Happy #InternationalDanceDay!

According to Days of the Year “Dance is one of the ultimate activities to destress, lose inhibitions, meet new people, and boost physical health.”

Whether it is classical ballet, Bollywood, square dance, Zumba, Jazzercise, ballroom, hip-hop, folkdance, or any of the multitude of other dance forms, today is the day to put on some music and be joyful while you move. Bop around your kitchen between meetings. Shake your bootie if that’s what makes you happy.

I love to dance. I love everything about the experience, no matter what the dance form: the music, the challenge of executing each movement perfectly, the chance to pretend I am a prima ballerina or the star of an old movie musical. Sometimes it’s an excuse to get dressed up in something sparkly and show off. It is a source of several valued friendships. It’s a fantastic way to improve posture, and build strength and flexibility. The memory work involved in learning dance patterns is also great for your brain; combined with the social aspects and the physical exercise, it may even help fight off dementia.

These days, I do an average of three dance classes a week. I would do more if my schedule permitted. In fact, I love dance so much I also celebrate World Ballet Day on October 29. I’m definitely not your stereotypical ballerina, but neither are my classmates. We are mostly middle aged or older, and many – like me – started dancing as adults (I was in my mid-40s).

Diane wearing a black leotard and huge smile, in the ballet studio

Who inspires me as a dancer? Sonja Rodrigues, a mother of two who is still a prima ballerina at age 50. The dancers of Pretty Big Movement, a New-York based full-figured dance company that specializes in hip-hop, jazz, African and modern. Debbie Allen, the dance teacher in in the movie and TV show Fame, who is still teaching and performing at 71. And every one of my ballet, lyrical, modern, English country, Renaissance, belly, Bollywood and powwow dance teachers over the years. You taught me how to push myself to be strong, expressive and joyful.

Dance teacher in a purple shirt and black leggings demonstrating a pirouette from her home studio during a Zoom class

Happy international dance day! Everybody dance now!

Diane Harper lives and dances in Ottawa.


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