How Old is Too Old?Add to favorites
Have you ever wondered how long forever is? As a belly dancer forever is over the horizon and beyond the distant star. It’s just a saying that is until the day comes and you find yourself literally over the horizon and the distant star is the neon signs of yesterday. What is too old in this business?
The biggest question I get asked by more people than not, even those who aren’t dancers, is what is the oldest a dancer can dance. It’s a good question and one that I never really gave much thought. Why? I mean, belly dancers in their own minds are immortal beings with ageless imaginations and creativity that is endless, bottomless and omnipotent. Who thinks about the end of something when it’s just begun or it’s running its do course.
If the mind isn’t in-sync with the body, issues can crop up even if you are in your prime as a dancer. Some of the biggest drama queens I have ever seen have been belly dancers. It’s the one drawback to drinking from the well of creativity.
I saw a dancer in Egypt who was in her late forties or early fifties, out dance a bunch of dancers half her age. I talked about her in a post a long while ago. She was dancing with a candelabra on her head and had the most exquisite hip work I have ever seen even to this day. The audience loved her and when she was done dancing, they gave her a long applause. I have watched my dear friend Barbara Sayre Harmon dance in her studio and she had the exquisite body gestures of someone half her age besides the agility of a ballet dancer performing Swan Lake. To this day, I love watching Barbara dance because she moves in a way that is timeless. Maybe that is the key; the mind thinks there-fore the body is. Philosophy can go hand in hand with dance because in the quest for finding the perfect moves, we end up discovering treasures that take us on adventures beyond the immediate, a journey of unforeseen answers. Some answers are more confusing than the questions, leading us further into a plot of twists and turns. A dancer’s tutelage is more than drills and combinations; it’s a quest into the deepest part of herself. Sometimes the deeper a dancer goes, the more lost she becomes. This is where instinct comes to the rescue.
A while ago I was teaching a beginner student privately. She was a beautiful girl just turning 19, with a heart of a belly dancer or so I thought. After weeks of drills, I worked on a choreography with her so I could help her understand how to place in the combinations into music. She videotaped her classes and when she would go home, she would watch the two of us dance together to help her practice. After about two weeks of being filmed, she started to come to class moody and unfocused. She told me she felt that she should have been able to dance as good as me especially since in her mind, youth played a big part in who should dance better. She thought being younger and spritier than me would be her edge and I told her that I had been dancing for years and that learning belly dance takes time to learn so that it feels natural in the body. The last class she took from me, she told me that the dance was just too hard and that she should see an improvement that was comparable to my way of dancing. I just couldn’t get through to her that she had to practice the moves and make them hers. She wanted to dance like me and I was trying to help her dance like herself by feeling the movements her way. I wanted her to copy me up until a point but then as she understood the moves, I wanted her to show me them…her way. She could do this for me in class but at home, I think her family made it difficult for her by making fun of her. It was an uphill battle that exasperated me to no end. She ended up making an excuse for not coming to class the following week and then no contact after that. She wouldn’t return my phone calls and by that point all I wanted to do was go find her and kick her in the butt.
In the end of this particular situation I found that having years over someone younger than me was to my detriment. Actually this is a first for me but it just goes to show you how irrational some people can be when it comes to age. So in the real world of age the scales can tilt either way. As humans on this planet, age has become enemy number one. The body isn’t something we embrace with an open mind. Funny that the mind though it dwells in the body opposes and criticizes the very thing that carries and protects it. Maybe we need to take the mind out of the equation and look at the body for what it is…home.
The statement, how old is too old doesn’t make any sense in many ways. When does a painter stop painting or a sculpture stop sculpting? Some of the cowboys I worked with years ago were in their 80’s, yes that’s right, I said 80’s and nothing kept them off their horses. I always had a feeling that as soon as they decided not to ride anymore, that would be the day they died. You can’t put passion and desire on a shelf and leave it to wither away. Life doesn’t work that way.
Sometimes little signs that come from the Universe will tell people when it’s time to put the horse out to pasture and hang up the spurs. Three years ago my ex-husband who was a lot older then me decided it was time for him to pass on and leave this planet. He was a medicine man and sometimes they have this uncanny way of knowing when their time is up. He dug his own grave and within a few months after digging it, he passed away, was placed in the grave with his cowboy boots on, chaps, spurs and cowboy hat. The things in life that meant so much to him represented the life he had lived and as I thought about his life, I realized that everyone wants to be remembered for how they lived, what they did, represented and who they loved.
My mortality hit me square in the eyes when he died and I wondered how long I would dance, teach or choreograph belly dance. Would I die being buried in my belly dance costume or would I die dancing in my belly dance costume? Interesting to think about but it is a bit gloomy.
How old is too old depends on the mind set of any given person and how they feel about themselves. I actually had a friend who quit belly dancing because she thought she was too old at age 30. Can you imagine what turning 40 was like for her? I’m going to be half a century old and I feel half a century young. I’m just getting the hang of this dance form and maybe just maybe, at 90 I’ll have it licked!
Photography by the amazing Vivien Skrupskis
My Choreography book which will be a small book full of combinations is almost finished. It will be for the professional dancer who knows belly dance verbage but wants some combo ideas for troupe or solo performing. I thought I would share my ideas so I hope you all enjoy it. I will have it finished by the end of this week.
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