Center Stage

With the recent bold announcement of the President’s personal feelings about a very controversial topic, I feel it is time I too come clean about my lifestyle. I am a dancer. And I love it.

With the recent bold announcement of the President’s personal feelings about a very controversial topic, I feel it is time I too come clean about my lifestyle.   I am a dancer.  And I love it.

To be clear, I am not a dancer.  Not really. I am what you might call an enthusiast. Since a young age, I have always been enamored with everything that has to do with dance. The physical dimension it gives to music, the romantic scenes of long hours spent in an empty space framed in mirrors, how a simple flick of a graceful hand can be trained to captivate. How the final rendition is blessed by admiring eyes, baptized in sweat. Yes, the talents of a dancer run both deep and wide. To experience what it's like to be a dancer, is to be transformed into a magical creature for a moment.


I know this, because once a year, I get to be a dancer; on a real stage, audience in their seats, costumes and all.  This week, I will be performing at one of our own local gems, The Ritz Theater in NE Minneapolis.  This might seem odd to read about.  Why a grown woman and mother would dare to start a love affair with dance now, may seem questionable at best, and downright strange to most. 


I accept that this is a common Minnesotan reaction, but I challenge you to rethink it.


For whatever reasons, it is perfectly acceptable to be an athlete long after your prime years have passed you by.  Recreational sports of all kinds, in every season, are enjoyed on bar leagues and on corporate teams across the state.  The performing arts though, always seem to take extra energy and drive to continue, or (gasp) start in adulthood. 


Girls who use to love to dance find that after college, they should give it up because they are not "professionals".  Mothers who remember their dancing years fondly, think the idea of putting on a pair of tap shoes now seems silly.  Maybe they feel too “old” and “out of shape”, or that an hour or two out of the week couldn't possibly be dedicated to anything less than their children and families.


And then, there are those like me, who don't have a dance history to speak of, but have always yearned to walk among those who are called dancers. For the grace. For the glamour. For the love of it.


And why ever not be a dancer?  Who says it is only for the chosen few, or the young?


The gym and I don't get along. We never have, try as I might. Like looking for a perfect mate, on paper, the gym is a perfect fit. With many options, it can be affordable, convenient in location and is good for my health and aging body. With such an impressive resume, every few years or so, I try and make it work. I sign up, go a few times … and then stop going altogether. Machines don't engage me, aerobic classes (even in the guise of Zumba, Cardio Kickboxing, or Step) exhausts me, leaving me to be nothing but a wet mess in the back of the room, heaving uncontrollably. In short, I completely lack the passion for it and consequently, will completely loose the interest in it. 


I initially started to dance when I was a new mother, and I desperately needed to 'get out of the house' and do something for myself, as well as try to stay moderately in shape. When I lived in California, adult dance classes abounded everywhere. It was very common to take a ballet class, and those classes were always chock-full of adults of all ages and abilities. 


But here in Fridley, Minnesota, the options were rare and limited.  Most the “adult” classes I found were for those who had a lifetime of competitive dance experience, indeed most of the dance studios concentrated on competitions, and that environment left me cold. I wanted to dance, not feel paranoid about my body and my skill set.


Eventually I found a local studio, J&L Dance Academy, whose non-competitive setting, welcoming approach and great staff appealed to me. I was hooked. I had no illusions of ever dancing on Broadway, but I was learning how to dance, and I loved it. The work at the barre, the combinations across the floor, and in time, the moments of actual dancing gave me a feeling of real accomplishment and a sense of euphoria.  


But what, you may ask, is it like to dance onstage, at my age?


Just as a new outfit and fresh coat of lipstick can make you ready to take on the world with confidence, I assure you, there is nothing like being dressed in lovely garments, flushed in beautiful lighting and feeling the music through your body. For me, it is leaving my ordinary life for a time, and becoming an object of affection in a shimmering skirt, or perhaps to be bold and hardened in black leather and steel, or maybe just a dream of something to come. This is what it’s like, to dance onstage.


You must be somewhat brave (or in my case, don't take yourself too seriously), and open to new experiences, but there is no reason why anyone, simply anyone can't be a dancer if you wish it.


The art of dance itself continues to inspire me; the challenges of it both physically and mentally keep me engaged and keep me going every week with pleasure.  The added bonus of having the opportunity to meet many smart and varied women who join me in my pursuit gives me encouragement, and has provided me with new and very real friendships.  


J&L is no more, after nearly 50 years of being around it was time for them to close shop. But from it, the nMotion Dance Center was born, where I am still a student, and now also part of the staff (although not in the capacity of teaching).  I am still hooked, still learning how to dance, doing the work at the barre, the combinations across the floor, and having more moments of actual dancing. 


welcomes all people of any age, of any ability to learn this beautiful art form. From them, I was taught that one doesn't become a dancer through trophies, or having the ‘ideal’ body type, or from the commentary of judges. I was taught that dancers are made through the call of the soul, and the passions of their hearts. That is all.


So I stand corrected.  Turns out, I really am a dancer, after all.

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Amy Reierson May 22, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Love this! It is warming to hear someone doing something they have always wanted to do and not limiting themselves. Thanks for sharing your passion for dance.
Mandy Meisner May 23, 2012 at 04:29 AM
Thank you Amy. You've got the point exactly; whatever new adventures are on your "bucket list", or secret passions lurk in your heart, DO THEM.
Connie N May 24, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Beautifully written - not only can you dance but you have a gift for writing. Thank you for writing this. I've had some strange looks when I tell people that I take tap class and how much I love it. Yet I never thought about all my friends that continue to play softball, compete in tennis matches, bowling leagues, golf, etc. My "passion" is no different than theirs. I'm going to hold my head higher now!
Mandy Meisner May 29, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Tap away Connie, tap away! : D
Ross Meisner May 30, 2012 at 08:43 PM
I can affirm, you really are a dancer. You move with grace and beauty -- the true soul of a dancer. And so your dancing brings pleasure to at least two people: you, who found the love of dance, and me, who has discovered the love of WATCHING you dance. Keep it up! Your Husband


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