How Most Dancers Age



Belinda Ricklefs aging dancer

Belinda Ricklefs talks about dance and age

Now that you’ve read about Jean Veloz and other inspirational dancers who are still dancing in the final years of their lives, I’d like to take a look at how most dancers deal with the aging process.  I addressed this earlier in Nov 12 post about the great tap dancer Fayard Nicolas When Aging Dancers Stop Dancing.

Now I want to address how aging affects regular dancers.  You know, folks who are more like me!  I interviewed my friend and colleague Belinda Ricklefs for this article.

Belinda and I are both dancer instructors. For some of the years we’ve been friends, both of us taught  without a partner.  For many years we got together every week to practice new dances we learned together, or review a requested dance that we were too rusty to teach without a brush up.  At 78, Belinda is still teaching with the help of teaching partners Chuck and Lisa, but suffers from problems with her shoulder that cause her constant pain and make social dancing problematic.  She is careful now about with whom she is willing to dance and even with skilled careful partners she has to take ibuprofen and pay a price later. 

It’s been a gradual series of losses for Belinda, with ups and downs, but ultimately a reality of less cooperation from her body, more fragility and constant pain.  For someone who always took great pleasure in the nuances of dance, always improving in detailed ways, and always having new insights to pass on to her students, aging has created huge losses. 

In order to keep from sinking into depression about what she can no longer do, Belinda has found other passions, like creative writing and deejaying, that she can do without pain.  She keeps her spirits up by making sure her community of dancers and non dancers of all ages, is strong.  She feels the love and support of long time friends and new ones, enjoys doing things with interesting people, but does not torture herself by attending dance events in which she can no longer participate.

I have another friend who cannot dance at all anymore but found he had a gift for music and has become a respected and sought after musician in his senior years.

It takes guts to deal with this kind of loss when your lifestyle has always been active.  Guts, creativity, a persistent positive outlook, and a willingness to take responsibility for the joy in your life when the activities of a lifetime are no longer available to you.

None of us know how the wages of age will treat us, but loss of physical ability and chronic pain are often the fate of dancers as we age.  Not all of us have the grace that Belinda has shown in dealing with the challenges life has dealt her, but although it’s inspiring to watch dancers who age like Jean Veloz, it’s also important to be inspired by dancers like Belinda Ricklefs who can be role models for real life.

As the saying goes, “Aging is not for sissies!” Take care of your body as best you can, hope for the best, and plan for alternatives if you are not dealt the hand for which you hoped.  Life is full of surprises.  Finding the way to enjoy it anyway may just be the ultimate game!

By LaurieAnn Lepoff

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