Gemini Reynolds never let her age define her or hold her back. She explains how discovering dancing has only enriched her life.
Standing in front of my partner, our hands clasped together, I straighten my back and wait for our cue. As the music plays, we set off, our feet move quickly – he steps back with his right foot, I move forward with my left – and soon we’re twirling in perfect sync.
When I was in my early 40s, following my divorce from my partner of 15 years, I felt lonely. I knew I needed to move on, find hobbies and carve out a fresh life for myself.
So when I spotted an ad in the local paper for ballroom dance lessons, I decided to go along – alone.
I had great friends, but they were all married and I couldn’t expect them to lift my spirits. I had to do this for myself, by myself. When I arrived at the hall, in a long, flowing dress and comfortable heels, I was apprehensive, but I needn’t have worried. Everyone was so welcoming, and there were other single people there too. Soon, we were partnered up, and I danced with lots of different people.
After a few months, I felt more confident moving with the steps – and as the years passed, I was ready for a new challenge, something a bit more daring. When one of the women in the group suggested Ceroc – a modern jive, combining styles and moves from salsa, ballroom and Latin American dance – I was curious.
My first class was daunting, it was all so new and I was anxious the other students would be far too advanced. By then I was 55, and I feared I’d be the oldest, maybe too old, but there were men and women ranging from 35 to 70, and their skill levels varied, too. Compared to ballroom dancing, Ceroc was so much quicker, and I was thrilled I kept up, learning new moves like the windmill and the monkey slide, though it wasn’t as easy as the names suggest!
In the back of my mind, I wondered if I’d meet a nice man there, too, but while I didn’t find love, I forged great friendships, and we regularly headed to London together for an evening of dancing, showing off our nifty footwork. I even gave belly dancing a go and I loved everything about it. Not only was it fun, but it made me feel sexy, and on holiday in Turkey in October this year, I was brave enough to dance during dinner one evening. If you’d have told me 20 years ago I’d have the courage to do that, I’d have laughed!
Last month, I pushed my limits further – spotting an ad for burlesque dancing, I couldn’t resist. Again, I braved it alone, while my friends baulked at the idea.
At 68, I was the oldest by 40 years, but I couldn’t let that hold me back. I was relieved to have some dance experience under my belt, but knew it was possible I wouldn’t be able to perform some of the moves.
And as the teacher flicked her leg over a chair and asked us to do the same, my heart raced. Was I about to make a fool of myself? Yet, on my first attempt, I surprised myself as I managed it in one smooth move!
Yes, there were moments the class moved too fast for me, but I was relieved they didn’t stop or ask if I wanted them to slow down. I would’ve been embarrassed and felt patronised. Taking up dancing later in life has been nothing but positive for me. Not only has it helped my confidence, but I’m in great shape (I love my legs!) and feel as attractive as ever – I can’t recommend it enough.
There’s no feeling sexier than putting on a cute dress and shimmying on the dance floor all night!
Gemini has been following Stannah (opens in new tab)'s tips for starting to exercise in later life:
- Swimming. This is a fantastic option as it’s non-weight bearing so it takes the pressure off your joints, while still offering the benefits of a cardio workout. It can be a group activity too, and meeting up with others to exercise is sure to brighten your mood further.
- Stay at home exercises. Physical exercises don’t have to mean a trip to the gym - there’s plentof easy exercises (opens in new tab) you can do from the comfort of your own home. Stannah has worked with an internationally renowned occupational therapist to develop an exercise program to build strength that can be done at home. It includes three levels; beginners, intermediate and advanced to cater to varying ability, including seated exercises.
- Find exercise in every day. Even tasks like carrying home the shopping, gardening and gentle housework benefit the body as they create movement. Activity like this also replaces (or breaks up) sedentary time, which has been claimed to be as dangerous for our health as smoking.
- Yoga or Pilates. These can be really beneficial for flexibility, core stability and strength, which are key to maintaining independence and preventing falls. They can also be done in a class with others or, if you prefer there are plenty of online YouTube channels where you can bring the workout into your living room.
- Exercise for balance (opens in new tab). Regular exercise such as Thai Chi and walking can reduce the risk of a fall by 12 per cent in people over 65. Stannah have also developed a free Balance app, (opens in new tab) suitable for all ages. The app takes you through a series of short exercises, taking only a few minutes, in order to improve your balance. These exercises aim to improve bone density, posture and muscle strength.
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