Editor’s Note: This is part of a series entitled “Twenty Before Forty,” where we follow one woman as she checks off her way to happiness and premature middle age. This is number 17 of the series, not published in numeric order.
The woman has had a history of dancing, beginning with ballet at a young age. In junior high and high school, officials traced ties to a competitive dance drill team, and to dancing and choreographing various dances through her school’s dance production. She was also a varsity cheerleader and competed with her squad.
“She had always enjoyed dancing,” recalled a childhood friend, “for as long as I can remember. She made it look easy.”
In the past year, the woman confided in friends that she wanted to stimulate her mind and reconnect with her body through new styles of dance. From what officials can piece together, at a local community college the woman enrolled in Beginning Tap, and then in Advanced Tap and Social Dance the following semester.
The woman had always wanted to learn how to tap. Sources close to her noted that she used to “tap” in grocery aisles and other tiled floor surfaces as a child.
“It is unclear,” officials noted, in response to media questions as to why social dance. “We are still going through the evidence, but there may have also been another person involved with suggesting Social Dance.”
“It also appears she was a huge fan of old Hollywood musicals.”
According to official sources, it was during the second semester that the woman sustained overuse injuries to her right big toe and left shoulder. Early investigation notes point to social dance as the cause for both injuries, as she constantly danced on the balls of her feet while maintaining her frame.
“Yeah,” the childhood friend confirmed, “like in Dirty Dancing.”
Due to her physical injuries, the woman also experienced social isolation. As she was unable to dance with a partner, she danced by herself in the corner of the dance studio.
“You really need to be with a partner to understand how the dances work,” the instructor reported as part of the official report. “I told her what exercises she should be doing for her shoulder, but week after week she danced by herself in the corner.”
“It was awkward, seeing her try to turn herself.”
Studies have found that 82 percent of dancers suffer from one to seven injuries in any given year. However while dancers in one study returned to dancing after an average of 18 days, the woman has remained injured for many months. Officials offered, then quickly withdrew, suggestions that this was due to her age.
“She was more than 20 years older than some of my students,” the instructor reported. “Then again, I’m much older than her and I’m fine except for my hernia.”
From what officials can tell, she must have experienced a great deal of pain as well as physical isolation.
“Although this was not included in our official report,” an anonymous source shared, “we have imagined ourselves in her shoes. Because she is a very small person, her arms would have been raised quite high for some time.”
“When you try social dance, find someone your own height. I will say this softly and slowly – they will want to hold you closer. ”