Learning to Dance
Just so you know, learning to dance is best done at an early age. Awkward, self-conscious, uncoordinated were my reasons for putting it off. That, and it just didn’t feel “important” at the time. If you didn’t learn to dance when you were younger, don’t worry, the good news is you can start from wherever you are in life.
My Dad would come by my business about once a week or so for a visit. Mom had passed away suddenly a few years earlier and my Dad was devastated. After about a year of mourning, he did what he had done all his life: picked himself up, and got back into the game. First it was tennis. He found a group that met Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays at the park. No one was under 50, most were over 65. They would play until about 10 am, then head over to the local fast food place for coffee.
One of the players mentioned there were “Line Dance Lessons” at the local Rasmussen Senior Center. They were five bucks on Monday nights and soon Dad was learning to dance. After a few lessons, he would go to an occasional dance. This was my Dad. He’s nearing 80, Mom had been gone 5 or 6 years at this point, and he’s playing tennis 3 times a week and dancing twice a week.
About this time my wife, Ranae, had a new co-worker who is very much the ballroom dancer. “Learning to dance is easy,” she says. Of course she’s a dance instructor too. She does convince us to go to a local event where there would be social dancing and, more importantly, and exhibition of some “must see” dancers. You could probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of times my wife and I had danced since our wedding day 25 years ago. But, the food was reported as excellent and the entertainment guaranteed, so what did we have to lose?
I know I’m zig-zagging all over the place right now, but stay with me if you can. For 30 years I ran a local health food store. THE most valuable part of that experience was my interaction with our customers. We were small and I got to follow along over 3 decades of their lives. I had customers long enough to see their kids grow up and get married. There were many who had to take care of aging parents and the parents had been customers.
Through this interaction, I had a front row seat on how lifestyle affected quality-of-life. By observation I learned what help some customers reach 90 and others were burning out in their 70’s. No, it is not scientific. Certainly there were a few customers over the years that took really good care of themselves and died young anyway. But for the most part, those that were happy and active lived the longest.
Back to the dance exhibition. I had never been to anything like this before. A room full of 200 ballroom dancers of all ages, but most were over 50, dancing it up. Everyone was smiling and having a good time. The majority of them were trim and fit. I had studied yoga for the previous five years and very few people in the yoga studio ever looked to be having as much fun as these folks. “There might be something to this dancing stuff,” I thought to myself.
The very next week my Dad stopped by the store for a visit. He had a flyer in his hand and announced the Levan Institute at Bakersfield College was going to hold ballroom dance lessons and they were open to everyone. “Great!” I say. “You’re adding ballroom dancing to your line dancing. Good for you.”
“You too,” he said.
“You and Ranae have to sign up for the class. We have to make sure there are enough people enrolled or they will cancel it.”
When your 80 year old father tells you that you have to take a dance class so HE can take a dance class, you can’t turn him down. He even talked my older brother and his wife into signing up and their feet were even more left-footed than ours. On the first night there we were, the 5 Harrers, along with the 40 other people that packed the class my Dad was certain to be cancelled.
The class lasted six weeks and we had a great time learning the Foxtrot and the Waltz. We went on to join the Bakersfield Smooth Dancers and take their lessons on a weekly basis. We lost Dad in 2012 two months before his 90th birthday. Ranae and I dance every week now and I’m still awkward, self-conscious, and uncoordinated, but we have fun and laugh, and it sure beats the hell out of doing yoga.