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March 4, 2016 / Retirementallychallenged.com

May I have this dance?

I remember the moment that I decided that I must learn how to dance. I was out to dinner with my boyfriend and, while waiting for a table, we were seated next to a large, nearly empty dance floor. I don’t remember the type of music being played, but my attention was grabbed by a lone couple gliding across the floor in seemingly perfect harmony with each other. After watching the dancers for a while, I turned to my boyfriend and said, “I need to be able to do that.”

The next day I researched local dance class options, and signed the two of us up for jitterbug and swing lessons. As I remember, my boyfriend was less than thrilled but he was nice enough to humor me.

From the beginning, I was hooked. I loved the music, the moves, the exercise, and the community. Even though it was a challenge to learn the steps, I had a clear vision of where I wanted to end up: I longed to be able to dance like that couple.

The boyfriend didn’t last, but my love of dancing did and, to this day, it is one of my favorite things to do.

I was reminded of my first dance epiphany when I read a recent post by Donna on her blog Retirement Reflections, in which she wrote about a retired friend who was learning how to dance. Because this friend enjoyed dancing at her high school reunion so much, she decided to sign up for lessons. Much like me, she discovered – then embraced – a hidden passion.

I was in my late twenties when I took my first dance lessons. At first it was just jitterbug and swing, but soon I was also learning to waltz, foxtrot, cha-cha, tango, and even to do the hustle (remember that??). I was never what anyone would call a gifted student, but I enjoyed the challenge and loved learning different dance styles.

Jitterbugging at a 50s party 26 years ago

Jitterbugging at a 50s party 26 years ago

 

Learning to dance has introduced a lot of positive aspects to my life and I often encourage others to give it a try. Many classes don’t require having a partner – in fact you will become a better dancer when you dance with a variety of partners. You can pick just one type of dance, or branch out as your skills and interest develop.

Here are some other reasons to consider learning to dance:

  • It’s a great way to get exercise while having fun
  • You’ll enjoy a sense of accomplishment as you master a new skill
  • It’s social – you can meet people you may not otherwise encounter and it is a great excuse to get out of the house and go
  • It’s challenging – crowded dance floors require timing, balance, and mental focus
  • Music is a language used all over the world; learn it and you have learned an almost universal language
  • You can take your dance skills with you on all your trips and it takes up zero space in your luggage
  • If you are looking, taking dance lessons can be a great way to meet someone special. I met my husband 26 years ago in a jitterbug class and dancing became our early connection.

Although my husband and I haven’t taken lessons for years and the opportunities to go dancing don’t present themselves as often as they used to, we still enjoy getting out on the dance floor when we can. Our moves are a little rusty and we sometimes struggle to get in rhythm with each other again, but soon, the muscle memory returns and we start to glide across the floor just like that couple did so many years ago.

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29 Comments

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  1. Kate Crimmins / Mar 4 2016 4:34 pm

    Good for you! I love to dance but am married to a man with two left feet. Really! We did lessons twice and he still struggles. That doesn’t stop us from dancing though. We may not look like the polished couple but we have a good time.

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Mar 4 2016 5:05 pm

      I’m so glad that he dances even though he doesn’t feel completely comfortable. It’s all about having fun!

  2. Encore Voyage / Mar 4 2016 8:00 pm

    I signed hubs up for a couple of dance lessons recently, thinking that we could learn to dance like those couples who look like they’ve been dancing together for a lifetime. But alas, horse…water…drinking…nope, it didn’t happen. Insert sigh here. You are a lucky woman!

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Mar 5 2016 5:11 pm

      I feel very lucky! When we are out on the floor, I see so many women on the sidelines who look like they wish their husbands would dance with them. I’m not sure why so many men feel uncomfortable… it’s not that hard.

  3. dconnollyislandgmailcom / Mar 4 2016 9:16 pm

    Hi Janis – I included this post on my Facebook page, and tagged my friend, Louise, that you mentioned. Louise loved it and here is her reply:
    “May I have this dance? Music to my ears. Grateful for a variety of dance partners and the opportunity to learn new dance steps. ‘Keep on dancing’ has become my latest mantra.”
    Thanks for another great post!
    Donna
    http://www.retirementreflections.com

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Mar 5 2016 5:12 pm

      I’m so glad that you shared this with Louise! After all, her story inspired my post. I love that she is out there having fun!

  4. Autumn / Mar 5 2016 12:23 am

    Great pic! Captures the movement and total enjoyment. Also love the outfit. Maybe I’ll shut my bedroom door this evening and dance, dance, dance.💃🏻💃🏻💃🏻

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Mar 5 2016 6:25 pm

      I remember the party well even though it was 26 years ago; my friend threw herself a big bash and we all dressed in 50s costumes (men had it easy: just jeans and a white T-shirt). I hope you dance a lot – either alone or with a partner!

  5. Anabel Marsh / Mar 5 2016 1:33 am

    I think we are both rhythmically challenged (him more than me) but can manage *ceilidh dancing – off to a charity ball tonight and sincerely hoping they have a ceilidh band!
    *Scottish country dancing for anyone who needs a translation.

