We wanted to kick-start 2019 with an extra special dancer spotlight for you. Meet Catherine Joyce. At the age of 68, this lovely lady has gone from strength to strength, in her roles as dancer, mentor, caregiver, and soon-to-be lawyer. Catherine’s passion and generosity is truly special and when we heard her story, we knew we had to share it with our community.
AinslieWear spoke with Catherine over the Holiday season to learn more about her inspiring story.
AW: Tell us a little about your dance story – how old were you when you started dance and why did you start?
CJ: I started dancing at a later age. I knew from day one that I wanted to dance. I needed to dance but was put into gymnastics. I practiced gymnastics 6 days a week, 4 hours a day. I went straight from school to the gym. My strengths floor and beam. I loved the dance connections between the tumbling runs and tricks. Here I could express myself, get lost in the music and dance. My coaches always said “This girl is a dancer, not a gymnast”. I choreographed floor and beam for my team mates and later in life choreographed floor and beam for Olympians.
In my very early teens I knew I had to dance and was going to make dancing a reality. It was up to me. Mustering up a false sense of confidence I walked into a dance school, knees shaking, sweating, blood pulsing, heart pounding and announced that I was a nationally ranked gymnast but my heart was not in gymnastics. It was in dance. I needed to dance. Every ounce of me told me I needed to dance. I needed the opportunity and chance. I was confident that given the opportunity I could become a dancer. I also asked for a scholarship. I started taking class 5 days a week. I knew I had a lot of work and catch up to do. My peers had all started dancing (ballet) at 3 or 4. I was determined to do the work, work hard and work smart to catch up. I was blessed to have wonderful mentors along the way. I was awarded a scholarship at the end of my first year of training. Many years of classes and hard work ensued. I knew I was finally in the right place. My heart was full. I knew I was home. My family did not discourage me from dancing but coming from an academic family education was also stressed. For this I am very thankful. Dancing was again up to me and I’m still going strong at 68!
What do you consider to be the benefits of dancing as an adult?
HEALTH! Dance is exercise and exercise is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. All you need, 20-30 minutes a day 4 or 5 days a week. Dance is a way to stay fit for people of any age. It has both mental and physical benefits. It’s good for your heart, lungs, muscular strength and is a great cardio workout. It provides both aerobic and anaerobic movement. We need this combination to be our healthiest. Dance is a whole body workout. DANCE!
Dance is good for your mental health. It can help with depression, anxiety and stress. It keeps your brain sharp and reduces the risk of dementia . It can also help stave off many other forms of illness both physical and mental.
Dancing is fun, social, inclusive and liberating. It can take your cares away. It’s good for your soul, can increase your overall happiness and quality of life! DANCE!
Dance for yourself. Enjoy every step. It will get you out of yourself. Just a few benefits of the power of dance!
You’re now studying law – what were your reasons for choosing this field and for doing so at a less ‘traditional’ age?
Age to me is just a number, not who I really am. Age does not define what I can and can’t do. I’m healthy consequently if I have a thirst and desire for knowledge, an interest or passion for something in life I go for it. Age should never hinder you from going for your goals. Age to me is also an attitude , the way you think.
I had a massive needless, botched surgery years ago that left me with a hidden disability that I have to adapt to and adjust to daily My career and life were ripped away from me. This is one of the reasons I decided to become a student of the law. I decided to turn a negative into a positive, advocate and get a center for women opened so what happened to me would never happen to another woman. I worked tirelessly at this for 21/2 years. During this time I had to deal with CEO’S, politicians, Dr.’s etc, and became the hotline for over 300 displaced women. I had to do a tremendous amount of legal digging and research during this time in order to reach my goal. The center for women is now open, thriving and helping many women. LAW, yes I needed to study LAW!
At this point in time i was also a single woman beginning to encounter ageism. I wanted to be able to look after myself and not be taken advantage of as I aged. I needed to know my rights. LAW!
I’m passionate about the arts and artists of all ages. When fully qualified I want to be able to help artists strategize and negotiate fair contracts. I also want to be able to give them proper legal advice and resources. LAW!
Tell us a little more about the work you do with seniors, the disabled, and people with special needs?
I’ve worked with seniors, seniors with disabilities and special needs for over 30 years. I’ve worked in hospitals and seniors residences. I’ve developed and taught many classes based on movement and music for seniors. Over this 30 year span I’ve been awarded 3 Caring Hands Awards and have been honored at many seniors residences. I’ve also worked in palliative care. Working in palliative care I could have a participant there one day and gone the next. All my participants could dance be it with an emerging smile, eyes lighting up or the wiggle of a finger. They were dancing and expressing emotions through movement when the music started. During this time I burnt out a few times and shed many a tear but would not change a thing. What I learned? Eye opening, life lessons.
