch,” where they were voted off, and the losses began to add up. Nico decided a bigger change was needed, and he closed the bar he owned in Gandia to re-gather his thoughts and goals in a new city. A few years later, he returned—Paddy had remained—and they rekindled their dance relationship.
Immediately, they began tackling a variety of salsa congresses on a global scale. In 2014, they took a shot with “Britain’s Got Talent” and stole the show on April 12. Judge Amanda Holden spent her Golden Buzzer to shoot them to the semi-finals. Unfortunately, as they were preparing for the show, Jones cracked her rib on May 29 which forced them to withdraw. According to judge Holden, “Ever since I first saw Paddy dance, I fell in love with her … and I really think she could’ve won the whole show.”
In a surprise twist, just one day after the announcement of the withdrawal, a formal announcement was unleashed that revealed the pair would still be competing. The recovery was shockingly fast, and Paddy got a confirmation from doctors that she was in good enough shape to compete. She reported that she was thrilled because dancing on such a reputable show “is something I very much want to do.”
Nothing But a Number
Together, they danced all the way to the May 31 finals, earning three solid votes in the semi-finals. On June 7, they officially came in ninth place but have revolutionized what many people think a “dancer” is, should be, and could be. They are still dancing today, although not competitively. Also known as the “salsa dancing granny,” Paddy is proof that you’re never too old (or too anything!) to fall in love with salsa and even have a brand new career well into your golden years.
Salsa is a dance based on passion and love, two qualities that Paddy has by the bucketful. She’s also been known to stage incidents with “street performers” (Nico in disguise), asking a bystander to film her acting like a clichéd elderly woman with a cane as she approaches Nico on the street and asks for a spin. It’s a way of bringing joy and awe to passerby while also reminding us all that age isn’t anything but a number. “Age is just a mental state” is a message her and her partner are both committed to spreading in a fun and lively manner. If she’s inspired anyone to take up salsa, or enjoy any new hobby later in life, Paddy considers that the greatest win of all.