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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Dance in October, part two

My last post involved a story on the news show "60 Minutes," many years ago. It covered a story about women who went to some elite place--a country club, perhaps--to ballroom dance with young men hired as dance partners. I don't know how this arrangement came about--I know there are men trained to be ballroom dance partners for women on certain cruise ships--so perhaps that was what it involved. In the "60 Minutes" special, the young men were apparently taking advantage of the women's loneliness, bilking the women for large sums of money. I spoke of a scene where a young man leads an older woman out on the dance floor. When she started to dance, she gave a kick out that was, to me at the time, inadvertently funny. I am pretty sure the director of the show meant it to be so: here is this silly rich old woman in the arms of a young guy she thinks might like her more than a dance partner. And look at her trying to kick out and then dance.

So there are deeper questions in regards to this show, with which I unfortunately feel a resonance as an older dancer who lacks confidence and self-esteem at times (something I believe is shared by ALL dancers in a discipline where YOU are the "art"). Now I consider first one thing: the woman was, in reality, quite a graceful dancer. She could have been dancing with Godzilla and looked good. So why was she touted as an object of derision and not the gigolo leading her onto the dance floor?

I think a lot of it has to do with the article holding up these women as old fools blinded by vanity and trying to cling to youth in any way they could. Certainly the young men didn't escape scrutiny: the point of the article was that these young men were part of a group that deliberately took money in this way. But the women were made to look ignorant of the fact that they were apparently old and washed-up.

It brings up, to me, the matter of aging in society, in general, and in the dance world, including the one I inhabit, bellydance. There are troupes around which I KNOW would never have an older dancer, or one that didn't fit a certain body style. Certainly whatever the director wants is what they want, but they miss a whole segment of wonderful performers in the process.

Case in point: sick of years and years of getting my hair dyed, I finally went through the long process of letting it go gray, and noticed a very curious change: I was not invited to perform with at least one set of dancers anymore, even though I had done so in the past (it was a small group and I did end up leaving). And these dancers in the community stopped dyeing their hair! Maybe feeling left out won't soon be a problem anymore.