Francois Szony – Forever The Dancer

our human collective

Two years ago I was at Goldcoast Ballroom doing a portrait series of senior citizens. On an average Wednesday afternoon there are about 150 people who spend the afternoon dancing cha cha, rhumba, mambo or fox trot. The average age is probably 70. The oldest person I shot was 102.The scene is quite remarkable. I asked Francois, 90 at the time, if I could take his picture and he said “No.” That was the beginning of our beautiful relationship. I think I had to prove myself to him, show that I could either dance or take pictures. Fortunately for me I can do both.
We danced together for his 90th birthday party. Later that year the pain in his hip became unbearable and I helped him navigate a hip replacement and then another several months later. We did a lot of bonding.

Francois Szony was and still is a legend in the field of adagio dance. He appeared on The Hollywood Palace, Ed Sullivan, danced at the Tropicana in Cuba, headlined in Las Vegas with the Rat Pack and continued dancing and working up until the year his body finally, at 91, said it had had enough. Dancers have a shelf life and I appreciate how amazing it is that Francois kept it up all these years
I want to give a shout out to all the dancers, musicians and actors who have figured out how to manage aging with grace. It’s not easy to embrace your second act. We forget that we are not our professions. Our self worth is not predicated on the same successes that we enjoyed when we were young.
Still the question remains who are we if we are not what we do? I wish there were more resources like Dancers over 40, the Actors Fund and the like because most artists will struggle the most in their golden years.

Kinky is his partner now. I have my massage chair and my cat (Kinky). “She keeps me company although she’s not that friendly. But at least I can talk to her and she only meows when she wants something. She’s getting fat…like my old partner.” I yell at him for that…we laugh.
Francois has no regrets and doesn’t fear death. He tries to “think rosy” We speak of his children and hopes they know he loves them. He acknowledges that at times he put dancing first and that was probably hard on them.

His advice for young dancers …”feel the music and express deeply”.
He still has more to give and would still like to coach dance couples on lifting skills.
It’s time to tell you to please Google Francois and watch him on YouTube. His partnering skills are flawless.

26 Comments

  1. Nadia Weiss

    Watching him and his partner dance when he lift her and gracefully put her down it’s like watching two people dance on cloud and pretending to have ground or gravity beneath them.
    Absolutely brilliant!

    Reply
    • Lisa Nalven

      Thanks Nadia. He really is amazing…he’ll love reading that! 

      Reply
  2. Thea

    Lisa – your generosity of spirit in your writing is sublime. I look forward to each one ❤️

    Reply
    • Lisa Nalven

      I wish you could see the goofy look on my face…I’m so appreciative of your support.

      Reply
  3. Jack

    Another outstanding piece Lisa.

    Reply
  4. BARBARA MENDELSOHN

    Lisa, this is wonderful…thanks for sharing…hugs Barbara

    Reply
    • Lisa Nalven

      Thanks Barbara. Happy Dancing.

      Reply
  5. Dena

    Thanks Lisa!  As if hung from wires or suspended by the sea, they float!  Just beautiful!  I’m not surprised you won Szony’s trust with your ability and personality.  I love meeting your subjects in your short stories.  Keep ’em comin’

    Reply
    • Lisa Nalven

      Yes…he really makes it look effortless…it’s not! Thanks. :-)))

      Reply
  6. wendi

    Wow, do I feel Francois through these images. Just fabulous!

    Reply
  7. Susan Storch

    Oh my Lisa, This work is breathtaking!  Can hardly wait for the next installment.  Thank you

    Reply
  8. Eva Vazquez

    And you’re a writer too! Lovely piece and great work you’re doing. The love shines through. 

    Reply
  9. Rita Agnese

    This as absolutely GLORIOUS & MAGNIFICENT. What a fitting tribute!!!  Thank you for this beautiful homage. Fabulous work Lisa.  Thank you for honoring my beloved partner, mentor and friend the great artist Francois Szony.

    Reply
  10. Diane

    What a talented, beautiful person.  He is amazing and the photos are just beautiful.   There is so much talent in the world.  Maybe sitting right next to us.   

    Reply
  11. Erica Perez

    What talent… I really enjoyed this one. Keep’em Coming!!! ❤️❤️

    Reply
  12. Karen L.

    Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your people in portraits and your thoughts in writing! Wonderful, inspired work!  Should be a gallery showing and book. XOXO

    Reply
  13. lisa sergio

    artist capturing and honoring the artist….this is beautiful

    Reply
  14. Ava

    My father is 80 and in need of a hip replacement- but he’s hesitant – scared I think, of the recovery and the anesthesia.  It’s inspiring to hear that François had two hip replacements at the age of 90. How was his recovery? Is he glad that he did the surgeries? François was and continues to be an inspiration/teacher for me and my various dance partners and team members over the years. We still watch his videos often, and I had the extreme honor of being able to take just a few hours of private lessons with him and Toni Ann many years ago….

    Reply
    • Lisa Nalven

      Thanks Ava for reaching out. He did amazinging well with his surgeries. Because he’s basically healthy and in good shape his recovery was swift. He had a minor complication the second time, but it resolved itself quickly as well. Making the decision to do it was scary but not doing it was A far worse option. Living in pain as a shut in.
      He’s doing great. I’m sure he would be happy to talk to you about it The approach to the surgery has changed over the years. It’s a incision in the front of the leg not from the back.
      He walked the first day after the surgery around the corridor twice. He didn’t qualify for in house rehab! He met the markers too quickly! It was amazing. Feel free to email me directly or call Francois. He’d love to hear from you.

      Reply
  15. BONITA l BROCKERT

    How wonderful to see this tribute to such a dance legend! Lovely!

    Reply
    • Lisa Nalven

      Thanks Bonita. Sorry I never answered you. He’s is a legend.

      Reply
  16. Ina Poissant

    I am really enjoying the theme/design of your weblog. Do you ever run into any browser compatibility issues? A few of my blog visitors have complained about my website not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Firefox. Do you have any advice to help fix this issue?

    Reply
    • Lisa Nalven

      Sorry I didn’t answer you sooner. No, I don’t seem to have any problems with it, but I wouldn’t know if people did! LOL And I’m so not a techie. Although I designed it I needed lots of help. Now I’ve hired someone to update me to Pro Photo 7. It’s an endless process. LOL

      Reply
  17. Jodey Reney Eliseo

    Wonderful article on one of the most amazing dancers, not to mention human beings, I’ve ever known! Hard to believe that 40 years have passed since he and Toni were, first my adagio coaches and then two of my closest friends. How lucky am I?! 
    Like Francois, rarely a day goes by that I don’t think about Toni Ann. But then, rarely a day passes that I don’t communicate with Francois and that helps.
    He is a rare, talented, strong yet gentle, soul and the world is a better place b/c he’s in it. 
    Thank you for your tribute to him! 

    Reply
    • Lisa Nalven

      Thanks Jodey. I love him too. If you’re in So. Fla let us know, we’ll do lunch!

      Reply

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is a Portrait Photographer who specializes in people, floral art and capturing our collective humanity