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I’ve been dancing since I was about six-years old. There have been years (more like decades) when I took no formal classes and now, at 75, I take two a week: tap (check out the video) and jazz (due to COVID, on Zoom). I can’t tell you how much joy I get from dance and how much it has contributed to my health and well-being. I don’t mean as exercise for heart health or bone strength, but how much it simply makes me feel connected to my body and good all over.
Maybe because I grew up in the 50s and 60s, before thinness became a cultural obsession, I never thought of dance as exercise. It was just, well, fun. And also, a family affair, as my parents, both excellent dancers, took lessons from an instructor with several other couples by rotating hosting houses. Many were the nights when my father came home from work and music was playing in the kitchen that he grabbed me or my mother and whirled us around the floor. Though we lived in northern New Jersey, my mother took me weekly by bus to Manhattan (where we used to live) for dancing lessons at the then well-known Charlie Lowe’s song and dance studio (where singer Connie Francis studied!).
If you’ve never danced, think you’re too uncoordinated or clumsy to try, or fear that higher weight people don’t belong on a dance floor or in a dance studio, you might want to think twice. In both of my classes, there are people of higher weight and of varying sizes and shapes. Several of them are excellent dancers who strut their stuff in my teacher’s dance troupe that puts on local shows. One classmate started out in the beginner tap class and, within a year, was in the advanced class—while I remained an advanced beginner for years and only recently bumped up to intermediate level.
A while back, two of my fellow dancers and I dropped down from a class for which we were ill suited: it was too much hard work to keep up and too little fun. None of us are in class to become the next Ginger Rogers or Gregory Hines. All of us are there to have a good time. Not a week goes by that we don’t laugh at each other or ourselves. We go out of our way to welcome newcomers, send cards to people who need support, and frequently turn to each other for help when we can’t figure out the steps in a routine.
This blog was inspired by my reading an article on the physical and mental benefits of dance. It describes how dance can actually lift your mood by “boosting production of feel-good hormones” and mood enhancing endorphins. It can provide social connection and support, raise your heart rate, work your respiratory system, and give large muscle groups a work out. I would add that it’s a great shame and self-consciousness buster and confidence builder.
Look for COVID-safe in-person classes or check out classes online.
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