There is so much to write about in the world of dance these days, I hardly know where to start.
Once upon a time, dancers were rare birds. Nowadays, shows like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance have revived an interest in dancing all over the world. Ballroom dancing especially has experienced a revival. Just a few short years ago, the average age at a ballroom or Latin dancing event was 60+, and most schools taught “social dancing” – just enough to get around the floor. Now you will see a much wider spread of ages, and teachers are putting more effort into teaching correct style and technique.
For me, the great thing about SYTYCD is that it showcases a range of different dance styles, not just one. I’m a little peeved that flamenco and belly dancing – my two specialities – don’t get a look-in, but I live in hope! However I’m sure that hip hop, jazz ballet, contemporary, ballet, swing, ballroom, Latin and salsa classes have all benefited hugely from exposure on So You Think You Can Dance.
When I was young, I thought the only path to being a professional dancer was ballet or jazz ballet. I wish there had been a show like So You Think You Can Dance, to open my eyes to all the different styles I could pursue. I might have found my niche much earlier! There is a generation of young dancers growing up with no such blinkers thanks to this show – it’s exciting to think how the dancers of the future will turn out.
But it’s not just children who are being inspired to learn to dance. Adults are realising what they’ve missed out on, too. These days, I often meet women (and the occasional man) in their forties or fifties, just dipping their toes into ballroom or belly dancing thanks to these shows. It makes me thankful I was exposed to dance at such a young age. But it’s never too late to take up a dance style, if you pick the right one – and I’m a good example of that, in some ways. Due to childhood illness, I didn’t start dancing until my teens, so I thought a dance career was not an option. Nevertheless, I kept on with ballet and jazz as a hobby when I could – finding it harder and harder to locate classes as I got older.
When I reached 40 – way past the normal retirement age for ballet dancers – I switched to flamenco, which opened up a whole new world! Within a couple of years of starting flamenco, I was in a troupe performing regularly at weddings, conferences, parties and in cabaret.
Photo by henna lionThen as I turned 50, my knees started to give me trouble. I was told it was an impact injury caused by the constant pounding of flamenco, so I had to give up for a while. For fun, I went along to a belly dancing class with a friend. What a revelation! I had loved the fact that flamenco gave me a chance to perform at long last, but the style taught here is quite classical, with little body movement. In bellydance, I rediscovered that wonderful after-class feeling that I used to get from ballet and jazz – the sense that my whole body had been stretched and loosened. Thanks to my jazz background, I found the hip movements of bellydance very easy and I made rapid progress and never went back to flamenco.
I thoroughly recommend belly dancing for any mature age women, whether you’ve danced before or not. If you’re too shy to go to a class, start with some belly dance DVD’s and learn to belly dance at home.
Belly dancing isn’t the only kind of dance I do. At 50, I was lucky enough to meet the man who is now my husband – and he liked dancing! On our second date, he took me out dancing and taught me the Samba on the dance floor. He must have been keen, because he persevered despite the number of times I stood on his toes – and two years later, we were married.
Now, approaching 58, I dance two or three nights a week belly dancing, ballroom and latin. They’re all fairly easy on the body, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to continue with them for many years. I attended a bellydance fair last weekend, and a 76 year old was performing – so that’s encouraging!
Couple photo by My Alternative Photos
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