Friday, November 6, 2009

Ten Reasons to Dance – David Easa MD – November 2009

The following article was sent to me by student David Easa MD asking if I would post it in this blog. David is a student of the Divino Ritmo Dance Studio in Honolulu. He competed at the Hawai‘i Star Ball with his teacher Yanna Samkova in Pro/Am Ballroom, Smooth, and Rhythm from Newcomer division through Open Bronze. He took home an impressive 38 First Places! I find the article well written with some interesting content. Read on: -

Fellow bloggers: I wrote this letter to a medical colleague almost one year ago (12-08) after my first mainland dance competition which was two months after my first Hawaii Star Ball. I just tucked it away in my electronic files, as it indeed satisfied my creative craving to articulate and make sense of what was then a very new and exciting adventure. I recently came across the letter while searching for another file, and after reading it a few times and paring it down in size, I decided it may be of interest to a few readers who may be in the same relative position in life and who are also trying to understanding the role and importance that dancing has taken in their health and happiness. And maybe this is an appropriate contribution to the new website inaugurated by Geoffrey Fells, Dance News of the Pacific.

Dear ………
We’ve spent our lives utilizing completely different skills than in dance. As intensive care physicians and academicians, our career has been spent treating acute and chronic conditions of the newborn, running from bedside to bedside, performing emergency procedures, talking straight to parents worried out of their minds about their babies, dealing with nurses and other colleagues, presenting arguments and ultimatums to hospital administrators to improve the facility and commitment of resources, teaching young doctors, students and fellows, in competitive scholarly activity, etc, etc….. Not many of these roles required any real social skills beyond persistence, hard work and honesty. Smiling was not part of my medical curriculum, nor was gently ushering anyone into the intensive care unit like a restaurant hostess. Yes, gentleness and tack was necessary when dealing with other humans, but in relation to work related issues, critical information usually travelled downstream from me or you to others, at least until I got home and was returned back to earth by my wife who was King of the Easa house, and my kids whom I attended to like a servant. For 25-30 years, this was my life. Probably this profile, while not exact, is not too much unlike your life as well…think about it!

Dancing did not come to me as an epiphany. I was at some drug company sponsored meeting and a short and much older neonatology fellow who was one year ahead of me started dancing at a reception with all of the young ladies who attended, I think he was dancing mostly East Coast swing, while I was guzzling beer jealously at one of the tables. I will spare you indentifying him by name but he was a very good doctor and ended up being very successful in his practice and ended his career as a medical school Dean. He was also a good dancer; although I’m not sure I could identify one at that time…he nevertheless impressed me. Anyway, I was enraged with an instantaneous jealous desire to trade places with him for that evening.

Later while passing through Seattle on my way home from another medial meeting, I was wandering the hallways of the Ramada Inn that I had an overnight in to find a large ballroom of senior citizens dancing ballroom at some sponsored event. The grace and purposeful and coordinated movement between dance couples, even the ballroom dance music awoke a part of my soul that I never knew existed dazzled me. And everyone seemed to be having fun.

The next step I will describe quickly as it is both a reminder of my wife’s life and also her death. I announced shortly after the Ramada Inn experience that I wanted to take dance lessons with her. She was understandably pleasantly surprised….as most women like to dance….and she had some experience taking ballroom lessons as a teen ager in North Carolina. Our choice for instruction was the Hawaii Ballroom Association program where we met a bunch of wonderful students and amateur instructors and still keep in touch with those still alive. One interesting tidbit was that one of the female instructors of a wife/husband team, the Mita’s, turned out to be both my kids’ 2nd grade teacher at Kainalu Elementary School in Kailua. Indeed, I felt like I was back in 2nd grade when it came to learning to dance. In any case, the lessons at Keolu Elementary School in Enchanted Lakes were short lived when my wife came down with breast cancer and this started a final all consuming four year nightmare punctuated by emotional turbulence, intermittent hope and terminal despair. I am still not over it; it has created a permanent emptiness for which recovery is not possible.

So as the story emerges, dance for me was part of my healing process. I danced with Scherer – my wife – before she died, and so I would continue this after her passing. But I do not wish this reason upon you or my worst enemies. So here it finally is – 10 reasons why you should dance. None of them are particularly insightful taken by themselves, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

1. Fun: Dancing is fun, and you meet nice people who might even become new friends.

2. Exercise: You can actually burn calories and instead of running on the treadmill or breaking your knees on pavement, you can stay trim dancing while enjoying the moment.

3. Diet: if you regularly dance including some nights, you will find that you cannot eat as much…. think about exercising on a full stomach, and your new focus of activity will reduce the tendency for you to engage in long dinners with lots of food and alcohol as your only evening social outlet.

4. Brain food - Learning: Dancing for both men and women takes brain power – you need to learn the rules of each dance and then a bunch of steps and routines.

5. Body food – Learning: Dancing teaches you a lot about your body, the concept of center, core, and you can discover and enlist muscles everywhere that you never knew existed…. for example, I can’t believe all of the muscles in my feet that I call upon to maintain my balance and keep me from falling. Dancing creates balance and good posture, flexibility and overall strength. Why walk the remainder of your life hunched over with contractures, when you can look and move like Fred Astaire!

6. Musicality: Not all sound is equal; some like a baby’s cry induces a strong visceral reaction, while the right type of music (each person is unique) creates calm, serenity and at times a state of euphoria.

7. Hobby: Everyone needs something to do outside of work; dancing is something you can do forever from whenever. At this week’s Holiday Classic in Las Vegas, I witnessed 10 yr olds dancing competitively as well as those in their ninth decade.

8. Girls/Boys: Some people are lonely and you can meet lots of people and maybe your new wife/ husband on the dance floor. And dancing is recommended if you’re prone to promiscuity (just a joke…relax).

9. Intangibles: Music and dancing is so different than anything I’ve ever done in my life, uses parts of my brain and body that I never knew existed and calls for skills that I had not developed in my moderately long-lived life. There are different intangibles for each and every person; you have to discover them through your own self-reflection.

10. Spend your money before you die: Finally, dancing competitively is expensive, so if you want to spend your last dollars on yourself to prevent your kids from inheriting your remaining dollars, I guaranty you, you can spend an unlimited amount of money in ballroom dancing: taking lessons; buying unnecessarily inflated tailor made dance attire (I call them costumes), and traveling to dance competitions (especially expensive for Hawaii residents – you don’t know what a bargain the Hawai'i Star Ball is for Hawaii residents until you venture out to the mainland). Don’t worry if you have lots of money, seriously minded folks engaged in ballroom dancing will succeed in helping you unload.

Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.

David Easa MD

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