Sunday, January 11, 2009

Book Review: A Year of Dancing Dangerously

I am not a dancer. Being left-handed has always made me clumsy on the dance floor. I want to start with the wrong foot. I want to take my partner's left hand. I want to go in the opposite direction of what my partner or the dance requires. It is humbling, and I have learned to sit on the sidelines and admire the effortlessness of others who dance as if it required no thought.

But there are some who do not choose, as I did, to take the easy path. Some, like Lydia Raurell, choose to become dancers in spite of the odds against them. What is unusual about this women, however, is that she made that choice at a time when most of us would decide we were simply too old to take on a new challenge. Health issues and age did not stop Lydia. After events in her life left her at a crossroads, she chose to dance through the next year of her life.

And dance she did, going from beginner to champion ballroom dancer is just one year.

Lydia always wanted to be a dancer, but life intervened. Lydia alludes to traumatic events that finally led to her decision to take a year for dancing but does not give the reader much information here; for me, knowing more about those events might have enriched the book and deepened my understanding of her drive to dance. But she makes it clear that dancing was always on her to-do list, and at fifty-four she signed up for ballroom dancing lessons. That decision led to this book, and to a whirlwind year of dancing competitions, travel, and self-knowledge.

How many of us, over the age of fifty, would decide to take on a competitive sport? For that is what ballroom dancing is, for all the glamour and glitz. It takes dedication, training, teamwork, and hours of practice. It can be grueling, tense, and sometimes defeating. I came away from A Year of Dancing Dangerously with the realization that it can also be enriching, rewarding, and satisfying.

Starting with her beginning student stage, Lydia takes us through her development as a dancer while explaining the intricate world of competitive dance, the procedures, make-up, dresses, shoes, and even short descriptions of the popular dances. Beautiful photos illuminate the story; in some, the dancers seem to move on the page.

Many women reach their fifties wondering what happened to their dreams. Most do little more than regret missed opportunities. A Year of Dancing Dangerously demonstrates that a dream can become reality even years after it no longer seems possible. The message of this book is simple.

Do it. Now.


Liz said...

Don't let being left-handed stand in your way of learning to dance - you could learn the leader's part! To heck with conventional gender roles! I used to do a lot of swing dancing, and there were a lot of women who eventually learned to lead when they got bored of following.

Granny Sue said...

Hi Liz! Thanks for stopping by. You make a good point. A friend has been urging me to try contra dancing but my past experiences have left me doubtful of my ability. Although with my left-handed hubby, we have no problems at all ;-)

Michele Rasmussen said...

I love your story! I also started to dance as a "NaNa", and it was by far the most difficult thing that I have ever learned to do. I would love to promote your book on my blog and dance website. Just get back to me if you are interested.

Happy Dancing!

Granny Sue said...

Hi Michele,

The story isn't mine, it's Lydia Raurell's. I'm sure her publisher would be glad for you to promote her book. I will send your comment to the publisher for her to respond directly to her. I think you'll love the book.

Granny Sue said...

BTW, michele, email me your contact information so I can send that too.

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