Let’s Face the Music and Dance

A screen test report on Hollywood legend, Fred Astaire, allegedly read, “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Balding. Can dance a little.” Of course, Astaire could both sing and act and was such a good dancer that even The Bolshoi Ballet was impressed.

And someone with Secondary Progressive MS? Me for example? Surely it would be no exaggeration to say, “Can barely walk. Can’t dance. Can stand a little.” Well, you’d have thought that, wouldn’t you? And though it’s true that I can barely walk, I figure that standing a little is all I need to dance a little.

And so I’ve been doing Modern Jive lessons.

I know. The whole idea lies somewhere between “Are you insane?” and “Is that even possible?” During the rest of this article I hope to persuade you both that I’m perfectly sane and that it’s possible.

My GP was certainly impressed and said what several other people have also said, “That’s very brave of you.”

Brave of me? Why? I’m not going into war here. I don’t anticipate getting badly injured dancing. The worst that might happen is if I lost my balance and fell over – I’m only 53, so I wouldn’t expect to break any bones. So why brave? Am I humiliating myself? Are people going to be saying look at that gimp pretending to dance? Ha ha ha! But people aren’t like that – at least not the ones I pay any attention to. So what I think they mean by brave is that I’m taking up something with a very significant chance of failure and, because I’m doing it on the dancefloor, it’ll be a very public failure.

Is that true? Am I most likely to fail?

Modern Jive is a dance form that evolved from Jive, Swing, Rock’n'Roll and Salsa. The significant change is a huge simplification in the footwork, which makes it best suited to a slower tempo – roughly the same beats per minute as Disco and danceable pop. It’s also a male-led partner dance, which means that, as a fella, I get to choose the steps we do.

All this makes Modern Jive the perfect form – I concentrate on those moves that involve the minimum of foot movement for me, while my partner twists around me gracefully. I’ll never look as good as the twinkle toes but, with arms as good as anyone’s, I can give a girl a good spin.

But Secondary Progressive is progressive – the disability gets worse and eventually I won’t even be able to stand. Why bother to learn something with which, in the fullness of time, failure is guaranteed?

Why indeed? Let’s return to Fred Astaire and one of his best known numbers, Irving Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance”:

Soon we’ll be without the moon – Humming a different tune – And then… There may be teardrops to shed – So while there’s moonlight and music – And love and romance – Let’s face the music and dance

This is the only life I’ve got. It’s limited in time, just like everybody else’s. Right now I can do things I won’t be able to do later, so I’d better do them now. Or else, sometime in the future, I’ll be looking back at today regretting that I missed all those opportunities that my relative health allows. I have to nurture this carpe diem sentiment – this is how to defeat the effects of disability and that Mood Indigo.

There’s another man with a significant disability who does Modern Jive. I know very little about him but I urge you to watch this video if you still think that disability can’t be defeated: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjAwebUSO8A

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5 comments on “Let’s Face the Music and Dance

  1. Caroline on said:

    you are amazing!

  2. Your post reminded me of a video our teacher showed us during English course.
    That’s a video with Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Speech in 2005. There’s this part when he refers to death but in an encouraging way, namely so that we should all do things that we love as if the day we’re about to start were the last day of our life.
    if you like you’ll find the whole speach here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1R-jKKp3NA – and the part I’m talking about starts at about 7,5min.

    I know it won’t cure us, but what’s better than doing things that we love, especially when we still can? :)

    Fingers crossed for your course!

  3. Shana Creeech on said:

    Again I thank you for your blog . . . it gives me a hopeful outlook on the whole MS situation I find myself in these days. ♥

  4. Jackie Martinez on said:

    WOW and how envy I your courage. I also have SPMS but am 32 and courage to do and try things I’ve seem to lost. I love dancing but as hard for me even stand days I don’t get out much dance anymore, and worse my family/friends don’t want go as much. I’m not sure if fear for me, embarrassment for me or for them?

    I’d be honored if tell me when you decided to just do it and give that first lesson a try? Any tips would be most helpful.

    Congrats and I hope you get to dance all the nights away!

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