Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Dance as if you were 90 years old

Choose Option "D"  (visit photo artist)
The wisdom often quoted is that we should "Dance as if no one were watching."

That is not wise at all without some qualification to that statement.  Dancing as if no one were watching could be problematic and unwise.  Who dances like that, anyway?

Let's look at the possibilities of people who dance as if no one were watching:

a.  Children:  great improvisation, freedom, absolute joy, no guilt or shame afterwards, floorcraft with damage to things but not other people, parallel playfulness.*

b.  Drunk people:  great improvisation, freedom, absolute (drug-induced) joy, bad floorcraft, a hangover and shame to review the dance from the subway video camera replay while in jail with your lawyer, floorcraft that included damage to things and people before the police arrived, liquid-induced solitary playfulness.  [Yes, a few poor souls also dance at milongas as if they were drunk but are not.]

c.  Crazy people:  great improvisation, freedom, absolute joy, erratic floorcraft before the ambulance came, not enough sense to even consider shame as an option, solitary playfulness.

d.  90-year old tangueros:  great improvisation, freedom, absolute joy, great floorcraft, aware that other are watching but worried about stranger's opinions, excellent partner-playfulness.

Of the above four possibilities (there are more of course), I try to choose "d" when given the chance to dance one more time before I die (every dance as if it were my last).

When we are 90 years old we won't wonder why we hadn't been more circumspect.  You probably won't tell yourself, "I really should have worried more about what total strangers thought of me!"   If we are still active and able at 90, we will be glad we danced in the street among strangers without a care of others' opinions.

But why wait to be wise?

Why do people wait until their 90's to regret that they didn't dance in the street more?  The answer is easy:  Perhaps because they did not want to be seen as (a) childish, (b) drunk, or (c) crazy.

I learned something important as I learned to ride a unicycle with my children at age forty-nine.  I really looked awkward -- actually hilariously stupid -- learning to ride the unicycle.  But I vowed that I would pretend that people could not see me.  Now my children and I still enjoy going out and playing street hockey on our unicycles because I refused to worry about what others might think.

Below is a video of Maria and I in the streets of Strasbourg, France after one of the greatest milongas we have ever gone to the night before in Kehl, Germany (a boarder town to France).  We were acting like 90-year old tangueros who were trying to catch up with all the dancing-in-the-street that we could!  Notice please, how stupid I look in my extremely bouncy walking shoes!  Look at how Maria cannot keep her clogs on her feet and is laughing:  Great improvisation to excellent musicians playing a tango for us; total freedom of spirit; absolute joy and tenderness, great floorcraft with no collisions with dogs, children, goal-driven tourists; no shame afterwards (¡sin vergüenza!); excellent partner-playfulness.


But why am I telling the world?  What a paradox!  Am I truly dancing as if no one were watching and then posting a video?  Really, I am not telling the world but a few readers, and I am writing notes and posting a video in case I have a bad memory when I am 90 years old.  :-)   No, seriously, this is not a performance or something to be proud of.  I just am happy to be dancing as if I were 90 years old and hope you will join the rest of us who no longer worry about who is watching (or even hope that someone is watching) -- that's immaturity is for youngsters under 90.  Join the "Over-Ninty Dance Cub."  You can join early if you choose "D."

Did I say 90?  That is just the start.  Please enjoy the 100th birthday dance for Carmencita Calderón!

*Parallel play is a term for developmentalists who chart when children go from parallel play (play next to each other but not with each other) to the next phase of partnership play.


  1. Mark, yes you and Maria should be very very proud to be 50 and dance like you are 90. There is nothing like a free dance to uplift our spirits to the joy we should be experiencing every minute of our lives. Only because of you and Maria I will be dancing soon on the street, no matter by myself, perhaps and living my life to the fullest! Love you guys!

  2. Loved watching you dance. I was just talking dancing with a group of 20 + year olds and shared your Blog. We all enjoyed it.

  3. Roberto Segarra turns 92 in September and doesn't dance or look his age. He dances every day of the week in Buenos Aires milongas, and I see him on the dance floor every Wednesday at Lo de Celia Tango Club. He proves that tango is a dance for life. There are videos of him on YouTube.

  4. The other major part of the issue is that we're simply not used to the types of movement that are common to partner dance. This is a lot like when you first put on a pair of shoes and you notice that one is tighter than the other. It's also like when you wear a new watch or stop wearing a watch that you've been wearing for a long time.

    dance hamilton


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