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Mar 5 2016 5:14 pm

      Wow, I don’t know about ceilidh dancing… it sounds like fun! I hope the band was playing your music.

      • Anabel Marsh / Mar 6 2016 12:54 am

        Well, they did for one part of the evening! We enjoyed ourselves, thanks.

  6. laura bruno lilly / Mar 5 2016 6:07 am

    One year, our son’s middle school jazz band conductor began an inaugural tradition of putting on a ‘swing dance’ fundraiser. There in the school’s gymnasium families and community members all danced to the tunes played by the school’s jazz band. That was also the year that we as a family decided to take swing dance lessons from the local rec center so that we could actually dance at my youngest cousin’s wedding reception. (God bless the ‘Red Hot Chile Peppers’!) Yep, we wanted to impress, I confess! 🙂
    But if not for those two motivators, hubby’s reluctance to dance would still be firmly in place. Since then we have caught various other classes from time to time and learned new steps while on the floor at other times. I am still not the most co-ordinated body out on the dance floor, but it is all you say it is!

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Mar 5 2016 5:18 pm

      Yay, another dancer! I think you hit the nail on the head… it’s not about doing the moves perfectly, it’s about getting out there and having fun! I love the Red Hot Chile Peppers too.

  7. Keith / Mar 5 2016 7:52 am

    Janis, I love your story and the list of positive attributes to dancing. You can take it with you on trips. While your first dancing partner did not last, he was indeed a trooper for going along. My wife and I need to do this, as we need to learn how to better dance together.

    Thanks for the dance pointer. Keith

  8. Carol Ferenc / Mar 5 2016 8:22 am

    Aww . . . I love this story! I think there are many women who long to dance, but don’t, because they have a reluctant partner. Good for you, signing up for those lessons. My parents met at a ballroom in 1946 and married a few months later. After that, they continued dancing for decades.

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Mar 5 2016 5:24 pm

      I think men have been told for so long that they aren’t naturally graceful like women are (and, of course, neither is true) so they are reluctant to try. In my opinion, men who dance have an advantage over men who don’t… I don’t understand why more don’t learn when they are dating.

      • Carol Ferenc / Mar 6 2016 6:17 pm

        I agree, Janis. With my parents, it was my dad who really encouraged the dancing. I always thought that was so cool.

  9. rporter610 / Mar 5 2016 8:46 am

    Enjoyed your dance memoir. I was not blessed with a partner who would agree to dance. My former husband danced at our wedding, but only because he had to. Later on, in the disco era, we went out dancing with other couples, but I ended up sitting at a table with a cocktail most of the time. I regret not having more opportunities to dance. I’ve been living alone for more than 25 years, and really miss the fun of dancing.

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Mar 5 2016 5:26 pm

      Many of the dance studios in my area welcome single students. You are suppose to rotate partners anyway so it really doesn’t matter if you come with someone or not. I think a lot of men dance at their wedding than never again. What a shame… they don’t know what they are missing!

  10. joannesisco / Mar 5 2016 9:29 am

    I envy couples who can break out the moves on the dance floor.

    We were recently at a wedding and there was a much older couple in attendance – well into their 80s – who looked very frail and hesitant … until they stepped on the dance floor. It was a thing of beauty. The energy and grace they displayed was amazing.
    They danced all evening! So much for being frail.

    Sadly, I will never be one of those ….

    https://mylifelivedfull.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/d-a-dancing-dodo/

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Mar 5 2016 5:32 pm

      Oh my gosh, I hadn’t read that dancing post before… too funny! It sounds like you may have had some lousy teachers. At least your husband still loves to dance so you don’t have to sit on the sidelines like so many women do. I love your story about the older couple… I hope that is my husband and me in 20 years!

      • joannesisco / Mar 5 2016 6:03 pm

        I suspect it will be you in 20 years 🙂 Keep dancing!

  11. Terri Webster Schrandt / Mar 5 2016 11:06 am

    I love this, Janis! Dancing is such a great leisure activity and something that can last for a lifetime! Loved the photo of you dancing!

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Mar 5 2016 5:36 pm

      You are right, it can last a lifetime and can be transported all over the world. I have fond memories of dancing in Cuba to the music of a fantastic jazz band.

  12. snakesinthegrass2014 / Mar 5 2016 11:10 am

    My ex-wife forced me to take ballroom dance lessons before our wedding, and I was an utter failure at it. The instructor called a timeout during the lesson and asked me to come to the floor alone with her so she could instruct. But instead of my learning what she showed me, my mind (and feet) froze with everyone looking at me. I never did learn how to ballroom dance. But I do shake a hip or two now and then and do the “White Man’s Overbite” that Billy Crystal displayed in When Harry Met Sally. 🙂

    • Retirementallychallenged.com / Mar 5 2016 5:43 pm

      A couple of people have mentioned less-than-inspiring teachers. We were lucky enough to have several great teachers who made learning fun and didn’t call people out for their mistakes… yikes! I don’t remember that scene from When Harry Met Sally, but I’m sure Billy Crystal looked maaarvelous!

  13. Chris Hayes / Mar 13 2016 3:50 am

    Add to your bucket list to dance tango in Buenos Aires. 😃

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