“Shall we dance?” That was the title, for today’s blog post, in my head, when I woke up this morning.
I remember feeling joy, when I was very young, watching the movie “The King and I,” when Anna (Deborah Kerr) and the King of Siam (Yul Brynner) connected, in a new way, through dance.
The movie is not on YouTube, so I can’t show you that exact scene, but here’s a version of “Shall We Dance”, with Yul Brynner and Patricia Morrison, from the 1971 Tony Awards):
For me, with my unusual heart, and the evolving capabilities of pacemakers to speed up that heart of mine, there have been times when my physical activities have been restricted. However, no matter what has been going on with my heart and with pacemakers, I have always been able to dance.
I’ve been able to dance, in my basement alone, after my first surgery at age 10, listening to the music from many musicals, including West Side Story (like this number):
I was able to dance to that number, my heart beating 80 beats a minute, every minute, never speeding up.
Every once in a while I had to stop, to rest, but then I would be up and dancing again, on the basement floor.
Then, in the 70’s, when I was in my 20s, I was dancing disco whenever I could, with my heart beating 72 beats a minute, every minute, never speeding up.
I asked my doctors, how am I doing that? How am I able to dance throughout the entire length of a song?
Like this one, sung by Gloria Gaynor:
Or this one, by The Trammps:
(I’m including that number, even though John Travolta and his partner are not really connecting, because .. I could do all the moves she’s doing there!)
No matter what disco song was playing, and how long it lasted, I kept on stepping, spinning, and dipping — always keeping pace with my normal-hearted partners.
So, how could I do that? I asked my doctors.
My doctors said, “Your heart is keeping up with you, somehow. It developed that capacity.”
I’d have to sit down and rest between dances. But not for long. I was back up on the dance floor, very soon.
Then, starting in 1987, all my pacemakers were able to speed up, making my heart beat like a “normal” one.
And I stopped dancing as much. Perhaps that’s because I could do all sorts of physical activities, then.
Last month, my heart went into atrial fibrillation and — according to my doctors — it’s going to stay there, for the most part, for the rest of my life.
When my heart is in atrial fibrillation, my pacemaker cannot do as great a job, speeding my heart up. When I’m in atrial fibrillation, the pacemaker needs to pick up signals from my breathing and body movement, in order to help compensate for physical exertion.
So, when I go upstairs, I’m more out of breath now. However, climbing stairs still feels better than it used to, before 1987.
Two weeks ago, my bf Michael and I started taking Argentine Tango lessons.
Last night, we danced across the floor, for the good part of an hour.
I had to stop and rest. But only once.
And we’re beginners, so we’re not exactly exerting ourselves, like this:
Thanks to Rodgers and Hammerstein (for The King and I), Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim (for West Side Story), Clifton Davis (for “Never Can Say Goodbye”), Leroy Green and Ron Kersey (for “Disco Inferno”), Patricio Touceda and Carla Chimento (the tango dancers), and to you — of course! — for visiting today.