Thursday, March 5, 2015

Am I Too Old To Dance?

A few questions:
  • Are you too old to dance?
  • How old is "too old to start"?
  • Do you have a friend who thinks he/she can't dance because it's too late?
My regular readers know I started dancing in my mid 40's, in a "salsa aerobics" class. I didn't start partner dancing in the clubs until about 18 months later, and I mostly watched.

Nobody would have considered me a "natural dancer" or "fast starter" either. Others seemed to learn faster, and look better in far less time. I did know the music, but that actually was a short term disadvantage for me, as it was so obvious my dance feel had little relationship to the music feel. (I was extremely self conscious of little dance feel compared to the music.)

As I started going out more, I meet one of my early heroes in the LA salsa scene named "Bob" (his real name). Bob is in his seventies, shaved head and horn-rimmed glasses. The ladies of all ages love dancing with him. He takes tango classes and continues growing his dancing. Many guys my age or less--20 to 40 years younger than Bob--are watching on the sidelines, saying it's too late for them.

In the LA scene, Bob is a little like Madonna or Usher: a single name is all that's needed for most salsa people to know who you're talking about. Especially if you mention "an older gentleman" in the discussion. He started a few years before I did, but he was in his late 60's when he took his first salsa classes.

He certainly doesn't blend; smiling and laughing, totally bald with glasses, wearing painted jeans and not acting his age, he's rarely forgotten by anybody who sees him having a great time. I've seen him close lots of clubs when most of his peers had the Denny's senior early-bird dinner special and were in bed long before Bob hit the clubs.

The reality is the time to start is NOW, whatever your age is. If you're 16, 43 or over 80, go for it. Better to be learning to dance now than sitting on the sidelines and watching. It can be a slower start-up if you're older, but so what?

Check out the clip below for a little inspiration. I don't know this lady, but I can't help but be inspired and impressed by her attitude and skill. Anybody who has trained for a performance knows she put in significant effort to make this happen. Many things that are relatively easy when you're 30- or 40-something become much tougher as you cross into the senior years.

Show this clip to your friends who say it's too late for them. It's really simply a choice and some effort. This lady and Bob have decided to dance, and they decided to do enough to get above average. Now everybody respects them, but I'm sure they had their moments when it wasn't easy. They simply realized the fun outweighs the work, so they went for it.

That's their choice, and anybody else can do it too. Until you're using the walker full-time, keep on dancing and growing. If these other people can do it, so can you and your friends, no matter what their current age.
I want my husband to take me in his arms and whisper those three little words that all women love to hear:
"You were right."
--Kelly Smith
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Originally published in Feb 2009. Minor revisions and tweaks before this republish.


  1. Not to mention that Salsa Bob has even been in salsa performances at events! :) It is always a pleasure to see Bob.

  2. Thank you so much for this. I'm 55 and dance everywhere I go with men half my age. Dancing keeps you young!

  3. I agree that LA Salsa Bob is such a great inspiration. Many ladies enjoy dancing with him including myself. But the lady in the clip is just unbelievably charismatic!!!

  4. I got the chance to ask Albert Torres about that clip (which I can't see at work, but I assume is the one with the older lady who starts out dancing bachata, then goes into a very energetic salsa routine with a much younger man). He said that she's in her 70's, is English, loved dancing as a teenager, but then married a man who prohibited her from dancing. After being widowed, she returned to her passion, and the result is pretty amazing. I believe he said the video was from a couple years ago, possibly at a Congress in Las Vegas.

    BTW, I started dancing salsa a couple years ago when I'd turned 52. I go club dancing 3-4 times a week, and rarely sit out songs. It's amusing to hear people in their 30's talk about being too old.

  5. The hard part when you are an older women (even a pretty one with a great body who looks much younger than her years) is getting asked to dance when there are many 18-25 year old young ladies in hot pants and heels all around the dance floor. This is how the NYC salsa "On 2" dance scene is. Although I am asked to dance, I have to ask more guys to dance than the number of guys who ask me to dance and it gets to be demoralizing.

  6. Anonymous: Yea, I can see it could be demoralizing at points. I've had my nights when getting turned down regularly was more the norm.

    If I go to a new club today, my turn-down numbers get very high temporarily as I become part of the new social scene. If I stick it out (usually a few weeks or so) it changes but there are moments where it's not always easy.

    Being older I know I have to find a way to be better at something, so they enjoy our dances rather than simply put up with them. In my area there are so many strong leads, the ladies have lots of choices.

    In some scenes, the ratios of leads/follows is out of balance, so that also can contribute to the issues. If there are lots of great follows, the younger ones do get more dances UNLESS we work at it.

    I have to have regular attitude checks, as I get turned down by lots of follows even though they dance with guys who are not as strong. But those guys are closer to their dating age, and some want that factor as part of the dances. (I don't fit that situation...)

    It can be tough... Please let us know what you do. Are you still going? Thinking of quitting? Finding ways to improve?

  7. *stares openmouthed*

    Wow. That was just amazing.
    I feel the way I felt when I was privileged to see Eartha Kitt @ Carnegie Hall - these ladies are likely more than twice my age; I have NO EXCUSE. LOL.


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Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero