Irmgard, The Grand Dame of Dance

This venerable lady walks on to the dance floor at the Rooftop, poised, unperturbed by the judging eyes that follow her. You can see she is 60-something. What is she doing here? Does she know what these young people do?  Those thoughts seem to cross their minds.


She takes a seat and watches the Salseros, smiles when they shimmy and shine. Aah, the dame is a spectator.

A new Cuban Salsa song starts and a young guy approaches her, asks for a dance and with an enthusiastic smile she joins him.

They start off slowly stepping back and forward, then, just as the music dictates, they move faster to the beat.

The prying eyes are now steady cell phones. Their contempt now turned to curiosity, and I sense a hint of envy as another guy and another ask her for a dance. The young ladies cannot believe what they’re recording.

She is known by these guys, but what’s more, she is not being outdone by their quick slick moves. She is elegant and on tempo, beaming as they spin her, moving her from left to right, showing off some nimble footwork.

She is only 78 years young. A half-century older than the youngest lass I dance with.  She tells me she started dancing 20 years ago. I don’t believe her.

When I ask onlookers for a dance the standard responses are: I can’t, I don’t know how; I’m nervous; I got two left feet, I have no rhythm, I’m shy, people are watching, next time.

It bores me to hear such responses when I can see that they enjoy the dancing and music. Clearly, their inhibitions clash with the skimpy clothing, but that’s none of my business.

Most are way younger than when Irmgard started to dance, and here she is getting jiggy with boys you are admiring from afar. (I see you ladies)

But you have to start somewhere or at some age. Irmgard is proof that age is not a factor. Neither is ability. In fact, it is not the ability you need to dance, it is starting to dance that will give you the ability.


As for the people who are watching, trust me, when you really into your partner and the music, everyone else becomes a blur.

Irmgard knows that she is looked at in a curious way, but she dances anyway. She knows about the benefits gained from this pastime.  She also knows that dancing often improves the skill and this grand old lady seldom misses a party.

That’s right, she’s out on the weekends. You can find her at a dance party on a Friday night, the Rooftop on Sunday, and at BailaAfrika on a Monday. Did i mention that she is only 78.

And another thing, like most of us she arrives solo. Irmgard’s goal is to dance, 30 times that is. She came to have fun, no partner and no crew required. Just that desire to dance until her feet hurt.

So tell me, what’s your excuse again?

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