What is important to us in life? To me family and friends. I realized how little I knew. I found this very humbling. Seniors have lived lives, have a wealth of life experience and wisdom. My seniors also taught me how to laugh. They knew that life could be difficult and laughter could make the burdens lighter. Love, seniors know love in all its forms and manifestations. They know how to give and how to receive love. Another huge lesson I learned from my seniors was to stop caring what other people though of me. At a certain age it really doesn’t matter. Seniors carry peace within them and that can only be found in the freedom of not caring what other peoples perceptions are of you.
Above all, they taught me to take time to find what matters most to me in life. Find the things that mean the most to you and make time for them. Do the things you love and do them now. NO REGRETS!
You also mentor women – what has this experience been like and what have you learned from it?
At present I’m mentoring women in their early 30’s. Women whose passion is dance but have only had sporadic dance classes and training due to life circumstances. Women who have not been given a chance in life. Here I see raw talent, diamonds in the rough as well as many inner gifts. I’m mentoring the whole person aiming for totality. I’m trying to give them trajectory, a path in life with the focus on dance. At present both mentees are certifying and hopefully in the new year will find careers in community centers, gyms, after school programs etc. teaching dance based classes.
I continue to learn and be inspired by each and every mentee. I’m constantly in awe of their resilience, their stories and how much they’ve overcome. I continue to see the magic and the healing powers of dance.
The main thing I’ve learned through mentoring is to stay open, keep communication open, also to be consistent, reliable, and stay positive no matter what. Each mentee is different and will do things in a different way to achieve their desired goal. I’ve learned to listen to their stories and in listening I try to find the best path for them to reach their goal. I’ve learned to encourage, nurture, teach, support and to respond to my mentees needs when necessary. I’ve learned in trying to be a role model that I need to be authentic, keep growing and learning from everyone and every situation. I have to be dedicated and persevere. One of the major lessons I’ve learned is to keep giving more and more responsibility to my mentee, letting her know that she holds the key to her success and reaching her goal.
What words of wisdom would you give to adults who are considering taking up dance?
GO FOR IT! It’s never too late. We live in such a stressful world, take time for you and dance. You can lose yourself in dance, movement and music. Your problems will temporarily disappear, your stress will go down, the endorphins will flow, your mood will lift and your day will be better.
Escape and feel the magic of dance. Try different styles, schools, community centers etc. until you find a class that fits your needs. A class you love. Make time, stop dreaming go out and do it. Get stared NOW!
You inspire us with your passion and generosity! What motivates you to do the work you do?
I was given a lot in life, many gifts and talents but my life has not been easy! I feel I’ve climbed Everest many times to get back on my feet. I keep getting back up and always will. Because of the life I’ve lived I find I’m not judgmental, can relate, can empathize and feel for those going through rough times or have never been given a chance in life. At present I’m in a good place in my life and in a position to help. I often don’t think. I just do. It comes from my heart. It comes from within. It comes from being there.
Giving and helping is one of my passions. The pure joy of helping someone get back on their feet and thrive is more powerful than I ever could have imagined.
What are some of your goals and aspirations?
I often DREAM first. What would I love to do? After I dream it I make it an ASPIRATION and start to design and plan what steps I need to take to fulfill and reach my GOAL.
I plan to stay relevant. Relevant for LIFE not just the MOMENT! To do this I have to keep up with what’s going on in the world. I need to keep working at my art improving and growing as well as passing my knowledge onto others and learning from others. It is important to keep evaluating and to stay healthy both mentally and physically. I need to engage with people who are younger, smarter and more talented than me. I have to life in the present not the past. I need to live forward. I always want to have a vision, a focus on what I’m trying to accomplish. I must remain GENTLY STRONG.
On a more personal note I intend to stay on my feet, keep dancing and adjusting to my hidden disability day to day. I want to age gracefully, not take myself too seriously, lighten up, be able to laugh at myself, have fun, thrive and enjoy this part of my life to the fullest. I don’t want to have regrets!
What inspires you?
Everything and anything inspires me at one time or another. We all find inspiration differently, What inspires me has changed over time and will keep changing. I’m often flooded with inspiration and ideas. At these times, living in such a stressful, hectic world I often have to quiet my mind to come back to me in order to create. Here’s an example. I love the water, its calmness, the ebbs and flows, the reflections, I’m also inspired by its brutality and strength. I see an adagio full of emotion.
I find inspiration in stepping out of my comfort zone and taking chances. I’m inspired by the difficult things I encounter in life and find I can work through and overcome. I find inspiration investigating life. I’m inspired by both the internal and the external.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working to keep Ageless Relevant Artists relevant. I’m also interviewing older artists and working to get their works into the proper venues. I’m continuing to mentor. I’m starting to motivational speak, including classes and workshops involving movement, dance and music. I have two engagements booked in 2019. Exciting! I’m continuing to advocate for women with hidden disabilities similar to mine.
Final words to leave us with?
DANCE, DANCE, DANCE!
Dance is ageless!
Everyone can dance!
Live life to the fullest!
Thank you Catherine for sharing your story and inspiring us with your work!
All photos of Catherine by Erin Noble.