I am a late bloomer in the world of dance. The 1950s song I Can’t Tell A Waltz From A Tango has rung true for most of my adult life. As a young girl I attended social dances with my parents. (I don’t believe there was a choice back then.) These were special occasions when I got to wear a long dress, some of mum’s jewellery and one-inch heels. I’d watch Mum and Dad quickstep and fox-trot across the colourful spotlit floor and wonder when I would be able to look like that—graceful and coordinated. Pop tunes kept us youngsters happy, but when the beat changed back to a ballroom rhythm I politely declined any hand proffered; I was at that awkward age and besides—proper dancing? Surely that was just for old folk! 

One exception was the Slosh, a precursor to line dancing, and Dad was an expert. He swore it could be danced to any song and proved this time and again at any and all social events. I was always first at his side before people saw it for what it was—a simple fun dance for all ages.

Fast forward to 2014 when regular line dancing in the village came to an end. Where else could I go There was only one option. I headed for the Penticton Seniors Centre drop-in class. Was I ever glad I did. Two things were clear by mid-morning: I was coming back, and, I wanted to be as good on my toes as the rest of them. Friends expressed surprise when I told them where I went dancing, but right from the start, I felt I fitted in and was warmly welcomed. People like me come along, try out the various classes and find their own comfort level. And also like me, they find the social gathering is just as important as the exercise.

The 90-minute basic beginner class has become the highlight of my week, the lively music ranging from Bryan Adams to Elvis with a measure of upbeat country and choreographed dance routines. Over two years I’ve learned scores of dances: mambo, rumba, cha-cha, merengue and, yes, even a waltz or two. When anyone falters or faces the wrong way, there are encouraging smiles, even snorts of laughter: we all get lost at times. A moment later we’re back on track and it’s OK. It’s more than OK. We goof up? Who cares? There are no wrong moves, just variations.

Then, suddenly—a bombshell! Our much-loved teacher was leaving. Moving to Kelowna, of all places. I was shocked. She was hoping to find someone to fill her (dancing) shoes, but what if no one else took up the challenge? What would I do on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings? 

A temporary solution was that one classmate would assist the front row, another the middle, with a third handling the rear. I didn’t doubt they were serious; that’s how much we love the class. It simply had to continue. Later, upon reflection, I realized that a fundamental part of life was playing out. Things change. I crossed my fingers. I tried positive thinking. I even switched to Country to keep my spirits up.

Fast forward again—Oh Bliss! Oh Joy! Other talented instructors have stepped forward, happy to volunteer their time to keep us movin’-and-agroovin. We’ve welcomed them with open hearts and watchful eyes. With their unique energy and style, they will waltz and tango us through the year. I am so grateful to all these wonderful teachers. Who knew exercise could be this much fun? Swimming lengths to well-known tunes comes close, but it’s not easy, with your nose under water, to grin like a Cheshire cat. If I had a cowboy hat I’d take it off to these women for what they’ve taken on, which to me smacks of real community spirit. Whether you know your bebop from your bossa nova, your left from your right, these classes are a boon for many residents of the Valley, whatever their fitness level.

And always, when I’m dancing, I take a moment to think of two people who must have sown a seed all those years ago. It didn’t register then, but that little seed just took time to grow. Thanks, Mum and Dad.

Dancing also available in Oliver and Summerland  - just drop-in or call your local Seniors Centre.