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.