Aging Gracefully

I went to the ob-gyn doctor for a checkup since I was not feeling well. She did her "thing" and announced to me that "my insides were aging gracefully." This was nice to hear and I thought that I had never heard this type of pronouncement before. As always, I am going to relate this to ballroom dancing. You may be thinking as to how that can be. Here goes. Ballroom dancing helps us to age gracefully, not only in our bodies but in our minds. Everyone knows that you have to think in your mind before your feet can move gracefully.

When I first learned to ballroom dance, I always looked down at my feet and when the teacher said you cannot do that, I could not believe that one could dance and not look to see if their feet were moving the right way. Quickly, one realizes that they need not look at their feet to make them move. At first, you cannot believe that your feet can do that

When we are watching Dancing With The Stars, all we see are bare upper chests or almost not covered upper chests in the male teachers or student. We see skimpy dresses on the students or female teachers.

I believe we are supposed to be watching the near nudity and not concentrating on the style and smartness of the student. The costumes are meant to distract us and to think sexually about them. Instead we should be seeing who is doing excellent dancing.

Maybe we are expected not to notice if the student is advancing or becoming better at dancing. Perhaps we are to slant our eyes at the enticing and sparkly costumes.

When I was approached back in 1978 to get a ‘noticeable’ costume dress to appear in for my first competition with my teacher, I was told they made beautiful dresses only in London, England. So I sent my measurements to England, picked out a fabric, got the price and was ready to go. I got back a reply from the English seamstress that since I wore a larger size, the cost would be more.

I decided to find someone who could make me a ballroom dance competitive dress. I found a tailor here in Baltimore, Maryland who was doing that for many years and had been a dancer with his wife for thirty years too.

I picked out a lovely rose colored satin material and he made me the most lovely sparkly, sequined and crystal chip dress ever seen. It probably weighed ten pounds when put on. It had lovely crinoline net underskirts which was the style of that time. The men did not like these dresses because it inhibited closeness to the partner which was needed in certain dances. I wore it for many years at different competitions and won many trophies wearing it. It was not the dress though looking attractive is all a part of the competition deal.

The point is had I been wearing this gorgeous dress and could not dance what I needed to dance to win an award, I would not have been awarded anything. The quality of my dancing coupled with the dress was a package deal and that is what rewarded me. I did not have bare legs, thighs, chest or arms. We were covered up in those days and even the champion professional teachers never wore real skimpy costumes even for Latin dancing.

First we must learn to dance and then worry about the costume we will perform in. Learning to dance is something that stays with you like when you were a kid and learned to ride a bike. Many years, even twenty years later you still remember how to bike ride. so it is with dancing.. Due to an auto accident almost two years ago, my husband and I have not danced socially. He keeps saying he forgot lots of things. I say that once we get back there to the studio in the next two weeks, it will all come back to us. Maybe, we will not be perfect but then we never were, but we will still remember plenty of steps and patterns.

Investing in dance lessons is a good investment. That is my opinion and I am sure most dancers feel that way. If you go to the movies to see a new one, you come out and feel good or bad depending on what you saw. That is it, you talk about it for a while and then it is gone. When you put money into learning something new like dancing, you increase your learning each week or months and it stays with you and then it all comes together. One day you get up there and dance and you are amazed, you remembered, you did it and most of all you are proud.

From dancing you have social events, you have learning events and most of all your mind and body benefit from accomplishing. Accomplishing something like ballroom dancing could be one of your most relevant and rewarding moments. Take a picture digital or regular and look at yourself in action. You will be delighted to see that at this age whatever age it is now, you are achieving and realizing a dream you may have had for a long time. You may have thought you would never get around to doing it and now you have.

When I was about twenty-two I had the thought to go and learn to ballroom dance. I went to a franchised studio here in town and signed up for 50 lessons at 10 dollars a lesson. In the 1950’s that was a lot of money. The teachers there were not competent like teachers I have had in later life. They were there to boost their salary, compliment you when you did not deserve it and gloss over the learning thing.

I finished up the 50 lessons and did not know what I learned when my husband and I started in 1977.

That was a different quality of learning and having gone to the other place; I appreciated the quality of the dance teacher and the studio. They did not urge you to buy steep contracts; they did not compliment you just to keep you coming. They encouraged, inspired and educated you and I was the recipient of excellent learning.

That is why we continued onto now over thirty-three years later. Everyone can find a studio or teacher with high standards and you will profit from this experience.

Shakespeare said in one of his many sonnets. "I am a rich man with a key to the treasure in the chest." When we find a competent studio and a studio of that kind, then we have the key to success and the key to being excellent ballroom dancers. Our life will become a treasure and we will be rich.

Keep on Dancing and most of all enjoying every moment you do.

Elita Sohmer Clayman

February 2010

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Published by René Zgraggen
Montgomery, AL