Whirling perilously in midair and landing with aplomb on NBC’s America’s Got Talent last week, ballroom dancer Quin Bommelje, 71, brought tears to the eyes of judge Martina McBride. “You say you want to inspire people of a certain age, but you have inspired everybody of all ages,” said McBride. Quin and partner Misha Vlasov, 35, who looked more winded than she did, earned the Golden Buzzer prize, making Quin cry too, and sparking a storm of applause on social media.
“In Thailand, almost 15 million people are watching,” Thai-born Quin tells AARP. “Dancing makes you feel younger. My goal is to show people that whether they’re 50 or 60 or 70, they can do what they want to do even if they don’t think they can do it. Don’t think about your age, it’s just a number. I was 60 when I started dancing.” When skin cancer forced her to quit playing tennis in the sunshine and a friend’s wedding was coming up, Quin learned to dance for the first time in her life. It wasn’t easy on her first spin. “The first time I tried I thought I had brain damage — I threw up, my head was shaking for a week. The MRI said nothing was wrong, I just had to get used to it. Now I love it. They can toss me six feet high, and I feel fantastic.”
She chalks up her remarkable youthfulness to lots of time at the gym, dance practice, and her diet of sticky rice, vegetables and hot peppers, which contain the antioxidant capsaicin. “I eat everything green and fresh, and meat every six months, and I don’t have one cavity at 71. Drink lots of water, do stretching, walk and think positive. If we say we can do it, the body will follow.”
Quin hopes to inspire viewers to get up off the couch and get active. “Don’t sit around. If you’re 70, start today, now! It doesn’t have to be dancing, just what you want to do: gardening, horse riding, bicycling. At 80, you’ll see me skydiving on TV.”
Does she plan to invite Mission: Impossible — Fallout star Tom Cruise, 56, to join her in her 2027 skydiving debut? “I’m not sure Tom Cruise is good enough for me,” chuckles Quin.
But she invites Cruise, and everyone else, to watch her and Misha on Aug. 21, when they dance and spin again on America’s Got Talent at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. “We’re going to need everybody to vote for us!”