Thursday, April 09, 2009

My Golden Dancers

Embroidered Into Our Hearts
By Elita Sohmer Clayman

I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even when I do not feel it. These words were written during the Holocaust by some Jewish people. Even then, they had faith which is hard to believe that people involved in terrible times still believed in better days.

Maybe, in this day and age, we can apply those words to our lives right now. Everyone wears different glasses to see the world. It doesn’t mean it corrects their vision in seeing things. They may perceive things differently than you and I do. That does not mean either of us is right or wrong.

Nyugen Binh came to this country from Vietnam many years ago. When she came, she was only seven years old. She barely could speak English, and the kids in the classroom made fun of her speech. However, when she was in math class, she excelled and then the classmates began to respect her for her intelligence. They no longer saw her as an immigrant who could not speak the language. They viewed her as a really smart seven-year-old that was in their class and would surely learn to speak well. The different glasses they viewed her with gathered her respect from them because of her ability in the mathematical category.

Many times when we go to social dances, we view someone new to dancing as mediocre because they are hesitant in doing a dance or to try a new step. We see ourselves as being very efficient in dance because we have been doing it for a long time. We sometimes forget that only several years ago we were in their shoes - dance shoes, that is.

When I first started to dance in 1977, I had the desire to dance with my teacher in a showcase at the studio. I trained for about six months with a weekly private lesson with him and then another one with my husband. The solo lesson I had with the professional teacher was difficult because I was learning a routine with an opening and closing theme.

Eventually I was ready to perform. I went out and bought a gorgeous green chiffon dress with ruffles and green satin dance shoes for my feet.

We rehearsed and rehearsed and when the day of my first showcase approached I was overwhelmed with happy anticipation and nervous apprehension. I thought that perhaps I would call him at home and tell him that I had a bad cold. No, that would not work. I thought I would not show up on time at the studio. No, that was not right. Then I thought why not go out and be brave and perform. At that time I was about 44 years old. I was slim, trim and full of vim.

The Saturday approached and in the morning I took my two children who were 17 and 13 to the mall where we ate a light lunch and went to a movie. My husband was working and he would be home by five p.m. When we came out of the movie I realized that it was still five hours to show time at the studio.

My children each had a party to attend in the evening so they were occupied and I was on my own. As the time approached my nerves were really active. We got to the studio about 8:30 and we were told to go into the changing room and to put on our dance clothes. The teacher came over and warmed us dancers up with a preliminary dance to get our feet ready.

Still I thought that perhaps I would slip out the door, call my husband on the cell phone and I would go home without performing. Then I realized that was wrong. So I put my best foot or feet forward and said to myself “let’s do it.”

I was second to perform and when they called my name out I went floating onto the floor with the teacher by my side. My nerves lessened and before I knew it I was even enjoying myself. While I was performing, an obnoxious audience member yelled out at me as I floated by “smile baby smile.” I guess I was not smiling but that was not the proper thing to scream out at me. I took it in my stride and smiled and finished up to a lot of applause.

Afterwards I was proud of myself and realized that I even kind of enjoyed it. Now I had the performance shot in the arm stimulus and I thought what fun this had all been. I really wanted to chastise that loud mouthed man who told me to smile. I guess he did not mean it nastily but it sounded that way to a very anxious dancer who really had butterflies in her stomach and toes.

I vowed that I would never do that to anybody else, scream out like that. No one needs to hear that admonition while they are trying hard to accomplish something new.

At my Weight Watchers meetings, praise and commendation is the sweetest of all greetings. We are taught there that two ounces of lost weight is a victory and just coming to a meeting class is certainly success.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 1749-1832 said “One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”

Reasonable words are indeed powerful. Words can heal and words can hurt. I would rather be the recipient of encouraging words and I always speak encouraging words to anyone I see. I always taught my children it they could not say anything nice, say nothing at all. Mom taught me that and I always tried to live by that thought.

When we are dancing and going to a dance and there is a new dancer there for the first visit, it is our obligation as a seasoned dancer to speak with them and to enlighten them with words of confidence and happiness. We can tell them how well they are doing even if that is a small lie but a white lie. That entices them to continue on and to go forward and not be depressed because they think they cannot emerge with a fine career so to speak in social or competitive dancing. One simple word can inspire them to continue on with this new event in their life that not only is good for their health but excellent for their mind.

So anytime you are at a dance and you being the experienced dancer versus the new person on the dance floor, do a mitzvah (good deed) and go and make some conversation with the novice dancer. Tell him or her that tonight is a new journey for them and the road may have a few detours but that the avenue will be full of bright lights, no stop signs, just green lights that say go. The going will be sweet and full of happy days and nights and mostly a feeling of self assurance.

Goethe also said “Whatever you can do or think, you can.” We should all be in the CAN mode because whether we are senior citizens, almost senior citizens, twenty somethings or forty somethings our goal is to have fun dancing, learning, socializing and attaining self confidence in this bold power we are trying for. We are never too young or too old to be educated in something new and by doing something new to us we gain the ability to procure the power that comes with added knowledge.

Knowledge is power and power is as Bertrand Russell said, “The desire increases with the habit.” The habit Horace Mann said “is weaving a thread of it everyday and we cannot break it.” These dancing threads are strong and once they they are woven into our hearts nothing can tear it apart. Our hearts are sewn with these strands and sewn so securely that we never want them to rip away. They are embroidered into the lace of our minds.

Keep on Dancing

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Anonymous said...

Great and informative article, Elita. Thanks for writing these lovely and inspiring words.We have been dancing for 40 years and I believe it keeps us healthy,happy and young.

Annabelle Miller Compton, Ohio

Anonymous said...

Goethe was correct. We CAN DO and lots of us do that at a FredAstaire studio nearby our residences. We go there to enjoy and to learn and it makes us so happy that we have attained this knowledge.Thanks for writing all that we believe.

Clarinda H. from Midwest USA

Anonymous said...

very reasonable words and very encouraging to us new dancers.Thank you Mrs.Elita Clayman for being an advocate to and for us as we seek this trip to learn to ballroom dance in a reasonable manner. Mostly for social activities...

Lynda Ames Malloy

Anonymous said...

Very knowledgeable story.
Mary Habe Cartwright of Chicago

Anonymous said...

You are a star in our dancing sky by telling your own stories on dancing and thereby helping us to decide to dance. Just the thought of trying to dance socially is beyond my belief, Elita.

My husband Albert and I are going dancing at a studio dance this Saturday night and if we have fun and I know we will, Monday we have scheduled a dance lesson, a trial one or introductory one here in our town.... thanks

Albert and Janine

Anonymous said...

Very good story. enjoyed it and all the others since you started writing for Fred Astaire... thanks

Alana Q. Westor from Ohio

Anonymous said...

I have read every one of your Fred Astaire articles including all on the archives list since October 08.

They have inspired me to go take some lessons at our Fred studio here in my state. I am even going to encourage my teen age daughters and their friends to take some group lessons.

I think teens who ballroom dance have an advantage over other teens in that they are doing something positive for themselves and for their ego and for their looks.

They will feel confident in knowing that they are excelling in a positive sport like activity combined with mind exercises, feet exercises and just plain old having fun with other teens.

Thank you for all of this writing. May God bless you and your family for what you are doing for the public in these trying and anxiety happening times.

Martha, Jill, Abigail and Dara Smythee