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ONE BEAT BEHIND

By Adrienne Cannon

What has happened to me?  I am older and often it is my younger colleagues who have a quicker physical reaction time and who can master skills faster than I. Sensibly, I console myself with good advice. “You don’t have to be first to enjoy what you are doing.”

9:30 AM. Saturday morning. Jazzercise class.

“March!” says the class leader, as she cues up the music on her iPod.  I stand in my usual spot in the middle of the room and march enthusiastically while anticipating the other moves that come with the lively music. I feel intrepid in this group of mostly 40 year olds even though I have to stifle the impulse to put my hands over my ears to screen out the loud music. I have not a clue as to what the lyrics of Beyoncé, Georgie Porgie, and Brittany Spears’ songs mean, even if I could hear them clearly over the blaring high volume favored by this Gen X crowd. 

The beat revves up as does the complexity of the moves.  Uh-oh ... that old feeling has come back. Was it really three years ago that I began to lament my position of “last in line?” I have taken my own advice to continue with the activities that I enjoy and am now struggling to find a way to reconfigure my steps to stay with the class at a pace at which I can move comfortably. I am reminded that in a beat or two, I will have reached my maximum speed. 

It is not easy to take three steps when the class is taking four. In fact it is a curious rhythm. Can I do it and not freak out the leader as she sees me, almost always on the wrong foot except for my triumphant, on beat, ending when I catch up?  I am some what proud of my technique, though it may mark me as just a little “odd” in the class lineup.  I continue to hone this method  — maybe a bit defensively — to protect myself from a complete flame-out in jazzercise class.  With a little calculation, the slower pace and one less step (or turn) can work out even in a ballet class ... well, sometimes it does as ballet demands more precision. Tap class where each tap counts as a beat?  I’m working on it.

I used to swim half a mile in 30 minutes. Over the years it began to take me 35 minutes, then 40 minutes to cover the same distance.  Why, at that rate, I would be spending all morning in the pool.  So I stopped counting laps, and began to watch the clock.  30 minutes, a few less laps than before. And then I’m outa’ the pool and into the hot tub.

“Your tonguing is heavy,” says the conductor as I attempt to play a rapid passage of 16th notes. I cringe inwardly because I have been expecting this critique.  OK, though many of my colleagues are excellent musicians, this is not a philharmonic orchestra.  So maybe there is a technique for me that I can manage in this ensemble setting.  I can’t use my “one beat behind” method here but I can cut the rhythm in half, can’t I?  As long as I get to each measure on the beat, I can skip a beat or play half of the  notes.  The trick will be to wind up at the right place at the right time.  I hope no real musician reads this but it takes a bit of talent, perhaps of another kind than the usual musical talent, to pull this off and not affect the group’s clear melodic sound.

I want to continue to choose activities that are a little more advanced than my technique allows and accept the challenge to prove to myself that, yes, I can do it. There is plenty of time in the future for senior-level classes. Maybe we all get a little “off beat” as we age.

But to me, even when I am one beat behind, I feel upbeat!

©2008 Adrienne Cannon

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