Modern Dance for the Older Dancer

October 15, 2014 Updated: October 14, 2014

“César, I am afraid you need to do some exercise,” said my friend Janet Brof, as I was trying to climb back to street level. Taking advantage of one of the nicest days this past summer in New York, she had invited me to have lunch close to her house, by the Hudson River.

Although going down the steps on Riverside Drive was fairly easy, the way back up was proving a bit harder for me. It was not surprising, though. Since I am getting older it is becoming harder for me to exercise, so I limit myself to taking a few long walks during the week (the weekends are for resting from those walks).

“I think you should take some movement/dance classes with Naomi Goldberg, who is a talented teacher,” she told me.

I said I would do it, without much conviction. However, as Janet kept pressing me to do it, I felt I had no option but to follow her kind advice. I inquired where this Ms. Goldberg was teaching her classes and found out that the closest place for me was in Chinatown, close to my house. 

One day I decided to give it a try, so I dressed in some comfortable clothes and shoes and went to the senior center where the classes were being held. Once I got there I soon found out that I was going to be the only man in the class, since the other participants were all Chinese women from the neighborhood, most of them 50 years old and older. Although the teacher greeted my in a very friendly way, I still felt uneasy, being the only man among 15 women. 

When the class began, with very simple hand and foot movements, I realized that this wasn’t meant for me. As the class progressed and the movements were becoming faster and more complicated, I decided that this was going to be the end of this experience, and silently blamed my friend Janet for my discomfort. “I will never again follow her advice,” I told myself.

If I thought this was going to be the end of my discomfort, however, I was wrong. The first simple movements were followed by dance steps, to the tune of wonderful Caribbean music. While my companions moved with total grace, I felt as out of place as an astronaut inside a desert tent. My decision was taken at that very moment. 

When I was young I used to love dancing to the tune of this kind of music, but this had proved to be too much for me.

As I was having these thoughts I turned around and saw two cooks (an old man and a woman) from the kitchen next to the dance floor following every single one of our steps—wide smiles on their faces—with the old man holding a wooden spatula as he was following the music.

At precisely that moment I changed my mind and decided to stay for the rest of the course.

Dr. César Chelala lives in New York.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.