Monday, April 06, 2009

My Golden Dancers

Ashley and Beliefs
By Elita Sohmer Clayman

Ashley, a daughter of a friend of mine, received a prayer necklace for a gift. The directions said to open the charm's lid and to put your prayers in it and then to close it and wear it. We assumed that by doing so the prayers would come true. Ashley told her mom that she wanted to take it to her church day care center and to add a prayer to the necklace and to “splain” (explain) to the teacher all about this necklace.

Ashley, even at her young age of three and half, knew the reason behind prayers and what prayers mean to the majority of us. You need not be religious (any religion) to pray and to believe and to hope. I saw a license plate with the word BELIEVE on it. I thought that maybe it belonged to a clergyman of any faith and how appropriate that was. However, when the person got out of the car on the parking lot, I saw it was a senior citizen. I approached her and said what nice wording that was and she told me how that came about.

She said when she was a young girl, they had very little money and things were done so frugally in her home that she often prayed that they would have enough money for food and some meager clothing so she could go to school and not be ashamed of her looks.

Her old grandmother told her to always believe that tomorrow would be better and the day after that even better. So ever since there were vanity license plates, she had the word of believe on hers.

Vinda Riley of the Midwest wrote to me about her wanting all her life to be a dancer of any kind. When she was a youngster, she wanted to be a ballerina and they could not afford it. When she was newly married, she wanted to take ballroom dance lessons and she could not afford even group lessons in a recreation center. As the years went by, her desire increased and finally when the dance movies came, especially the first Japanese movie called Shall We Dance, her desire overwhelmed her. She saw it five times and identified with the man in the movie. So she went out and signed up for a short course of group lessons at a local dance studio. Needless to say, that hooked her and she is still dancing and still learning and has five trophies for her competition days. She said she always believed it would happen and perhaps waiting so long made the event more special. Now she goes twice a week for lessons and twice a week for social dancing and she finally convinced her husband to accompany her. Now they believe together and have fun with their new found happiness.

When I was young girl, there was a movie theater about eight blocks away from our house. In those days, you walked everywhere or if you had about fifteen cents to spare, you took a streetcar. So I saved my fifteen cents each way and walked the eight blocks to see a movie called The Red Shoes starring Moira Shearer. As I remember these many years later, it was about a girl who wanted to be a dancer and these red shoes that were her inspiration. On the way back from walking to the movie, it got a tiny bit dark as the days were getting shorter and this was the beginning of wintertime. I had to walk by an old and gray looking building that was a convent. It was very dreary looking and also a very dark day. I quickly moved my pace up to walk faster past this sad looking building and I pretended that I was Moira Shearer wearing my red ballet shoes. I imagined that I had come to this old, creepy building and that I danced for the folks in there to give them a piece of the outside world since I was told they never left the convent other than for funerals. I thought that maybe if they saw a young person dancing, they could smile and be happy. I pranced by the old building and as I did, an elderly nun came out I guess to get some air. She smiled at me and said “How are you, my dear young one, and why are you walking by so fast?” I replied that “I was running home from the movie and it was getting late and did not want my mom to worry about me.” She said “You are a good girl and may God bless you all the days of your life and you should always be good to your mom.”

I never forgot her saying that and many years later I saw that the Red Shoes was made into a video tape and I thought how nice if the old nun was living and I could send her a copy of the movie. Of course, she was not, it was like fifty years later and she was old then and I was about fourteen or so. I figured she knew that someday I would be wearing red dance shoes and she had blessed me with her words and that is why so many years later I took up ballroom dancing which is not ballet but you can wear red shoes if you want.

Always remember, if you have the desire, it is never too late to start a hobby. A friend of mine retired with her husband and they chose to live in Williamsburg, Virginia which is quite a distance from her home here in Baltimore, Maryland. She built a nice home and had to make new friends and start a new life at this senior time in their lives. She emails me that now she is taking up golf and is the only female in the class and she loves it. She is doing something that she wants even though it is later on in her life and she is having fun doing it. She joked that the teacher is quite young and cute.

Ballroom dancing is a sport that can be started even if you are a senior. When we first started to dance, we went to a competition in Florida. I competed in a few dances and saw that the ladies who were seniors and then some were dancing with their teachers as Pro-Ams and were having the time of their lives. They dressed up, they danced, they had fun and they had a marvelous social life. I was only in my early forties and felt quite young compared to these seventy and some eighty year old ladies. They were spry and dedicated and gorgeous to watch. As they won their competitions and took hold of the gigantic trophies that were given, I thought how wonderful that these senior ladies could go out on the dance floor and participate in this fantastic sport-hobby and that they excelled in doing so.

From Ashley to the nun to Vinda Riley to my friend Gloria in Williamsburg, Virginia to me, Elita, we all BELIEVE IN WHAT WE WANT TO BELIEVE IN and that is beautiful. As long as we believe and as my Dad used to say “Tomorrow will be good, the next day better and the days after than wonderful.” Take up your ballroom dancing, your golf, your desire and believe that you can always add a prayer as little Ashley wanted to do.

Ballroom dancing knows no age limits as to starting times. Ballroom dancing knows no restrictions as to what you can and will be able to comprehend. You can go out there and begin when you are ready and it will be waiting for you. One of the definitions of ready is to be on ‘one’s toes.’ How appropriate because that is what we are doing, being on our toes and resolving to accomplish and to do their best at this time in their senior years. No senior moments for these ladies, they were accurate, excellent and delightful.

Ashley, Vinda, Gloria, Elita and you, my dear reader are going to put on your red shoes, black shoes, gold shoes or any shoes and go on the journey of dance either today, tomorrow or real soon. Your shoes of any color will promote your dancing your way into excitement and passion. Someone once said that passion is the wind necessary to put everything in motion. The motion becomes emotion and from then on your dancing will take hold of your life and your life will be full of passion and glorious days and evenings.

Always keep on dancing and believing.

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Anonymous said...

Always believe.This is very important for us all to do especially now in this recession.
When I dance at the studio, I get relief from problems even if just for a hour or two.

When dancing, you are in a world of happiness and social activity and it is a breath of fresh air in today's trying times.

The money spent going to a dance is well worth it and the relieving of tension of daily activities is lessened.

As you always say, Elita, Keep on Dancing.

Lynda Emma Smith Rawlings
North Carolina

Anonymous said...

Enticing article. Fred if alive would be proud of you Mrs. Elita Clayman for telling these stories about your life and others' lives ballroom dancing.

I am proud to say that I too am a ballroom dancer for the last five years. I read one of your articles in the Amateur Dancers magazine that was in print then.

You stated that to dance is to live more happily. I can tell you now, my husband and I have something to do together and it is especially nice since our children Vincent and Margaret are away at college.

Thanks again...

Harolynnne Casey Scott and husband Mark from these United States

Anonymous said...

Great is only word I can use on these 'hopeful' articles that give us hope we too can learn to ballroom dance even just enough to have fun. we do not need to compete, just to show off a bit.

Roger and Kathy Cohen New York

Anonymous said...

love these articles... so inspiring and encouraging and uplifting... so good...

Lana Tucker-Smythe