An Obligation
Elita Sohmer Clayman

While watching Dancing with the Stars these past few weeks, I was impressed the way most people are looking at ballroom dancing. People who never even thought about going dancing were becoming interested. Others were stunned that people still ‘do’ ballroom dance. Others were overwhelmed that people spend money to learn to dance and to maybe start to compete. Yet, others were thinking about beginning to learn to dance.

It is amazing that a program bent on showing professional teachers trying to teach stars from other fields to learn to dance in a short time was so overwhelmingly popular. Maybe the average citizen needed a break in today’s bad news, political happenings and many bad things befalling them. Maybe they wanted space in their lives to see some fun doings going on with well known personalities. I heard one so called person of knowledge say that Kristi Yamaguchi was a pro in dancing and should not be called new to it because she was a professional ice skater and competitor. Kristi may be a professional ice skater but ice skating and ballroom dancing are completely separate. True she had the sophistication to skate her self but ballroom dancing with a teacher is distinct from skating by one’s self.

Dancing with the Stars also gave the impression that ballroom is hard and hard it is to learn, however, ordinary people do not take a lesson for six to eight hours a day, seven days a week to master a dance. Average people take one lesson a week for months and years to master dances. The hoopla over these stars being so good or not so good in that particular dance was wrongly interpreted. Learning something fast as these stars are doing is not the normal way of becoming a ballroom dancer.

There is a Chinese saying that states ‘when someone shares with you something of value, you have an obligation to share it with others.’ So it should be with us ballroom dancers.

We should spread the word of what dancing means to us and how if can affect someone new. All of us who have been dancing for several decades know what benefits we can acquire from this hobby and even if our bunions get sorer and our ankles may ache, we still go on with it. I wonder sometimes if my aching feet and bone spurred heels are the result of my dancing so much or would I have them anyway. If so, it still would be worth all of the discomfort I have now and then because the dancing has given much meaning to my life.

I have met hundreds and maybe thousands of new friends that I would not have if I had not danced. I have spent hours of happiness dancing and anticipating going dancing. I have dressed up in pretty clothes and presented myself in showcases before my peers. I have competed in competitions at an advanced age and reaped the rewards of trophies, medals, compliments and certificates. My home is filled with shelves of these rewards and even though they are dust traps, I do not mind dusting them off weekly. I get a thrill out of seeing them displayed on the shelves and know that I certainly achieved, accomplished and earned them.

If we seniors worry about tomorrow too much and we are afraid of things, this steals happiness from today. I heard that comment on a soap opera I watch daily. It was a quite relevant line and very worthwhile to quote. Many seniors and not yet seniors worry very much about tomorrow when today is just as important. I see today in my grandchildren’s eyes as they go about being involved in today. Young folks do not always think about tomorrow the way seniors do. True, one must think of the future in terms of money, health and situations but we should dwell also on enjoying today. Today is important and we should do our best each day to get the most out of it whether it is work, pleasure, vacation or just plain old living.

Living is important each day and being grateful to be here is also important. As I approach my seventy-fourth birthday this June twenty-first, I realize that I outlived in age my father, Joseph B. Sohmer who passed away at a few days after his seventy-second birthday and my brother Herbert M. Sohmer who passed away a few days short of his seventy-third birthday. So I am doing well as far as the family life span was or is and my mom Lea W. Sohmer lived to be only seventy-seven which is young nowadays.

So seniors need to grasp that today is just as important as tomorrow and we need to enjoy every aspect of it whether it be watching our grandchildren grow and succeed or watching ourselves grow and succeed. We can do so much more now than my father and mother did in those days because there is much more for us to do and attain. We have computers that keep our minds and fingers active and other activities like ballroom dancing that keep our feet, arms, shoulders, minds and souls functioning and energetic.

Once many years ago, when I was about thirty-one and my children were five and one year of age, my mom was here and she was about fifty-eight and looked well for her age, Her hair was slightly sprinkled with gray in her red colored hair and she opened the front door because there was noise outside. The neighborhood next door ‘bad boy’ looked at her and spouted “look the old lady just opened her door to say something to me.” He viewed my mom as an old lady and categorized her as something below normal. She was smart and had gone back to work at age fifty-seven when my dad died .She held a responsible position with the State of Maryland and was doing well and looked lovely. Her hair was fixed and she dressed sweetly and yet this bad boy kid looked upon her as something aged.

Of course, now he is her age almost and I see him around visiting his mom and dad who still live next door to us and he himself is not as attractive at his age of fifty as my mom was at fifty-eight. She had accomplished more at her age than he has now at his age.

So age is in the eye of the beholder whether it be a bad boy type person or a regular person. We are what we are because we made ourselves that way. We are and will always be unique and spectacular.

Ballroom dancers are a special group of people who I think mature well because they have the exercise and the stamina to dance at an advanced age and who think of themselves as still young and able to do things. An old time comedian Billie Burke once said that only ‘cheese ages.’ We are not cheese, we develop.

So worrying about tomorrow and being afraid does steal happiness from today and when someone shows you something of value then we as ballroom dancers have an obligation to share it with others. That we do by promoting ballroom dance to the world and when we talk about it and share our views about it, then our obligation becomes a promise, a pledge and a responsibility to others. Then it becomes dancing with a star. We are the star for now and the dancing is the ultimate goal.

Elita Sohmer Clayman
Baltimore, Maryland
June 2008


Published by René Zgraggen
Montgomery, AL