Ginger and Fred and Football Galore
Elita Sohmer Clayman

Fifty years ago this December 2008 the then Baltimore Colts football team played the New York Giants in New York. My boyfriend then, now for forty-eight years husband decided to go to that game via bus with a friend rather than spend the day with me, a Sunday. I could not understand why a guy falling in love with a gorgeous girl like me would rather go to that or any football game. He went and has been talking about it ever since because it turned out to be the most fabulous and exciting game in all of football.

So I was glad he went and that I had not deterred him from going. I would never have heard the end of that and possibly he would have been so sad not going, he would have broken up with me. Where would I be now? I would not have my two children by him, my four grandchildren, my home and especially my ballroom dancing as part of my life.

So sad if I had missed out on ballroom dancing because if I had married someone else, he may not have been interested in it. However, though my husband always stated he did not like to dance; I knew in his heart he somehow really did enjoy it. I heard him often bragging to friends that he was an accomplished dancer and went every Sunday to a social dance. Sometimes, men do not profess their caring about dance because it may not seem too manly. Most men when they really learn to dance well are also proud of this accomplishment.

When we were younger and disco was the rage, we went several times a week to a disco club here in our city called Gerards. We discoed for hours rarely sitting down except to eat a light dinner since he had come from work and we had not had time to eat. In between songs, we would eat small portions and then get up and dance the hours away. The music was non stop so you could stop and start at any time. We were probably very good at it and it was fun and tiring.

Of course disco passed on to the world of dance deaths and though some is done now, it is not the way it was done then in the seventies when we danced for hours. I never really liked it as much as I did a waltz or foxtrot or rumba. It was the thing to do and know and we were still young then and felt ‘with it’ because we could do ‘it.’

We even named our second doggie Rhumba because she moved her hips (do dogs have hips?) like she was doing the rumba. Note we spelled her name the old fashion way of Rhumba.When we would go down to the family room and practice the steps we had learned that night in dance class, Rhumba would hide under the sofa. She thought to herself “what the heck are they doing?”

Our lives changed after that first dance lesson way back on November 2, 1977. Everything we considered to do was based around our two lessons per week and his work schedule. Anytime we went to a party or event, we got up and danced and showed off like we were Fred and Ginger. I often felt like Fred and Ginger because I loved to dance and still do. When you dance, all your troubles slip away for those few hours and you are some one else doing something else. It is a good couple of hours of recreation, exercise and mind soothing.

When Mom was sick for a whole year, I would run off to a lesson and forget for sixty minutes how sad I was feeling for her. Dance is a catharsis for the soul and heart. We get so wrapped up in it when we are at the studio, we are in another world. A world having no sadness, no grief and no worries. Worry we do all the time about this and that and that and this and if you are a consummate worrier like I am, you need the time out of some ballroom dancing.

I wish that all the public and private schools would give at least one hour a week and have someone teach ballroom dance to the high school kids. This would give some social skills and some exercise and more enhancement of their ego. They would learn to share time with different people they might never even talk to and to act kindly and politely to other kids in their class. They would get to know more about each other and possibly find another new friend they would never have been involved with. They would eventually enjoy it and admit to themselves that this was truly fun mixing the brain power needed to ballroom dance with the exercise that would be better than being in gym class...

I guess some day it will be incorporated in some schools. A school teacher I knew did talk about the history of ballroom dance in her high school social classes. She was a dancer and she showed the kids her enthusiasm and they could not believe that she was a dancer. She brought in pictures of herself dancing and then they believed her and kind of had lots of respect for her. Many clamored to get into her class so they see what all the talk was about Ms. L being a dancer. They became very respectful of her when they realized she was truly a ballroom dancer and this is twenty years before Dancing With The Stars became popular.

Dancing teaches respect for one another, coordination of arms and legs and brain power and most of all it enhances one’s respect for him or her self.

When I was in Florida as a fourteen year old teenager in 1948 visiting a step aunt for a month, I would go on the bus to the beach to meet teens my age because Aunt Eve did not know how to entertain me in the afternoons. She was a step mother to my first cousins and was raising them and they were both five and ten years older than me.

So I made friends (my I was brave for a 1948 teenager) and they asked my name and I said it was Ginger because I loved dancing and Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. I never told them my real name and so it was a precursor of my now dancing career. I was way ahead of my own time it seems.

When we were in Paris in 1972 the people in our tour went with us to the Lido Night Club and these older folks got up and danced the night away. I told my husband when we came back to the states; we were taking ballroom dance lessons. He said no way. We did and the rest is history these last thirty-one years. A history of fun, excitement, competitions, showcases, new friends, writing dance articles and most of all besides great exercise, a spark was ignited in our life of delight and joy.

Joy to the heart and soul and the toes and soles and as Shakespeare said in sonnet 53 “what is your true essence, what are you made of that there should be millions of reflections of you?” Reflections of wisdom in learning to ballroom dance and reflections of happiness in the mirror when looking at our self. We realize that we are special people, young persons, almost seniors, now seniors and even teenagers who want to learn to really dance and to dance well.

So me who was Ginger now dances with Jerry and we are now Ginger and Fred. That is the way I think of us and believe me it is indeed a beautiful reflection and as John Milton said “reflection is wisdom’s best nurse.” We will need no nurses to care for us because we have cared for our self by excelling in dance at whatever age we started doing this glorious, awesome, unbelievable and astonishing thing called DANCE.

Always Keep On Dancing.
December 2008

Published by René Zgraggen
Montgomery, AL