Music for the Soles

A soulful reawakening unexpectedly begins with my earliest passion - and begins with the  "soles"

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My three-year-old daughter's first recital 

I always wanted to be a Rockette.

 

But I was several inches too short.  And I wasn't really that good. Oh, I thought I was good enough; in dance class, I was always called up front to demonstrate a step, and the teacher always pointed at me and instructed the class to “do it the way Ardelle does it.”

 

My parents refused to sell the empty, overgrown lot next to our house just in case one day I wanted to open a dancing school. It was their dream, not mine, and shortly after turning 14 my Capezio’s were stored in the attic never to touch my soles again.

 

Twenty years later, there were Capezio’s in my hands, this time being jammed onto my daughter's tiny feet. At her very first recital, when she was almost 3, wearing more makeup than I did, she was eagerly swinging her tiny hips to Barry Manilow's "Copacabana." What a showgirl she was!

 

I found myself wondering whether my daughter might ever want to open a dancing school on that still-vacant lot next to my parent's house in Carle Place, Long Island. Suddenly, I was very glad it was never sold.

 

Another 15 years evaporated. At 50, I was an empty nester, an orphan and a divorced mom with an AARP card. Searching for a new passion in my life as I packaged my daughter off to NYU, I decided to reconnect with my former passion and eagerly signed up for ballroom dance classes at a local dance studio.

 

Ahhhh, the excitement of climbing those poorly-painted concrete stairs, admiring the smooth and polished floor, and viewing my image reflected back in the mirrors as once again I was called to the front to demonstrate a new step for the class.

 

In Albany, NY there are many places to ballroom dance. And in each one, there is an ineffable magic difficult to describe. Some dancers are more accomplished than others, and the trick is to look competent enough to attract the attention of a man with whom one can glide around seemingly effortlessly while silently counting "slow-quick-quick-slow-quick-quick" and trying not to step on anything that could break.

 

In search of footwear to enhance my new avocation, I found myself in the Back Bay of Boston at a place where real ballroom dancers go to buy shoes. I tried on many pairs, but when I saw a pair of smooth black-leather strappy sandals with an ankle strap and an open toe, I remembered how it feels to fall in love.

 

I slid into these Capezio’s, and felt my feet touch my soul.

 

My personal lexicon is now filled with interesting new word combinations, such as Cuban-motion, triple-step and Contra-body movement. And I have found a gentleman with whom to dance, a former dance teacher.

 

While out shopping at the mall on a recent Sunday afternoon, we came across a small jazz ensemble and spontaneously slid into our dance position, oblivious to the Muzak, the mischievous toddler abandoning his stroller, and the elderly couple with blank expressions burned onto their faces.

 

We were dancing. In the mall. A waltz. And for a few minutes, the only reality was that I was in someone's arms, smiling, twirling gracefully, directed by a force greater than myself.

 

That moment, in the mall, was perfect. Just like my shoes.

 

And while I may never be a Rockette, I love channeling Ginger Rogers.

(published, Times Union "Life Stories")