Doing it for the joy of it: An 86-Year-Old Salsa Dancer Shares Her Wit and Wisdom
Posted on February 10, 2015 by Taylor Rhea
“To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful.. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking.” – Agnes DeMille, dancer and choreographer
86-year-old Atria Crossgate resident Angela C., who’s been dancing more than 50 years, has known the power and glory of this graceful art form all her life.
“I began dancing in fourth grade,” she says. It was at a party where she first saw girls dancing together to the conga, which was all the rage then. “I joined in, and here I was dancing to conga! There were guests there that told me I danced very nicely. I thought, ‘Whoa!’”
Dancing has brought much joy to Angela’s life. She met her husband, Frank, at a Brooklyn dance studio. The two were happily married for 54 years.
“He was my lucky star,” she says. “I’ve been without him around four years. But we made a pact that if one of us goes first, the other one will continue dancing. So here I am dancing, hoping to meet a dance partner - which is not an easy thing at 86.”
Angela goes out dancing at least three times each week, focusing currently on Argentine tango. She enjoys learning new techniques.
“In tango, which is a very close embrace kind of a posture, it is more crucial that you have a good connection, and that the partner you’re dancing with feels the same way that you do about the music,” she says. “That doesn’t happen too often. So when you feel the music the same way your partner does, it is glorious.”
And that’s just what happened at Atria Crossgate. The community hired a professional dancer as entertainment for the residents.
“He had the residents in the seated position, where they were tapping their feet, giving them maracas, and he had them going to the rhythm. He kept them very entertained, very enthusiastic.”
He asked Angela to dance with him.
“I was delighted!”
“He was a very good leader and we had a very good connection. In fact, a lady here thought I had come with him. It was the first time we had ever met!”
Dancing provides personal expression and social connection, and Angela says it can also be a form of therapy.
“You are listening to music, you are relating to people, you are dancing with another person and you are running around the floor to music,” she says. “Maybe five years ago, I learned that, as a sport, it is the most complete because it involves the memory…the mind. The follower learns to anticipate. You have to be ready for the body cues that the leader sends. You have to be very sensitive to that.”
Born in Ecuador, Angela moved to the U.S. when she was 18. “It was my mother’s vision, and we are so happy for that because we have done much better here than if we had stayed in Ecuador.”
Angela is a mother of four and grandmother of nine, all of whom love music or dancing. “We’ve had three generations of dancing. I danced with my husband, then my daughter danced with her husband, and now her daughter started dancing at age 10.”
Her family, friends and Atria community say she is an inspiration. Angela believes it’s essential to stay active and keep moving. In addition to dancing, she enjoys creating Chinese brush paintings, gardening and using her iPad.
She says the key to happiness and joy is maintaining a positive attitude and being empathetic toward others.
“We all have to work at it… And when doing so, you are going to be happier because it makes others happy.”