Monday, May 18, 2009

My Golden Dancers

Ginger and Fred and Football Galore

By Elita Sohmer Clayman

Fifty years ago, last December, the then Baltimore Colts football team played the New York Giants in New York. My boyfriend then, now for 48 years husband, decided to go to that game via bus with a friend rather than spend that Sunday with me. I could not understand why a guy falling in love with a gorgeous girl like me would rather go to that or any football game. He went and has been talking about it ever since because it turned out to be the most fabulous and exciting game in all of football.

So I was glad he went and that I had not deterred him from going. I would never have heard the end of that and possibly he would have been so sad about not going, he would have broken up with me. Where would I be now? I would not have my two children by him, my four grandchildren, my home and especially my ballroom dancing as part of my life.

I might have missed out on ballroom dancing because if I had married someone else, he may not have been interested in it. However, though my husband always stated he did not like to dance, I knew in his heart that he somehow really did enjoy it. I heard him bragging often to friends that he was an accomplished dancer and went every Sunday to a social dance. Sometimes, men do not profess to care about dance because it may not seem too manly. Most men, when they really learn to dance well, are also proud of this accomplishment.

When we were younger and Disco was the rage, we went several times a week to a Disco club here in our city called 'Gerards.' We discoed for hours, rarely sitting down except to eat a light dinner since he had come from work and we had not had time to eat. In between songs, we would eat small portions and then get up and dance the hours away. The music was non-stop so you could stop and start at any time. We were probably very good at it, and it was fun and tiring.

Of course, Disco passed on to the world of dance deaths and though some is done now, it is not the way it was done then in the '70s when we danced for hours. I never really liked it as much as I did a Waltz or Foxtrot or Rumba. It was the thing to do and know, and we were still young then and felt ‘with it’ because we could do ‘it.’

We even named our second dog 'Rhumba' because she moved her hips (do dogs have hips?) like she was doing the Rumba. Note that we spelled her name the old fashion way of Rhumba.When we would go down to the family room and practice the steps we had learned that night in dance class, Rhumba would hide under the sofa. She thought to herself, “What the heck are they doing?”

Our lives changed after that first dance lesson way back on November 2, 1977. Everything we considered to do was based around our two lessons per week and his work schedule. Anytime we went to a party or event, we got up and danced and showed off like we were Fred and Ginger. I often felt like Fred and Ginger because I loved to dance and still do. When you dance, all your troubles slip away for those few hours and you are someone else doing something else. It is a good couple of hours of recreation, exercise and mind soothing.

When Mom was sick for a whole year, I would run off to a lesson and forget for sixty minutes how sad I was feeling for her. Dance is a catharsis for the soul and heart. We get so wrapped up in it when we are at the studio, we are in another world, a world with no sadness, no grief, and no worries. We worry all the time about this and that and that and this, and if you are a consummate worrier like I am, you need the time out of some ballroom dancing.

I wish that all the public and private schools would give at least one hour a week to teach ballroom dance to the high school kids. This would give the kids some social skills and exercise; it would also enhance their egos. They would learn to share time with different people they might never even talk to and to act kindly and politely to other kids in their class. They would get to know more about each other and possibly find another new friend they would never have been involved with. They would eventually enjoy it and admit to themselves that this was truly fun - mixing the brain power needed to ballroom dance with the exercise that would be better than being in gym class.

I guess some day it will be incorporated in some schools. A school teacher I knew did talk about the history of ballroom dance in her high school social classes. She was a dancer and she showed the kids her enthusiasm; they could not believe that she was a dancer. She brought in pictures of herself dancing and then they believed her and kind of had lots of respect for her. Many clamored to get into her class so they could see what all the talk was about Ms. L being a dancer. They became very respectful of her when they realized she was truly a ballroom dancer and this was twenty years before Dancing With The Stars became popular.

Dancing teaches respect for one another, coordination of arms and legs and brain power and most of all it enhances one’s respect for him or her self.

When I was in Florida as a fourteen-year-old teenager in 1948 visiting my step aunt for a month, I would go on the bus to the beach to meet teens my age because Aunt Eve did not know how to entertain me in the afternoons. She was a stepmother to my first cousins who were both five and ten years older than me.

So I made friends (my, I was brave for a 1948 teenager!) When they asked my name, I said it was Ginger because I loved dancing and Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. I never told them my real name and so it was a precursor to my current dancing career. I was way ahead of my own time it seems.

