Does Dancing Keep you Young?

 

Shim Sham Shimmy

Frankie Manning, in his 80s, performing with his son, Chaz.

People often assume dancing is why I don’t look my age.  A lot of dancers look younger than their years and I don’t think it’s a coincidence.  Dancing keeps your body limber and active.  Doing what you love keeps you joyful, so it’s a great combination if dance is what you love.  Of course, genes play a part, too.  I got mine from my father who does not dance, and so did my sister, an accomplished square dancer who can hold her own on a jitterbug floor.  So maybe dance has enhanced the youthfulness given a jump start by our genes!  Doing something joyful that keeps you active is, in my opinion, a recipe for youthfulness.

All dances, however, are not created equal.  I’ll never forget my tap teacher telling me years ago that ballet is the only dance style that teaches the body to do that which is unnatural to it.  Ballet dancers retire young and often deal with physical problems later.  It’s common, in contrast, to see elderly tap dancers still moving with grace and ease.  Tap is a difficult dance to learn, but it requires a relaxed natural movement.  Once mastered, the body remembers it.

Frankie Manning, my friend and mentor for the last fifteen years of his life, was an example of how we’d all like to age.  The picture I included at the beginning of this post shows how youthful he was well into his eighties.  Chaz, only 18 year younger than his dad, ages just as gracefully.  Frankie was eighty when we met, continuing to dance and look forty years younger into his nineties.  He popped an aerial with me at the end of his birthday jam on his 85th birthday, with perfect grace,balance and timing.  His son Chaz, now in his eighties, looks just as young, so you could make an argument for genes, but then again Chaz is a dancer, too!

There are lots of reasons why people age as they do, but a joyful attitude has to be one of the best anti-aging tools around.  I’ll be sharing some inspirational videos of older dancers in future blogs, so keep an eye out and keep dancing!

By LaurieAnn Lepoff

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