So happy to see our very own “Dancing Don” featured in Beaufort Lifestyle magazine! Don’s love of dance and his determination to be a great dancer is a constant source of joy and inspiration to us all. Congratulations Don!
by Marcia Mitchell
I’ll never forget the first time I meet Don Wersler; he showed up unexpectedly at our Intro To Social Dance class once night. We require preregistration for this class, so I was surprised to see an unannounced student. I asked him if he would like to enroll for the series, and he said that he just wanted to watch and see if this class was for him. It’s studio policy that we don’t allow spectators at group classes, but I made a special exception and let him stay and observe. During the class I would peak over to gauge his reaction and enjoyment of the class. His face was impassive. I didn’t know if he was bored, intimidated, or just reserved, but after the class he agreed to sign up and join the class the following week. And ever since that first day, Don faithfully and happily attends classes and parties at Revolution Ballroom each and every week.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, Don was 90 years young when he decided to take up ballroom dancing. He was a lifelong dancer who enjoyed square dancing and round dancing, but of course ballroom is a new challenge. I often hear laments from people as young as 60 and 70 that they’re too old to learn new tricks. I think that’s why I am so inspired by Don.
And Don isn’t content to just show up and shuffle through the moves. He sincerely wants to be a great dancer, and I believe that he can be a great dancer, and so I don’t take it easy on him 🙂 I push him a little bit further each day. Great dancers have great frames and posture, and so I’m just as ruthless with Don as I am with my other students about standing up straight and holding his frame properly, despite his age. He grumbles a bit, but he is a good student and sincerely tries his best to do what I ask. And you know what? Now his frame and posture are better than some students half his age! I’ve had several ladies dance with Don at a party and are shocked at how well he does.
And he’s always working to improve. After each class he’ll ask me, “how’d I do coach?”. He inquires what he needs to do to take his dancing to the next level. He’ll ask me to clarify moves that kept him up half the night trying to remember them. Don also enjoys the spotlight. For his birthday, we celebrate at our party with a cake and a birthday dance, a Waltz during which we invite all the ladies to line up and enjoy a dance with him. This pleases Don immensely. At his 93rd birthday, he asked me, “How’d I do?”, and I told him he did just fine. And he told me – he didn’t want to do fine – he wanted to put on a show!
It’s not always easy. Don often gets down on himself for being a “slow learner”. He repeated our Intro To Social Dance class three times before he was ready to advance. He does require lots of repetition, but he gets better and better each time. I also have to cajole Don quite a bit sometimes to ask the ladies to dance, particularly for dances that are challenging for him, like Salsa. He’ll tell me, “those ladies don’t want to dance with me. I don’t know fancy stuff. They want to dance with the guys that know all those fancy moves.” But you know what, I hear this same fear from almost all men when they first start dancing – doesn’t matter their age, how attractive they are, how enjoyable they are to dance with – they all feel that somehow they are not good enough. If they only knew the truth, and it’s this: ladies love to dance. If they come to a dance party, they want to dance, and they’d rather dance with a beginner than sit out song after song because no one is asking them to dance. And also, ladies are often too worried that they themselves are not good enough, that they will make a dreaded mistake – gasp – and not follow every move perfectly. They’re too worried about their own dancing to notice if you’ve been dancing a simple basic for half the song. In fact if you do, they’re likely to be delighted because they’re able to keep up.
So this is one more reason why Don lights up my world; because I’ve seen so many young, capable men try and then give up dancing after just one or two classes because they’re not immediately perfect, and because it’s not easy for them at first. And Don doesn’t give up. No one would blame him if he did. At 93 he could sit back in a comfy chair and watch the world go by and everyone would say he’s entitled to enjoy his rest after such a wonderful life. But Don doesn’t want to stagnate; he wants to grow and learn and conquer new challenges. He keeps at it and he is succeeding! We could all learn from his persistance, from his joy, from his generosity. Thank you Don for dancing with us 🙂
From Don’s article in Beaufort Lifestyle Magazine:
“Some people light up a room by their very presence. Their joy of living is obvious and even inspirational to those lucky enough to be around them. Don Wersler, at 93 years young, is just such a person. Known around town as “Dancing Don,” he can be found at most local dance floors at least four nights a week, tapping his toes to everything from shag to swing.”