When we were in Paris in 1972, the people on our tour went with us to the Lido Night Club, and these older folks got up and danced the night away. I told my husband when we came back to the states that we were taking ballroom dance lessons. He said, "No way." We did and the rest is history for the past 31 years - a history of fun, excitement, competitions, showcases, new friends, writing dance articles, and most of all besides great exercise, a spark was ignited in our life of delight and joy.

Joy to the heart and soul and the toes and soles and as Shakespeare said in sonnet 53 “What is your true essence, what are you made of that there should be millions of reflections of you?” Reflections of wisdom in learning to ballroom dance and reflections of happiness in the mirror when looking at ourselves. We realize that we are special people, young persons, almost seniors, now seniors and even teenagers who want to learn to really dance and to dance well.

UCLA Division of Geriatrics reports that ballroom dancing helps ward off dementia. The article states that staying physically and mentally active protects you from getting the illness. They say that physical activity inhibits the development of plaques-a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. They are protein deposits that build up in the spaces between nerve cells and interfere with their ability to communicate with each other. Physical activity mitigates the effects of free radicals, naturally occurring molecules that harm cells, or it may be due to the fact that activity improves vascular flow and helps control blood pressure, cholesterol and decreases abdominal fat. Dr. Randall Espinoza, MD, who is an associate professor psychiatry at UCLA, relates all this in his report.

So Elita who was Ginger now dances with Jerry and we are now Ginger and Fred. That is the way I think of us and believe me it is indeed a beautiful reflection. As John Milton said, “Reflection is wisdom’s best nurse.” We will need no nurses to care for us because we have cared for ourselves by excelling in dance at whatever age we started doing this glorious, awesome, unbelievable and astonishing thing called DANCE. Ballroom dancing surely shows our wisdom and then our wonderment in what we have accomplished.

Now we are all disciples of Ginger and Fred. We are wise folks who willingly accomplish this pursuit of our passion and find it beautifully rewarding to our minds and emotions.

Always Keep On Dancing.


Mila said...

I read your recent article in the Fred Astaire newsletter-blog. It made my day. Thanks again for being so kind to spend precious time and effort for others.

You are a blessing! Have a blessed day Elita

Mila Dimacali

Mila Dimacali said...

I would love others to know how you're making a difference in so many lives thru your articles. It is a pity for those who do not chance upon your thoughts put in print-they're missing a lot.It is a great honor to have you for a friend. Thanks again for being you. Cheers!

Mila Dimacali

Anonymous said...

Mila is right. Your precious time you give us dancers should be rewarded with thanks so much Elita

Amy Sue Levens Collier.

Anonymous said...

we are the heirs of Fred Astaire by promoting and doing ballroom dancing.Thank you for your stimulating moments on life and ballroom dancing and intertwining them together. Abigail Dina Samuels Boston Mass.

Anonymous said...

hello and hi to you all.

Read these articles weekly and check this site for new ones to pop up. If they do not make you want to dance, nothing will.

We lift a toast to you Elita C. for your delightful, delicious and darling articles.

Marilyn from your state of Maryland

Anonymous said...

I always read your articles weekly. They encourage me to someday go out and take some dance lessons for fun, variety and health.

Thank you so much and may the Lord bless you daily for keeping us in touch with everyday glories and happiness.

Deborah from South Carolina

Anonymous said...

Very nice stories.

Allyson Michelle Tolzze

Anonymous said...

Wonderful articles.Keep up the good work insuring that new people go out and dance and dance and dance for the benefits of health and heart.

Deidre D. Donovann
New Jersey Beach area

Anonymous said...

Good Hashkafa (Perspective) on life and dancing. Funny word but very proper. Great articles and insight on dancing and our lives. We need peacemaking moments and happenings in our lives now.

Sandee Elmont Carre

Anonymous said...

Elita is a friend via email of mine and sent me the Hashkafa article as a preview before it is published on Fred Astaire newsletter blog site.When it is published it will be quite worthwhile reading.


Anonymous said...

Excellent. Looking forward to your next one and the one after that one.

If Fred Astaire was alive, he would adore all this information you write about on his site.

Esther Abbey Smallwoode from New York Area

メル友募集 said...

最近仕事ばかりで毎日退屈してます。そろそろ恋人欲しいです☆もう夏だし海とか行きたいな♪ 連絡待ってるよ☆