Coming back to our time, the late 20th and the start of the 21st centuries, there is much on offer for women who want to dance: ballet, flamenco, hip hop, tap dance and much more. They all instill in the participant the self-assurance to move to the music - solo.
So why then did I develop Ladies Solo Dance in 1994? Firstly, to provide women without much dance experience access to the beauty of dance. Without the benefit of a childhood background of dance, starting out in any of the classical dance disciplines in adulthood would be, at the very least, extremely difficult. Modern dances like hip-hop attract a younger group, mostly teenagers and women in their twenties. So what about the thirty-plus group who perhaps have no background in dance but would love to move to the music - where do they fit in?
Secondly, to provide women with the skills and confidence to dance solo. Living in the world of partner dance, I also became acutely aware of many women wanting, waiting, hoping to dance but being entirely at the mercy of a man, a leader, one who had the power to grant or deny her the joy of moving to the music.
Also, I noticed that, although, many women wanted to workout i.e.: keep or get fit and supple, develop their core strength and improve their posture. Training in a gym did not appeal to them. I found that often women enjoyed the elegance of the Ballroom dances and the high-energy cheeky and seductive moves of Latin American dance. That is then what initially motivated me. I started by developing a small programme for women I knew. I developed movements for the women to work with their bodies and balance, solo, to achieve a good workout and have fun. The enthusiasm, referrals (the group doubled and tripled within a few months) and the absolute delight encouraged me to continue developing and enhancing Ladies Solo Dance.
Adding fun elements of current pop and golden-age moves was a natural progression. Also including props like hats, walking sticks and scarves in the choreography adds to the variety and challenge of the different sequences. Ladies Solo Dance is creative and innovative, at the same time remaining true to the technique of the dance.
Separating groups into Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced and Show Dance levels as well as having different workouts for younger and older women, gives students the opportunity to work at their own pace in a joyous and non-threatening environment.
All women have a challenge and a beautiful set of moves to dance on their own. It is a programme whereby women learn to dance, solo, not only the steps of Latin American, Ballroom and Argentinean Tango but also the technique and style of the particular dance. Add to this arm styling, direction changes, formations and team dance and you have an exercise of beauty!
Why do different types of women from many different walks of life enjoy the power of Ladies Solo Dance?Quite simply for the sheer joy of the movement, the excitement of performance, the challenge of the workout, and, yes, for some, a valuable reiteration of their value and femininity.
This, I have found, is often the case when women have undergone challenging life experiences such as menopause, depression, loss of a partner and empty nest syndrome. It is humbling and encouraging for me to know students who have endured breast removal or hysterectomy and tell me that Ladies Solo Dance played a significant part in reaffirming their femininity. Ladies Solo Dance offers women a creative outlet, a terrific workout and the freedom to express without fear of failure.
Articles by medical practitioners can be seen in media with increasing regularity, recommending dance as a therapy for a healthy heart, healthy body and a healthy head! Can dance solve all our maladies? That I don’t know. What I do know for sure is that Ladies Solo Dance is the ultimate fun way for women of different backgrounds and abilities to share, empathise, communicate, socialise and simply feel good about life and each other. Especially for women between the ages of 30 and 81 - Ladies Solo Dance gives just the right dose of confidence, balance, fitness, posture, posing and fun!
Ladies Solo Dance is a big part of my life - and my life is in part Ladies Solo Dance. This blog is an extension of Ladies Solo Dance and it’s all about joy, exploring new options, taking chances, reliving some magic moments in our lives, reliving some of the not-so-great memories and turning them into a learning experience!
We have so much to offer each other and ourselves, to enrich, entertain and simply celebrate this adventure called life.
My son and daughter have coaxed, coached and encouraged me to share my journey...so here it is!
In my youth, I participated in whatever rhythmic sport was available in the town that my family lived in at the time (we moved a lot). But I did get to do ballet, tap, flamenco and gymnastics. I achieved well, especially in gymnastics. I enjoyed being daring and never hesitated to try something new.
