Dancing is Like a Box of Chocolates
Elita Sohmer Clayman

This is my February column. Some months it is hard to find an interesting topic to write about. February is the month of love, Valentine’s Day. The first Valentine’s Day that I was going with my husband occurred only four months after we had met. I did not expect much and I did not get much. He gave me a five pound box of chocolates and I was so thrilled that I did not open it up for two months. I let it sit on my bureau dresser and kept looking at it all the time.

I loved the heart shaped red box with the bow on it and the smell of the delicious chocolates. The box could have been empty and I would have still loved it for the thought and all the things I hoped would come true from this first offering. The things did come through and we married two years later.

Many dancers feel great anticipation after starting on their first lesson. We started on November 2, 1977 and after we went down in the elevator of the dance studio, I had this premonition that tonight was the beginning of a new plateau in our lives. So it was and it evolved into weekly dance lessons, competitions for me and Saturday night social dances at the studio where we took these lessons. The next day after the first lesson, we rode down to a music store in a small mall and bought about six records, those big ones that were used in those days. They were Arthur Murray recordings for ballroom dance. We would go down to our family room in the basement and roll up the rug and try to remember what we had learned the previous night. We wanted to become good dancers and we knew that practice surely made us closer to perfect.We took notes as the teacher gave us instructions and tried to decipher what he had said the previous evening. I even bought a small tape recorder and began to tape in audio mode the whole lesson to help us remember his teachings.

Those were exciting moments in my life, the beginning of a dream that I always wanted to be a ballroom dancer. Now I see advertisements on the television that hurray ballroom dancing is back. Back from where I say? It never left, we knew it never disappeared; we knew it was alive and well. It seems the general public thinks that ballroom has reinvented itself with the program Dancing With the Stars. Ballroom never left; perhaps it was quieter because the show was not on the television. It has stayed and we dancers know that it continued on and we with it.

Many email me that ballroom dancing has influenced their life to the point that it is a necessary need they have to do it, spend money on it and enjoy it. Even some dancers who now are unable to go out and dance due to some physical ailments or problems with their shoulders or knees still go to dances and sit around talking to other dancers and use it as a social tool even though they cannot really dance a lot there that day or evening. They feel that just being there in the dance environment is cause enough to dress up, pay and if they can only dance one or two dances, they have accomplished and continue on their dream. They may not be able to cha-cha the way they used to years ago, but they can still enjoy the music and the beat and listening to the music is also therapy to their hearts and ears.

People seem to think that this is something new and that the folks who were dancing quietly and not on shows and who had not called attention to themselves did not exist.They think this because we silently went about our dancing hobby and the only applause that existed for us was the clapping we gave to our being by becoming so happy doing this thing called ballroom dance.. We did not need any television shows to promote it, we did not need advertisements to herald this, and we did not need thirty hours of practice and learning to excel in this as the stars of these shows do. The hype all about dancing seems to appeal to new dancers who thought they could not do this and now have hope that maybe they can.

The Valentine heart box of candy when opened consisted of about twenty different kinds of shades of chocolate. So is the box called dancing when opened. There are many varieties of dancing and like the chocolate may appeal to one person and not the other person. The interesting thing is like the box of chocolates, dancing is sweet and delicious and we do not know what to expect when we bite into a piece that looks a bit like something we have not discovered before this moment. We can try it and if we do not enjoy it, we put it aside or in the case of candy, we throw it away. We cannot destroy something in dancing by tossing it aside, but we can save it for later or for never or for when we are more ready to ‘taste’ it and savor it.

Many readers write about their first experience taking that initial lesson. They have fear, they have anticipation of something great, they have feelings intensified by the unknown and lastly they have hope. Hope that they will excel in this at some point and that they will eventually view it as a hobby of delight and a hour of fun and knowledge. That is exactly what I imagined after the first lesson with our coach Laurence E. Miller. Larry was a young man about twenty years or so in age from us. That did not matter. He had the tools we wanted and he gave us the love of dancing that we still adhere to. He encouraged us and complimented us and gave us the hope that we could become great.

I have always been grateful to him because without his understanding in his young years, he helped a couple in their forties to feel that forty was young to begin to learn to dance.The learning is easy; it is the continuing on and reaching for the stars. So Dancing with the Stars may be a popular program, but like my Valentine box of candy way back in 1958 given by a young man to the young lady he was starting to court as they called it then, so our assorted dancing box was full of enticing tastes of dancing. I am glad that I opened it up and did not let it sit there, that is my dancing and not my candy.

When we bought our first little doggie, we named her Candy because she was white and fluffy like a cotton candy on a stick you get at a carnival. Our second doggie many years later was named Rhumba and I need not explain why other than to say she moved her hips like she was doing that dance.

So go and open up that Valentine box of imaginary candy and think of it as a container of ballroom dancing opportunities. Sweet, delicious, delightful and enticing. The most important part is that it is better than the candy because it will not stick to your hips, it will make your hips move and heart feel happy. Go rhumba or cha-cha or waltz. Whatever you accomplish for those four minutes will make your life sweeter and best of all no calories used up. In fact, calories will disappear as you dance your way to a sweeter life.

Elita Sohmer Clayman
Baltimore, Maryland
February 2008

Keep on Dancing


Published by René Zgraggen
Montgomery, AL