How Competition Dancing Has Changed My Life

It?s Never Too Late
By Lynn Moreland - Houston, Texas

I used to be an almost gray, blue-jean wearing, make-up avoiding, background seeking, novel-reading middle-aged grandmother. I drove a mini-van, wore tailored jackets, and considered myself to be more awkward than graceful and more sedentary than active.

Then, at the age of fifty-three, I signed up for three weekly one-hour ballroom dance lessons. Uh oh. Now, a year later, I take three-hour lessons five days a week and have danced in two competitions. I buy appointments with my chiropractor in bulk and am at least an inch taller. I have been to a tanning booth several times (a thing I said I?d NEVER do). I get my hair colored once a month (a thing I said I wasn?t ?ready? for!), and my nails groomed and polished once a week (a thing I never had time for). Before my first dance competition, I could put on makeup in 10 minutes. At my first competition my makeup took almost two hours. (In fact, applying false eyelashes while wearing reading glasses should be considered a separate event!)

But that is all just packaging and presentation?changes that are clear and fairly obvious. The internal changes?in my head and in my heart?are more erratic and uncertain. For example, most days, I would rather dance than eat, but some days I get so frustrated with my lessons that all I want to do is eat. Most days, I think my teacher is the most patient, flexible, kind, compassionate, entertaining person I know, but occasionally, I want to punch him. Most days, I am excited about learning, pleased with my progress, and optimistic about my chances in the next competition. But, some days, I see myself in the mirror while I?m dancing and wonder, ?what was I thinking? I look ridiculous!?

However, there is one internal change that is clear and constant. For the first time in my life, I am doing something for the sheer joy of doing it. Don?t misunderstand, good marks do make me want to celebrate, but I?m not dancing to gain approval from judges or anyone else. I?m not dancing for anyone but me. I?m dancing because I want to, because it makes me smile, because I love it. I love it when the music seems like a live thing that carries me across the floor. I love it when the connection to my partner is strong and clear. I love it when my arms and my hands and my head and my hips and my knees and my feet are all in the right place at the right time.

For the first time in my life, it?s all about me. I used to be an almost gray, blue jean wearing, novel-reading grandmother. I still wear jeans sometimes and read novels and adore my children and grandchildren, but now I stand straighter and walk taller and, if there?s music playing, I?m likely to be dancing.