On a whim, and with the wind of the universe at my back, I took up flamenco dancing three years ago when I was 66. It was hard, and I almost dropped it last year because I wasn’t that good at it!
But when my mantra became, “I will dance until I can’t,” I leaned into being ‘just okay’ at it and having fun, because there will probably be a time when my physical body will not cooperate at all. As for now, it’s difficult enough to get my feet, arms, hands, and legs to make the correct movements at the right time. But it’s not impossible, and thank goodness I don’t have to make a living from dancing! I can be one part of a dance troupe, not the star, and I can keep smiling.
What Dancing Does
The Dance Facts website outlines these health benefits to dancing in general:
- Burns calories
- Strengthens bones and muscles
- Improves stamina, endurance, strength, and general form
- Heightens social interaction skills
- Increases flexibility
- Minimizes chances of osteoporosis
- Helps with spatial orientation, balance, and peripheral vision
- Reduces stress and frustration
Flamenco Dancing in Particular
While we know almost any dancing is great exercise, flamenco dancing also teaches humility and patience, not because it’s impossible to learn but because it does have some lovely, challenging rhythms, definite coordination requirements, tricky footwork, and a need for balance and concentration. The idea is to keep telling myself, “If it weren’t a little difficult, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.”
There’s also the fact that one can continue flamenco dancing up into one’s 80s. I’ve seen these men and women. They’re amazing.
The camaraderie among the continuum of ages reminds me of when I was on a sports team in high school. Everyone wanted to have fun, try hard, and do our best. The nice part about flamenco is we don’t have to win over another team. We just dance as best we can while some of the students also dance professionally, which is an inspiration for all us newbies.
History, Culture, and Costumes
We get to wear beautiful, traditional costumes and listen to music specific to flamenco. Plus, as we listen to the singer, the guitar, and the unique rhythms of the clapping and cajón (the wooden box for percussion) we learn the dance’s history and culture as we try to channel the angst of the original gypsy dancers. Flamenco is a dance of extremes of passion and sadness.
There is no middle ground in flamenco.
So while I may stay in the middle of the pack, I am still challenged to reach the extremes. Even as I eclipse my sixties, I hope to continue to ‘age in place’ making noise with my flamenco shoes surrounded by my flamenco friends.
If you have a local flamenco dance studio in your neighborhood, give it a try. You might love it as much as I do.