Dancing while Aging – Ballroom Bollocks

 

If you’ve ever seen Dancing with the Stars, you understand that movement is contagious – that feeling that thrills, excites and literally moves you, that urge to jump out of your seat and dance along!

 

I, too, love ballroom –  it’s beauty, formality, and yes, the challenge!  I feed my ‘addiction’ with a weekly dose of lessons and classes – run predominantly by a group of highly trained Russian dancers. For me, there’s nothing better than being lead into the dance with the touch of a hand that cues the right direction and momentum at each moment. Ballroom asks me for my utmost physical best – can I keep up with the rapid firecracker moves of the salsa? Can my hips swerve in the sexy chase of the rumba? Can I move with elegance and effortless freedom in the waltz?  – or drop my weight to travel through the rhythm with casual style in the foxtrot?

 

Never mind the expense – the private lessons, the costumes and extras, the cost of competitions and showcases. No matter.  Ballroom is vital to my mental health. It’s a (relatively) less expensive option than psychotherapy, given that most psychotherapists no longer take Medicare. I can walk into the studio feeling quite blue and in a mere 40 minutes leave with a sense of effervescence that lasts for hours.

 

So, needless to say, I invest heavily in this hobby. This past weekend, was the Carolina Classic, a ballroom extravaganza held at a classy five-star hotel in Raleigh. Here, more than 200 dancers competed for marks on the waltz, Viennese waltz (an amazingly aerobic triplet), foxtrot, tango, rumba, salsa, cha cha, swing and more.  Children from age 5 to 12 also competed – and brilliantly! A testimony to the hard work these children put into honing the discipline  – discipline which,  no doubt, will stay with them for a lifetime. I know for a fact that to this day, my early dancing helps me stay focused on difficult tasks, cleans out mental cobwebs, allows me to hasten and be fast in daily life without being ‘hurried.’ My face may betray my age, but my body retains much of its youthful poise, flexibility, agility, balance and style. So, I justify carrying on the Cinderella story into my seventh decade.

 

On the day of the Classic I arrived at 7:00 am call time and quickly dressed to the nine’s with glitz and bling galore. Once dressed, I joined the parade of heels heading for the main ballroom. This hither and thither felt like some strange rite of passage. I entered into a palatial warehouse of dance, couples already in full swing in front of an imperious panel of seven judges whom, I swear, did not budge from their seats for the entire eight hours of competition – not to get coffee, lunch or go to the bathroom  until they had completed judging all 400 dances!  OMG!

 

Now this leads me to the point of this blog – the bollocks! The hardest part of this event is NOT rising at 5 am, stumbling for the coffee, packing up the car and driving an hour at the crack of dawn on dark back roads; not layering your aging face with makeup; not cementing your cowlicks down with super-hold hairspray; not squeezing into panty hose, carefully donning and doffing several costumes for different dance styles – Smooth, Latin and showcase numbers…no! The toil of these tasks pales in the face of the real hazard: Having to pee!

 

Let me explain: ballroom costumes are usually all one piece – dress and underpants. It’s in a sense, a leotard, a skin tight maillot or swimsuit, that requires a dance in itself to put on. Underneath is all is a pair of fishnet pantyhose and another pair of bikini underpants.Now fortunately, some of these costumes have snaps at the bottom of the underpants – phew! A welcomed feature, which then leaves you with the delicacy of removing the pantyhose, gathering and lifting the copious amounts of nylon and satin trailing on all sides, and finally perching above the toilet seat. Ah! Relief! But, when done, how do I ‘re-snap’ the pants? The ball of material bunched in my arms leaves me without the ability to free both hands for the prehensile task of bringing  part A to part B.  Well, figure it out for yourself! Just remember, you may only have 5 minutes to make all this happen without wetting yourself, restoring the costume to its previous, un-rumpled fit, and reappearing in the main ballroom for your next heat.

 

It’s the part that nobody thinks about – somehow, we only see the finished product – that dance, exquisitely executed in a flash of beauty – gone. I remember long ago in physical therapy school, one of our professors saying, “The person who makes a name for him(her)self is the one who writes the book on going to the bathroom.” So true.

 

Peeing while dancing while aging…another testimony to our creativity and ingenuity in life – that funny blend of the comical, the functional, the aesthetic.

 

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