I remember dancing between my mother’s ironing board and the TV set, tripping and kicking out the cord over and over again as my mother would plug it back in, sigh heavily, and hope I’d wear off my endless energy.
It was a time to dance!
A Go-Go 66 was on TV and Robby Lane and the Disciples were playing. Caged women wore shimmering dresses, dancing wildly behind the band, as the cameras panned into them.
I knew this was meant for me!
I could not sit still. I had to dance! I got up and I never sat down.
I loved being out of control. Like flying around the hood on my bicycle, dancing was a freedom that filled me with boundless happiness!
In my mind I was one of them. I may have been 10 years old with a mouth full of braces, a face full of freckles, unmanageable hair and the body of a boy, but I was ONE OF THEM!
The parking lot of Simpson Sears in Edmonton’s Westwood neighborhood, where I grew up, allowed bands that summer, and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I literally ran there, pushing my way to the front while dragging along an innocent friend. I danced like an uncaged frantic pigtailed Go-Go Dancer in pedal pushers. People had to make room for me because I was lost in the groove and I was certain they could appreciate my undiscovered talent, preparing for the Ed Sullivan Show!
I followed various bands; The Nomads, Willie and the Walkers and The Privilege wherever they got a chance to play. These were the awesome bands I danced to that summer, and ironically, many years later I was hired as a back-up singer and dancer, touring the Middle East and Europe entertaining troops with the latter.
I belonged in a dance school but my teacher wrote my mother telling her I had been offered free art classes, which I loved, but man I wish they had offered me free dance classes instead!
I had finished high school early, found a job for a couple of agonizing years, quit and took off to Hawaii becoming a hippie chick beach bum, dancing almost every night to amazing bands at the Old Maui Bell night club in Lahaina. I knew it was an obsession and maybe it wasn’t normal, but I just had to dance, preferably on my own, happily being that girl in the cage. Several people told me I should be a dancer and I thought that made sense.
It wasn’t until I turned 20 that I decided to audition for the dance program at Grant McEwan College.
I had met a friend back in Canada who was studying electric guitar and voice, who told me about the dance program. I moved in with her, quickly learning I was an undisciplined girl who loved to dance, driving most instructors to distraction. I also studied my other dream of acting and was encouraged I could actually make a living doing that rather than dancing. I worked as a dancer a few times and knew they were right. But I never stopped. I couldn’t!
I taught step aerobics in the 90s, incorporating dance moves and danced around my house often over the years, sometime for hours on a Friday night, just because I had to work off the stress of my life.
Over the past 25 years I have spent a lot of time in the Dominican Republic, where I felt more accepted, in a country where dancing anytime of the day or night is perfectly fine. It’s a poor country for many, and although they may not have much, compared to us, they have rich family lives filled with love, laughter and a ton of dancing; they would give you the shirt off their back if you asked. I have always felt like I truly belonged in this most precious country whether en la playa or in the countryside.
They called me Elena, the Rubia Dominican because I had the moves, never held back, and just couldn’t, because dancing was my liberation and my therapy.
Dancing had been my protector, my friend, my true love.
I later lost my mobility for a few years and could not walk without extreme pain, and certainly couldn’t dance. I thought I might go mad. Even the dreams I had all my life, of spinning in fantastically impossible pirouettes like a top, just faded away. I had been entertaining in the Dominican Republic for about five years prior to this, singing with Vegas style dancers to raise funds for the community, and I thought, well my voice is ok, needs some work but if I can’t move, I can at least sing.
Eventually I found a brilliant neurosurgeon that got me back on my feet. I do have some remaining nerve damage and may never be the same, but...
I am ready to dance, and even if I fall down, it is always A Time to Dance!