bluff dancers

Dance like no one is watching (Hint: move away from your picture window)

I was a flop at ballet. I knew it at 10, my teacher knew it when all the little pink tutus flounced right and I was on stage left in my own little world. It was my mother who needed convincing. I guess she figured since I was utterly hopeless at musical instruments, perhaps ballet would be my ticket to ride. Um, no.

However, I was a star in what we called tumbling, the precursor to modern gymnastics. I could do hand flips, back-bends and cartwheels in my sleep. And although these skills portend a career in the circus, my mother smiled at me on gym night at school. But while choreographed group movement was just not my forte. All that tumbling led to my next incarnation.

Canteens and dancing in junior high school was a whole other ball(room) game. I cut my teeth on the Twist and progressed nicely to the Mashed Potatoes, the Jerk, and the Monster Mash.  I won dance contests (probably more for energy than style) and always had dance partners. I moved on to a very athletic East Coast Swing and I had killer-moves for the Cha Cha.

Then I got married and had kids. If we had money for a babysitter we did not go dancing as in our courting days, we went to the movies and usually fell asleep before the end.

Fast forward to retirement. We all know that body movement is good for us. It is a way to take off stress. A brisk walk is like a mini staycation. All movement is good. That in mind, my husband and I took dance classes at the Sons of Norway Clubhouse in our hometown. They taught the Tango, the Fox Trot, the Two-Step, the Rumba, Salsa, Mambo and several archaic Norse folk dances. Fortunately for me, he is not a perfectionist. As a matter of fact, we developed our own dance which we applied liberally on every dance floor no matter the music. We have a lot of cool moves with our arms while we shuffle about. We even dance on the bluffs in the wind. Not as ferocious as dancing with wolves, but close.

Then his back went out building a patio and my shoulder decided the wearing of a purse with 10 pounds of useless gear was a bad idea. In fact, the last time I danced fervently was at my 50th class reunion when my old dancing buddy (from the days of winning dance contests) and I took on the Peppermint Twist. Turns out, “round ‘n round and up ‘n down, we go again” was the exact directions to tear one’s meniscus, in both knees. Who knew? Well, that would be my orthopedic surgeon.

While dancing and gymnastics are great retirement forms of exercise, easy does it. Which is not in my vocabulary. Well, at least not until now, where I am learning about the “delta” between what I want to do, what I think I can do, and what is actually physically feasible. For relaxation, I retreated to swimming. But when Covid struck, the thought of sharing a steamy natatorium with 16 other germ laden swimmers put the kibosh on that. What to do?

When it comes to the body, “you got to use it or lose it”. So, when I realized rigor mortis was setting in, I called a lifelong friend, Mary Lou, who can bend like a pretzel. She is a yoga instructor, but, bummer, she lives on the opposite side of the country from me. She suggested a great online teacher (Yoga with Adriene) for beginners. Wonderful as long as you don’t try to bend like Adriene. I kinda needed a pre-school for Yoga before I started the free 30-day classes. I prepared. I got new Yoga clothes. Now enter the Tibetan 5. A routine of simple (not simple to do mind you, but simple to understand) yoga moves. With the okay of my orthopedic surgeon (always check with your doctor before trying this) I attempted to work up to their 21 repetitions of each exercise. In three-months I got up to 20 reps of each. I held at 20 reps because, well see above, I don’t take instruction well.

Sally Franz and her third husband live on the Olympic Peninsula. She has two daughters, a stepson, and three grandchildren. Sally is the author of several humor books including Scrambled Leggs: A Snarky Tale of Hospital Hooey and The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Menopause

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