Go Grammie Go
by Elita Sohmer Clayman

Go Grammie go, gram-me,gram-me were the words from my three year old number three grandson as I was walking slowly down the steep steps in his townhome in Northern, Virginia. He lives there with his dad, my son Jeffrey, his mom Lan and his baby sister Ava. I was walking quite slowly, one step at a time. This from our car accident this past June where we were hit by a man (not a senior, not a teenager) who was texting. There was quite a lot of damage to the car and to our bodies. We are still recuperating many months later. We hope to be dismissed in April 2009 from the various doctors and hope we get a settlement worth of all our pain and discomfort. People who do these things to other people because they were in a hurry to correspond with others via texting while driving or talking on the phone while driving need to be punished and one way to do that is to raise their car insurance because their insurance company had to pay out fees to the injured people.

The thing I miss the most is my ballroom dancing. We are hoping to go back to it in a few weeks. Meanwhile, I shall listen to little three years old Ethan and I will go. He meant I should walk a little faster. He was trying to go down the steps behind me and all he saw was his Grammie doing this at a slow pace.

I thought all the way home about his comment. It was cute for sure but I figured I could use it for a new column. Many seniors, not yet seniors or even thirty something’s or forty something’s may think that dancing is not for them because it is too demanding.

If they watch Dancing with the Stars, they may be intrigued about wanting to ballroom dance and they could also feel intimidated. When they see these stars doing a new dance completely different from last week’s dance; they can think that it is too much for them to even attempt. They do not realize that the stars take many hours of coaching every week for many days and that is why they are able to conquer the dance and go out and dance before the public and the judges.

I want them to realize that their learning would not be in the same form as these stars. Their attempt to comprehend the dance will be regulated by their teacher who has experience in teaching dance. Their teacher will analyze the capabilities of the student, his or her’s age and his or her’s ability at this moment in time. Then the teacher will coach the student at this person’s level of understanding of dance. It will be just as if he or she is taking a college course; the learning level will be on that basis.

That is the way it should be with teacher and student. Many years ago, when I was almost thirty-four years of age, I decided to go back and to get a college education. The first professor I had for this course of Psychology 101 wrote in my essay booklet test that initial time “Mrs.Clayman, you can and you will do better.” He gave me a B for the whole course and that was quite satisfactory because I had not been to school for almost seventeen years. During that time, I married and had two children and lost my father. So I was busy running my home, raising my children and helping my Mom to adjust.

That line in my first test essay booklet inspired me and I went on to excel there at the school even though I was the oldest person in the class at a few months before my thirty-fourth birthday. I was the ‘old lady’ in the class of all eighteen year olds. I showed those kids that an ‘old’ lady can absorb and can learn and did learn. I graduated with honors five years later because it took me five years to do two years of college work going part time and racing home to be there when my children arrived home from school. I read a slogan once that said that something was a ‘price above rubies.’ I interpreted that to mean that some things are so worthwhile that the end result is that they are worth more than a precious stone called a ruby.

So it is with learning, whether it is college learning or dancing learning or any learning, the end result will be a price worth more than rubies. Ballroom dancing is almost a necessary tool to enjoy life. Men sometimes think it not valuable or beneficial other than to impress a lady when out on a date. Once they get indoctrinated with the routine, they find it hard to admit they really ‘love’ it. My husband was that way for many, many years. He would never admit that he liked it or enjoyed it because he found it hard. The amazing thing was that he was excellent at it. He had the best lead of any man I danced with other than the professional teachers. He held himself upright and understood the lead and the makeup of each step. As he progressed, he found it hard to admit to himself or me that he really enjoyed. dancing. He would go grudgingly to the social dances on Saturday night or Sunday afternoon and would say to the owner of the studio upon entering that he wanted to go home. She laughed because she knew he really did not feel that way. Several times, I heard him tell his male friends that he really was good at it and they seemed envious.

Once when I danced at a competition in Kansas City, Missouri he was supposed to dance with me as an amateur couple. When we got there and looked at the program, they only had a few couples dancing and they inserted us in a group of young twenty something’s dancing that heat. We were in our forties then and these ‘kids’ were in their early twenties. He decided he would not do it because of the age difference and we never showed up that morning to compete. Interesting thing was that two of the twenty something’s did not show up either and if we had danced, we would have won a trophy because we were more skilled and prepared than the rest of the competitors in that heat.

