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Middle Aged Moves

All That Glitters is not Gold … but it's Probably Ballroom

By Julie Johnston

Middle-Aged Moves is a column started by Rochelle Lockridge to represent the dance world from the perspective of someone learning at a more mature stage of life. Guest columnists may be featured upon occasion.

Some days I shake my head at this strange world I find myself immersed in. A world of sequins and glitter, where there is no such thing as too much "bling." A world of unnatural body positions, attire, and terminology.

Apparently if you are bitten by something called the "ballroom bug," the symptoms range from an increase in heel height, increase in makeup, decrease in daily life for other activities, decrease in bank balance, and increase in body balance, amongst others. Speaking of balance, are you aware your balance changes if you lose or gain weight? And that while maintaining this "balance" during ballroom, you are to do so while all the time your head remains at a slight tilt and not upright? Then you need to remember if it's toe, heel, or heel, toe. Are we doing the hokey pokey?

Still, the pleasure and challenge have led me to continue and even begin private lessons. While studying technique, I move backwards as I'm supposed to slide the inside of my foot, but meet the other while touching my heels. Does this person know what it takes for me to pick up my feet while walking just to avoid tripping and falling on my face? Next he'll expect me to breathe at the same time. And then one day you're walking down the hall and a voice reminds you to "get your butt under you." What, under me? Well where was it before? I think there's a reason they call it a behind?

And what do I wear? Unlike my bright wardrobe, clothing for practice worn by serious students is generally your standard black. Upon asking the reason for the form fitting Under Armour® an instructor wore, she replied, "So I can see my body when I look in the mirror." So different from my approach to mirrors, which is to cover them in black, similar to the Jewish practice of sitting "shiva" while I mourn the loss of my figure.

As I've progressed in my dance skills, there became talk of events called showcases, "an opportunity to show off your hard work." Curiosity led me to attend an hour and a half class in ballroom etiquette and styling. I remembered a comment from an instructor how she only had an hour to do her makeup before a competition. "Odd," I thought, "it only takes me ten minutes to slap on some mascara and lipstick." As I soon found, a shoebox filled with a plethora of products and more bottles and brushes than an art supply store was needed to create a result that was a cross between a glitter bomb exploding, and a manically enthusiastic teen with her first BeDazzler™.

Attire and words within this world are far from my everyday life, such as decorating. Decorating? Well, I do get a lot of compliments on my living room. What do you mean decorating as I dance by using my hands? Gowns. Yes, I have a favorite flannel nightgown. Oh, ballroom gown, like Cinderella, and anything under a cost of four figures is a bargain price? What thud? Just my wallet hitting the floor as it fainted. Are these gowns gold lined? No, but do you know what they ARE made from? Mostly polyester and spandex. With the power surges at my age, the only fabric I want to wear is something that breathes! Polyester does not breathe, and spandex only stretches so far! Thank goodness no nylons! But wait, fishnet stockings? My only pair comes from a halloween costume and not from Victoria's Secret. The next thing you know they're going to want me to shave my legs. Don't you people know that this is Minnesota? The one break we women get is the ability in winter to grow our own long underwear! Why didn't I take up belly dancing? I already have the belly.

Yet, I find that despite the unfamiliarity, I have apparently been bitten by this unseen bug. For myself, I have adapted a saying overheard in the sparkly fabric section of a store, which represents ballroom to me. "Glitter is the STD of the ballroom world. Once you have it, you can't get rid of it."