Friday, April 23, 2010

It Wasn’t Dancing With The Stars

There was an entertainment program at the Willows one Friday night after dinner and these entertainment events are highly anticipated for all the residents. They love any kind of entertainment or special activity. This program was performed by a local group of singers and dancers who travel around and perform at various places in the area. My mom was really looking forward to the evening and musical shows are something my mother always enjoyed because she had been dancer. She had a dancing school when I was young and besides her the other dance teachers were my cousins.

In this family of very good dancers it turns out that I’m not a good dancer despite the dancing lessons from my mom and being sent off to other dance schools after she stopped teaching. I had years of dance lessons at several dance schools and can only remember a few time steps and the shuffle step. I remember my mom telling me to “shuffle, ball, chain,” and while I can remember the shuffle step and the ball part, I don’t remember the chain’s role in all of this. I cannot Shuffle Off to Buffalo or anywhere else in dancing mode.

The group was going to sing and tap dance to patriotic songs and some other older tunes the residents all knew. The fifteen members of the troupe wore matching sequined vests, belts, and ties. The men wore white trousers and the women wore full skirts and they all had on their tap shoes. It was a very sparkly ensemble! And not one of the performers was under the age of 75. That is a conservative estimate.

Two of the fifteen in the group seemed to have the ability to carry a tune. I know this from the solos that were sung: two good and a bunch not so good. A couple of them could not remember the words to the songs being performed so they sang something entirely different but at the same time as the other singers.

What can I say about the tap dancing? Many of the troupe were dancing to the song in their heart which was far different than what the piano player was playing. I know many older folks can still dance pretty well. I know many older folks are still vibrant and living exciting lives so this is not to be mistaken for age discrimination. My wonderful step-father, Walter, lived to be 104 years old and he was amazing. He golfed and rode a bike well into his 100’s. Everyone should dance for the joy of dancing. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just fun. Maybe tap dancing isn’t the best option though.

I’m just saying that if you’ve never had a tap dancing lesson, or are unsteady on your feet, tap dancing in a performing troupe might not be for you. You might be good at making the tapping noise but the dancing part might not work out as planned. You might knock over the person standing next to you. Some of the audience may think you are doing acrobatic dancing but most of them will figure out very quickly that this is not the case when you try to help the fallen person you’ve just knocked over get up. And then fall over yourself. And frankly men and women with no training, poor reflexes and failing eyesight should not consider becoming baton twirlers or drum majors. Twirling the baton doesn’t always go mistake free and flying batons aren’t always so entertaining in close quarters.

There was no Mirror Ball to be won. And the only stars were the ones worn on the troupe’s sparkly, sequined outfits and the wands they waved as they sang Yankee Doodle Dandy, My Country Tis of Thee, Anchors Away, I Want A Girl Just Like The Girl That Married Dear Old Dad, Ain’t She Sweet, and others.

Of course, this is just my opinion and my critique falls flat as a pancake because the residents loved, loved, loved the show! It was a great evening of entertainment for the residents. This performing troupe was having a blast, the residents were singing and clapping and smiling and well—full of joy! My mom, despite becoming more and more frail, was so happy. She had escaped her illnesses and confusion for one night of fun. And it made me realize that for this older group of folks, who enjoyed the Lawrence Welk shows and the music of Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, it was a great evening of memories and a travel back to happier times in their lives.

For my generation, it’s Motown and the 60’s and 70’s music that sends us back in time and gives us great memories. Just ask Scott. He wants to hear Unchained Melody or You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling by the Righteous Brothers or Just My Imagination or My Girl by the Temptations or Paradise By The Dashboard Lights by Meatloaf, or In The Still of The Night by the Five Satins. On Sunday nights when we are watching television he grabs the remote, Super Glues© it to the palm of his hand, and on commercial breaks during whatever show we are watching, he switches us over to WQED Public TV so we can catch a few minutes of the hour long evening preview concert of upcoming Do-Wop or Motown Concert 3-day Oldies Extravaganzas coming to Pittsburgh. Of course lots of the people who were in these groups way back when they were making hit songs are now dead so the Extravaganza is full of replacement singers. They are all wearing sequined vests, belts, and ties. The men wear tuxedo trousers and the women wear long gowns. They are very sparkly! They dance less than they did in the 60”s, but they still seem full of joy.

Dear Lord! It is our generation’s version of Lawrence Welk!

One day, when we are over 75, Scott and I will join a traveling troupe of singers and dancers and he’ll sing Old Time Rock and Roll while I shuffle, ball and do no chain.

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