Before my marriage in the seventies I loved to dance but my husband didn't, so I gave it up and took up other activities that hubby and I could share - like hiking and horseback riding. But breaking my hip made me focus on the need for coordination and grace, so dancing as a kind of self-prescribed physical therapy was a logical choice. Several local venues offered a free hour long lesson before social dancing starts, and I took those lessons - two step, cha cha, cowboy waltz, Argentine tango and west coast swing. And what started as physical therapy soon became a full blown addiction.
The fact that I had been married for three decades was never much of an obstacle. Hubby didn't mind me going our for an hour or two, but it took him years to decide to learn to dance himself. When I go out alone I never stay out late, just an hour or two - long enough to get my dancing ya ya's out. And dance proved to be therapeutic in more ways than one.
First of all, there is my original reason; the purely physical enjoyment of exercising with another person. Team sports and couple sports, like dancing, or even tennis, give us a chance to respond to another person's movements in a safe, non-sexual context. He leads, you follow. As beautifully and gracefully as possible.
Which brings up another pleasure of dancing. The chance to move in a graceful, even beautiful way and let other’s watch you. As a middle aged woman, this is a real treat after the real world, where women-of-a certain-age often feel invisible. Dancing offers a chance to feel appreciated, to feel seen. No matter which dance style you prefer - latin, ballroom, or even country and western like me - you have the opportunity to dress in a more feminine and attractive way than usual. Dancers dress to be seen and as a dancer you can wear age-inappropriate clothes without worrying that anyone will judge you. Dancing gives you an opportunity to dress like a teenager again and while I wouldn’t want to BE a teen, they do get to wear cuter clothes than older women do.
Dancing can be a three minute romance. He acts. You react. He looks at you, watches you, pays attention to you and in our middle years this alone can be a good reason to dance.
Women often do so much for other people without feeling appreciation. Dancing has a lot in common with a hug and I have often suspected that is a main reason a lot of single people dance. The dance floor is a safe space for a lot of good feelings- a chance to feel relaxed, cozy, sensuous. Usually the intimacy ends when the dance is done but there is always the chance that the spark might ignite and you’ll connect off the floor as well.
Here is a chance to move in provocative ways, flirt with your eyes and even your body. And at the end of the dance you get to say thank you and walk. As someone married for decades to the same man this safe place to interact with other men had a powerful appeal.
And sometimes it’s just plain nice to get out of the house. To get dressed up and go somewhere outside your regular circle of family and friends, Dancers come from all walks of life and you have an opportunity to meet all kinds of people. My world has largely been a professional, middle class one and dancing widened my circle in all directions. We choose our dance partners because we think it would be fun to dance with them (and visa versa), not necessarily because of the way they look or their age. My dance partners range from thirty to over eighty. While hygiene is important, age, dress, and beauty are less important than they are in real life. And the lighting in a dance hall is usually dim and flattering.
Each dance offers a slightly different appeal but some things they all have in common is what starts as a dance of the feel evolved into a dance of the soul. Dancing is a personal experience and my personal experience may not be true for you. But what is true for all is once you get past feeling awkward (everyone was a beginner once) the dance floor offers an opportunity to express yourself and to fill a gap in your life that may not have another outlet, a gap you may not even know you have. For me it reminds me of a line from a Toby Keith song, “I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.”
Amy is a world traveller who has visited over 80 countries. Along with dancing several nights a week she keeps very active riding horses, hiking, and still loves to cook. She is currently teaching Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) at Encore University and just finished writing a book tentatively called Salt Water and Sawdust, the early years of Esther Pohl Lovejoy.