The owner of the competition Leroy Walters and his mom Gerry Walters laughed and when we were leaving to go home, they offered him a trophy because we had come such a distance to dance in their competition. He did not take it because he felt he did not deserve it since he had not entered the heat. When we got home, he took one of my trophies won there with my professional teacher and showed it to the people at our pharmacy and said he had won it. That was alright because he had gone there and he let me dance and have fun and I felt he deserved to show off and they did not know the difference.

However, what that meant was that he really loved dancing and he wanted to brag about himself to others that did not dance and he felt he wanted their admiration because he had in his own mind attempted to do it and got scared because of the age disparity. Many of us are threatened by others who appear to be dancing better than us. It is hard to eliminate that feeling, but as we progress with our lessons and our practicing at social dances; then we feel more confident.

As the professor said to me that first test, you can and you will do better. I have made that my catchword in most everything I attempt in life. Whatever I try whether it is to go to Weight Watchers to lose some weight or to take a course in something or other at a school or learning a new dance step; I remember that I can and I will do better.

The can part of that phrase is the beginning meaning telling us we are able to start. The I will do better is the middle and end result of the doing. Once we set our minds that we can attempt something new, and then our brain will take on the rest. Ballroom dancing is one of the most excellent hobbies we can start to enhance our brain power.

To someone looking at us dancing, they may not realize what important part the mind plays in ballroom dancing. They think it about the feet and maybe the arms. They are not cognizant of the fact of what an achievement this adventure is and as Katherine Anne Porter said “it is something you seek for pleasure and that you will to occur.”

This will to occur is the outcome of this adventure to learn to achieve and be proud of yourself that you did this at any age. You can be in your early twenties, thirties or even forties like I was to start. You may be in your sixties or seventies or older and still this is an accomplishment.

When I was down in Miami Beach, Florida many years ago, there was a blind lady who danced in several heats in a competition. Can you believe that no one knew she was blind and when she won her awards, it was announced that she was blind and everyone had tears in their sighted eyes at this amazing senior lady who conquered not only terrible affliction of this cross to bear; she won awards. The judges did not know of this and chose her because of her talent and presentation. At this competition there also was a young woman named Jill who had one leg shorter than the other. She had a special dance shoe made for her with it raised up and it was quite noticeable but she came out and danced like everything was normal. She did difficult steps, wore a gorgeous outfit and she smiled like she was a professional lady dancing with her student when she was the student. It took chutzpah (nerve) to go out there with this terrible handicap and especially to dance with it where it was so visible.

Many years later, we went back to this competition and there Jill was again. This time we found out that she had discovered the courage within herself to find an orthopedic doctor who said he could lengthen her to some extent and so some of the shortness was gone and she did not have to wear the dance shoe with such a built up part on it. She still was not perfect with her leg but she was about eighty percent better. She told me she had the feeling she could help herself and so she went through the operation. Ernest Hemingway called something like this as ‘grace under pressure.” Jill surely got her grace from the ballroom dancing and the professional teacher who encouraged her to dance even though her foot was so out of line, many inches shorter than the other one.

In between the operation or operations she showed herself that she could do what many thought she could not even try .She decided she wanted to dance and she did not let her handicap deter her. She was poetry in motion and she proved herself to be the poet who wrote to herself a mental note that she could and would bring to fruition her desire.

So to the Jills of this world and to the blind senior lady and to us, we must remember that we can and we will do better and that we can have grace under pressure and have pride in our self that we, no matter who we are at any age, at any handicap, and at any time in our life can accomplish. We are going to transcend every expectation that we desire. Go Grammie go means every one us should go. Go and dance and be happy doing it because we seek this pleasure and are grateful we are out there with this accomplishment known as ballroom dancing. William Hazlitt said “grace is the outward expression of the inward harmony of the soul.” That is what ballroom dancing means- harmony of the soul. I cannot wait to go back to my dancing. Then I will have the blending of my heart and soul because once more I will be a ballroom dancer.

Always keep on dancing.

You can email me at elitajerrydancing@verizon.net

 April 2009


Published by René Zgraggen
Montgomery, AL