Leaving for Cuba in:
Dance allows me to make an immediate connection no matter the language or the culture, and learning from a native dancer creates an instant bond and a lasting beautiful memory.
"I don't mind getting older but the maintenance is a bitch." - Anonymous 85-year-old woman
Things change as we age. Muscle mass and bone density decrease. Balance declines. Things hurt. And then there's the memory thing. I'll never have to worry about lack of exercise because I'm always going upstairs, only to forget why I went there. So I go back downstairs where I finally remember why I went upstairs . . . So I go back upstairs . . .
The results of a 21-year study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that of all the physical and nonphysical activities, frequent dancing produced the greatest protection against dementia. It also slows the progression for those who already have it.
The percentage of risk reduction for dementia based on activity is:
Dancing increases mental acuity at all ages.
Dance posture (as demonstrated by Esperanza) can make you thinner and taller. (It takes an inch off my waist and adds a half inch to my height - without losing a pound or wearing painful high heels! It can change the way you carry yourself, making you look more confident.
All that exercise also makes skin look healthier and it gives you better (or even great) legs. Dance offers plenty of opportunity to play dress-up with pretty clothes, makeup and hair.
More importantly, it has a positive effect on traits that most people find attractive - confidence, passion, happiness, freedom from inhibition, humility and a sense of humor. It certainly keeps me humble. It teaches me to laugh at myself when no matter how hard I try to make my body do something, it just ends up looking goofy.
If Esperanza is hiding, click on "Pull" and she'll come out. Then click the "X" in the upper right corner when you're done.
Once I committed to my dream, Caroline Adams Miller suggested I contact newspapers to see if they'd be interested in my story as a way to keep me accountable. When a bunch of people know my plans I sure as heck better follow through with them.
To my surprise, freelance writer Sheila Mulrooney Eldred asked to interview me for her Star Tribune column, "How I Got This Body". It features interesting ways people use to get and stay in shape.
After the interview, photographer Tom Wallace called to arrange a "photo shoot." (Whoa! This is way out of my comfort zone!!) Picture this: I'm standing on a little stage dancing Salsa to Marc Anthony. Tom is seated across the room snapping photo after photo, periodically giving me directions, "Head to the right" "Shoulders back" "A little more hip please . . . "
We ended our session with a little two-step dance.
This article was published on the one-year anniversary of my brother's death.
Dancing increases your social circle. I can't tell you how many times I've asked men why they took up dancing. Their answer is always the same - "to meet women". And for the unattached or lonely, dance provides opportunities for the physical contact and touch we all need.
Dancers are friendly, warm people who are very comfortable in their bodies. One teacher pulled up his shirt to demonstrate the correct way to use core abdominal muscles when dancing. I think my jaw dropped and I blurted out, "This is the closet I've ever been to a six-pack!" I may have even asked if I could touch it. It's all a blur now.
I love watching this uplifting video because it shows average folks (and an occasional celebrity) expressing themselves joyfully through dance. It illustrates what dancing is all about. It isn't about mastering dance steps or even about looking good; it's about self expression!
Maks Chmerkovskiy from Dancing With The Stars agrees with me. I explained my plan to dance around the world and asked if he had any advice for me. In his delightful Russian accent, he said, "Danz is about expression. Be yordself and jez haf fun!"
"When you improve a little every day, eventually big things happen. Not tomorrow, not the day after, but eventually a big gain is made. Don't look for big improvement. Seek the small improvements one day at a time. That's the only way it happens, and when it happens, it lasts."
Quote by John Wooden, one of the most successful basketball coaches in the history of college basketball
If I get discouraged because it doesn't seem like I'm making progress, I remind myself of this quote. Then I get help from my "coach" below.
Cinema Ballroom is one of my favorite studios in Minneapolis/St. Paul. I've always denied myself private lessons because they seemed too expensive, but you definitely get your money's worth at Cinema. Every week that you take a private lesson, you get free unlimited group classes and could literally dance for hours each day. Cinema also has dance parties and opportunities to perform in the studio or to compete around the United States. They also have a frequent dancer program where you can earn free lessons or other rewards. Cinema Ballroom is a great place for dancers of all ages. Visit their website.
Dora Dolphin is a delightful 12-year-old, award-winning dancer who takes lessons at Cinema Ballroom.
Here's a slightly older Cinema Ballroom student . . . Leonard C. Ferrington Jr.
Four Seasons is my other favorite studio in the Twin Cities. What I like about Four Seasons is the variety of dance styles they teach - like Kizomba. Although Kizomba (my Portugal dance) is very popular in Europe, it's almost unheard of in Minnesota. Fortunately, Four Seasons teaches Kizomba and I was able to learn it before I left for Portugal. I plan to return to Four Seasons to learn other dances not offered at some studios - Blues Dance, Zouk (Brazilian Lambada), Jitterbug and to attend milongas (Tango dance parties). Visit their website.