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Tap dancing through life in a purple bathrobe works for me

By: Elaine Jo Giamona
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This week, I’ve got Trudy on my mind. She was a gentle woman who loved all kinds of music and dance. I’m certain she could tap dance in her mind without leaving her bed. Last summer, Trudy gave me some good advice that I remember well. She was in a life-and-death battle with an illness, which took her life a few months later. One day, when I’d called to cheer her up, I instead listened to her own words of encouragement. “You’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt and some of us are not in the game as long as others,” she told me. Her motto was “Get up. Get dressed. Show up.” And she did, showing up at meetings, looking smart and chic until the very end. Trudy will be remembered as a loving friend, wife, mother and grandmother. Recently, another grandma showed me a precious video of her cute little granddaughter, tap dancing in new tap shoes. The shoes were a gift that day from her grandma. Tiny black patent leather shoes with great big taps on the toes and heels, purchased at a local resale shop. I watched the short video in amazement as the 2-year-old dancer tapped her way down a hallway like it was nothing new, holding onto her mother’s hand. They had just left the doctor’s office where the tap dancer’s mother had heard some good news. It was the news she had waited two years for, since the difficult birth of her daughter. Not caring where she had come from or where she was going, oblivious to her surroundings, the little girl was captivated by the new sounds her feet made on the smooth floor. Just like Shirley Temple, she was performing solo. I’ve always loved music and dance. As a young girl, I played piano and took tap dancing lessons. In high school, I was a song leader and we made our own pom-poms. In college, I took dance classes in modern jazz. Our large family grew up with music in our lives every day, just like mashed potatoes and gravy. I remember when our mother patiently taught my brother to waltz on the living room carpet. These days, you will find me dancing to a local rock ‘n’ roll band, often holding the hand of our mother who is now in her ‘80s. Some days, my brother and his children join us. Two of our mutual friends are very enthusiastic and creative dancers. They usually can out-dance us and their energy and unique style is inspirational. They dance from their wheelchairs. At other times, I just dance solo in my bathrobe. Certainly not in public and not even on a proper floor. But in my own mind, I am free to perform some beautiful and intricate routines. Tap dance is a solo dance. So you don’t need a partner to do it, although that can be fun, too. When you dance solo, there is no criticism – no right or wrong way. This unconditional acceptance is important to any dancer. And no college degree is required. Some of the best dancers in the world have never read a book. It is a universal human freedom to dance. We are free to dance with others. We can dance alone. Or in the privacy of our own mind. Dancing not only benefits the dancer. When you dance, scientific research tells us that it benefits those around you. Just watching a dancer has benefits. MRI brain scans show that, as you watch someone dance, the same neurons are activated in your brain that would fire if you were the one dancing. So when one dancer’s movements express joy or sadness, others share in the feelings. Tap dancing is not the only style of dance you can perform solo. Some others are ballet, belly dancing, hip-hop, pole dancing and jazz. The routines you can create are limitless. You can even combine two different styles. My favorite is modern-jazz. I must say that if you prefer the tango or salsa, it’s a bit more exciting with a partner. Whether dancing on a public dance floor or in private, the benefits are many. They include improved strength, better flexibility, improved balance, greater self-confidence and self-esteem, better social skills and just plain fun. It doesn’t matter if you are feeling happy or sad. You can express those feelings in your own free styling, breaking, sensual, leaping, turning or tapping movements of the body or of the mind. A dancer can find answers without words from inside their mind. This is because dancing is a right-brained activity and the left brain with its critical comments is quieted down. When that happens, our intuition and creativity are allowed to work, rather than our over-worked logical brain. Now for a little dancing advice: • Never dance on thin ice. • Always keep your tutu clean. • Wear shoes that fit well and, when they no longer fit, pass them on to another dancer. • Take along a pair of slippers and a bathrobe, for when you grow tired. • And never sing in the shower because that leads to dancing, dancing leads to slipping and that leads to paramedics seeing you naked. As for me, I rarely sing in the shower and my bathrobe is blue. When I am old, I shall wear purple and still be dancing. Elaine Jo Giamona is a Soroptimist International of Lincoln charter member. She is creator of two Facebook groups, Lincoln Nonprofit Coalition and Lincoln Thank Tank. Comments are welcome at egiamona33@ gmail.com or online at lincolnnewsmessenger.com.