I had ambitions of becoming a trapeze artist, but that was not to be. At the age 14 I approached a circus master and begged him to let me join them. Without an invitation, I proceeded to perform a dance routine with a lot of cartwheels and somersaults aimed to convince him. He was impressed but explained that my running away with the circus would be tantamount to kidnapping - so better I run off home!
So when I left school, I got a job as a go-go dancer instead. Op-Art, mini skirts, discos and go-go dancing. Yes! We talking end of the sixties here! We were a group of girls dancing on raised platforms on the Disco floor while coloured and strobe lights flashed on and off to the sounds of “Build me up Buttercup”. Let me tell you, it was quite a workout. We wore little-fringed skirts and sailor tops and I thought we were rather cute! My mother came to watch sometimes - although the lights drove her mad. The manager was quite nervous when my mom was around and went out of his way to impress her and assure her of my safety. After a year of this crazy disco trend and working in an office (typing envelopes!) during the day I had saved enough to leave the Durban shores and sailed off to London.
My intention was to meet up with flower people and travel around Europe in an old bus. But I first needed to earn some money. My first job was waiting tables at a pub in Lancashire from where I had a rather harrowing experience with the very lecherous manager. I escaped through my bedroom window in the early hours of the morning, caught a bus to London and landed at Victoria Station with no idea of my next move.
There I quite literally bumped into a couple in a hurry; they saw my despair and immediately reacted with concern. Both guys were sensitive, kind and funny, and we became instant friends. Their flat in Earls Court would become my home for the rest of my time in England. We spent our days working temporary jobs like factory packing, cleaning windows and waiting tables. Lots of stories there! My friends got lucky when they landed jobs working in a food-canning factory - it meant that we always had food. Of course, we didn’t know the contents because the tins had no labels. I always hoped for rice pudding but more often than not it was carrots!
By night, our life took a different turn. Just before midnight we would head out to the Motown discos; Tamla-Town was one of my favourites. We danced to the best: Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The Supremes, The Jacksons, The Temptations and, of course, the great “Mama told me not to come” by Three Dog Night! A cult classic! If there had been wooden floors they would have been sawdust by dawn! We all danced on our own - together. I have never hesitated to dance when the music enticed me - whether I had a partner or not. There's a story right there, it's my life story: a partner is nice but not a necessity.
My passion for travelling around in a bus disappeared completely when I read about an audition for a dance teachers' programme. After two years, I qualified and went on to teach and perform in London and then back in South Africa.
Part of the dance (and life) is being open to new ideas, new interpretations and feelings. Throughout my life I have continued learning and training with many fascinating masters and mistresses of various dance forms.
I have performed in television shows, commercials, on stage and in clubs. I loved the sheer thrill of the performance. When I was in my thirties, show dance was especially good. I danced with a wonderful dancer and friend for more than eight years. The partnership and performances brought me much joy - and success.
At fifty-six I danced in my last show. It was a Tango show called “El Beso”, which I also choreographed. It had a wonderful run at the Little Theatre in Cape Town. My son was the director for “El Beso” and my daughter was the lead dancer. Does it get any better than that? Never was there a more perfect time to hang up my show dance shoes!
Teaching is also very close to my heart - it is my most accomplished skill. I liken it to being a mom: guiding, teasing and encouraging students to explore and develop their inner dancer, watching and enjoying their growth as the creativity comes shining through. I realised early on that my skill impacts people in a positive way. I care, I empathise, I enthuse. I organise, manage and motivate. I appreciate and value my skill and what it can achieve. I get a kick out of my students' progress and their sheer enjoyment of the dance. I am also moved and deeply touched when a student tells me that my classes and energy have helped them from a dark place into the light.
That's me! I stand for sharing, caring, joy, perseverance and growth. I promise to keep it real and talk from the heart.