Genki Dancing with the Stars

It’s hard to believe that this is season 11 for “Dancing with the Stars”, a reality show on ABC in which celebrities partner with professional dancers and compete for the “mirrored, round ball” trophy. This American TV show is based on the British BBC television series “Strictly Come Dancing”, which in turn was based on “Come Dancing”, a series that dated back to 1949.

“Dancing with the Stars” holds special significance for me because my husband, Joe, and I have been trying to ballroom dance for about eight years and trying to dance the Argentine Tango for about three years. “Trying” is the operative word in both cases. We always tell each other, “Well, if we had private professional dance teachers for eight hours a day for weeks and weeks, we could be as good as the celebrity dancers.” And then we say, “Yeah, right.”

The show also holds a special poignancy for me because it was my mother’s favorite program and one of the few things she truly looked forward to during the last years of her life. By the time the showed debuted, she had undergone multiple surgeries, radiation and chemotherapies, and was essentially bed-bound, except she would come out to the living room to watch “Dancing with the Stars” with my brother, my sister, or me. (We were taking turns sleeping over at our parents’ house at the time, because both my mom and dad were ill.) Who could forget the tension and excitement of the dance-off between Kelly Monaco and John O’Hurley that concluded Season 1? Thank you, “Dancing with the Stars” for being a bright spot in our lives.

I hadn’t watched the show for years since my mom passed away, so it was exciting to learn at our recent Women’s Wellness Conference that Nancy Perry Graham, editor and vice president of AARP The Magazine, and our keynote speaker, had the opportunity to learn to swing dance from Corky Ballas, one of the professional dancers this season. Corky’s partner this season was Florence Henderson, but for one weekend in October, Nancy was his partner, for a feature in AARP The Magazine. You can see a clip of Nancy and Corky dancing at www.aarp.org/magazine.

We all know of the health benefits of dancing. One researcher, Jonathan Skinner, lecturer in social anthropology at the School of History and Anthropology at Queens University in Belfast, studied the effects of social dancing amongst older people in Northern Ireland, Blackpool and Sacramento, USA. Dr. Skinner said, “I have found that social dancing leads to a continued engagement with life – past, present, and future – and holds the promise for successful aging. It contributes to the longevity of the dancers, giving them something to enjoy and focus upon – to live for. It alleviates social isolation and quite literally helps take away the aches and pains associated with older age.”

Dancing, then, contributes to several dimensions of wellness including physical, social, intellectual, and emotional well-being. According to Chan Park, founder of Tango Zen – Walking Dance Meditation, dancing the Argentine Tango should also provide us with spiritual well-being. And that’s why Joe and I keep trying.

For a current listing of Nikkei ballroom dance events, please see www.keiro.org/gvnc. I wish you genki dancing.

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