Thank you, Mom

By Judie Schaal

I was ten years old when my mother asked me if I wanted to take a dance class. “Ballet?” I said. “Oh, no,” she replied. “That’s not good for your toes.” Instead, she entered me in a modern dance class. I was to learn much later that my teacher had trained under Martha Graham, the famous dance choreographer who Wikipedia describes as “the pioneer of modern dance – a new language of movement used to reveal the passion, the rage and the ecstasy common to human experience.” I could have cared less at that time that I was learning from such an expert, but without realizing it, I was being instilled with a passion and a lifelong love of body movement.

Wearing leotards which revealed every bone and every muscle of the human body, we learned by sight and action how to transform our thoughts into graceful movement. And through balancing those body parts we began to appreciate what the human form can do.

Control the muscles of the upper arm and let the hand relax and flow outward. Reach to the heavens and bow to the earth, It’s all about understanding the self in space.

This preteen experience set me on a path to experience movement in all its forms. Playing high school basketball, biking and cheering for the boys’ teams was a continuance of this love of movement. And, in college I joined Orchesis, a modern dance group where I learned how to choreograph dances which I did each spring for the Senior Musical. That was an exciting experience to put movement into preset words and music and to take a singular love and share it with the cast of the play. Little Abner and Guys and Dolls – what fun it was – amateur college students working together to present a production of story, song and dance.

Next, movement’s gravitational pull had me teaching aerobics – Jane Fonda and Jackie Sorenson to be exact. That form of exercise was based on dance, but we sure did a lot of stretching. And, in the summer, we moved our class to the pool for some water aerobics. Movement in water is more sustained but a little slower than on land because of H20 resistance. But, one beautiful sunny day my gals really moved fast. That was the day a snake decided to join us. We went flying out of that pool in no time flat!

Tennis has many of the same ingredients as dance. You reach high for a demanding overhead, and you bend low for a sneaky drop shot. Your timing must be as exact as a pirouette. And, although running to the baseline for a lob might not be as graceful as a modern dance production, it’s still knowledge of the body in space, and how to make required actions.

Then there is golf. How could I not play this activity when my husband is a golf pro? It’s a very demanding sport. It’s stop and go – not so reactive as tennis. There is more concentrated thought put into every movement. But balance and awareness of the body in space is important. How can you hit that perfect shot to the green if you are not settled with quiet moving parts? And having lyrical rhythm is a bonus. Each shot is like one complete dance step.

Now as I look back on my life and realize what that long ago class produced, I am aware of a fantastic side product of dance and sports. I have never had to worry about my weight and my heart and lungs are in good shape. Had I not stayed active all my life, my health might be deteriorating now that I am close to my seventh decade.

Yes, there’s some arthritis here and there and my feet aren’t what they used to be, but I’m not going to let that stop me. I was blessed to have started out on the right track, and I owe that to one person. Thank you, Mom.

About this writer

  • Judie Schaal Judie Schaal lives in Murrells Inlet with Gary, her husband of 50 years. She has written for On The Green magazine, the Sun News as a tennis columnist and is currently copy editor and photographer of a local color 28 page newsletter.

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