Dance is one of man’s oldest forms of art and storytelling, with cave painting depictions going back 30,000 years. Dances occur around the world, in every culture. Some were used for storytelling. Others were used for religious purposes. Some cultures had dances for healing, for appeasing Gods, for weather control, for courting, for festivals and celebrations, and entertaining royalty. Dances were used to teach, as social commentary and rebellion, and sometimes as just plain exercise. Dances can be as low key as the Hokey Pokey, or as tightly regulated and choreographed as grand ballet, or worse, synchronized swimming dances.
Physically, dancing is wonderful for the body.
- It burns calories
- It improves coordination
- It promotes muscle strength and flexibility
- It’s a weight-bearing exercise, so it’s good for improving joint function and staving off bone loss.
- It’s fantastic as an aerobic exercise to improve cardiovascular function, circulation, and endurance. Tap dance for just 10 minutes. Try it.
- As an exercise, it can help improve mood and increase endorphin levels in the body, making you happier.
- There is no age limit on dancing – whether you’re one or one hundred, you can do it!
- Disability isn’t an deterrent – many forms of dance can be adapted for people who cannot walk.
And dancing isn’t just for women! Plenty of men have been famous dancers – Rudolf Nuryev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelley, Michael Jackson, Gregory Hines, Sammy Davis Jr., John Travolta, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Michael Flatley, and “Gangnam Style’s” Psy, to name just a few. Dance takes tremendous strength and physical training. Football players take ballet to improve coordination and movement. HipHop is a male-dominated dance field. In ethnic dances around the world, men predominate, from Russian squat dancing to the New Zealand Haka and the Northern Plains Indian Grass Dance, to the Aduma dance of the Masai warriors in Kenya. Dancing, by far, is as much a man’s sport as a woman’s.
If you have to be stuck inside in the winter, why not dance! Throw some fast music on and shake out those winter blues! Throw in a ballet DVD and leap (move the furniture out of the way first!). Or join us for some New England Country Dancing at the library later this month! Don’t feel like moving? Grab a blanket and a cup of tea and check out some of these great books and movies filled with dance!
Today’s post is from our Head of Adult Services, Bill:
February marks the birthdays of two of our greatest presidents – George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. CPL will commemorate Presidents Day and the office of the American presidency with the Arthur Hostage Memorial Lectures – two events in late February. These programs are made possible by donations given to the Friends of the Cheshire Public Library in memory of Arthur Hostage.
Join us on Saturday, Feb. 22 at 2:00pm for “Simply Lincoln“. Being in the presence of Howard Wright as President Abraham Lincoln is an experience you will not soon forget. Dressed in precise period attire and speaking with a Kentucky accent, Lincoln’s mannerisms, speaking style, and humanity flows over the listener with each moving sentence, witty observance, or eloquent description of a tortuous time that was the Civil War. Authenticated speeches, letters, quotes, and humorous stories have been the foundation from which Howard Wright has crafted his program, giving you a sense of what it was like to have been in the presence of Abraham Lincoln.
On Tuesday, Feb. 25, 6:30 p.m., Dr. Matthew Warshauer, Professor of History, CCSU, will deliver a talk on “The Changing Nature of the American Presidency“. Dr. Warshauer’s books include, Andrew Jackson and the Politics of Martial Law: Nationalism, Civil Liberties, and Partisanship (2006); Andrew Jackson in Context (2009); Connecticut in the American Civil War: Slavery, Sacrifice and Survival (2011), all of which have received praise from noted historians. Warshauer’s most recent book publication is Inside Connecticut and the Civil War: Essay’s on One State’s Struggles (2014), in which he edited essays authored by CCSU’s Department of History master’s students.
To learn more about the presidency throughout our nation’s history, we suggest checking out the following titles:
- Team of Rivals : the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
- Exploring Lincoln : Great Historians Reappraise Our Greatest President edited by Harold Holzer, Craig L. Symonds, and Frank J. Williams
- They Knew Lincoln by John E. Washington
- His Excellency : George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis
- Accidental Presidents : Eight Men Who Changed America by Jared Cohen
- No Ordinary Time : Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt : the Home Front in World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin
- Impeachment : an American History by Jeffrey A. Engel, Jon Meacham, Timothy Naftali, Peter Baker
- When the Center Held : Gerald Ford and the Rescue of the American Presidency by Donald Rumsfeld
- President Carter : the White House Years by Stuart E. Eizenstat
- The President Will See You Now : My Stories and Lessons from Ronald Reagan’s Final Years by Peggy Grande
- Presidential Courage : Brave Leaders and How They Changed America 1789-1989 by Michael Beschloss
- Don’t Know Much About the American Presidents : Everything You Need to Know About the Most Powerful Office on Earth and the Men Who Have Occupied It by Kenneth C. Davis
- Founders’ Son : a Life of Abraham Lincoln by Richard Brookhiser
- House of Abraham : Lincoln and the Todds, a Family Divided by War by Stephen Berry
- The Ascent of George Washington : the Hidden Political Genius of an American Icon by John Ferling
- Waking Giant : America in the Age of Jackson by David S. Reynolds
- White House Diary by Jimmy Carter
- Contenders : America’s Most Original Presidential Candidates by Joe Richman
- Great Presidents by Allan Lichtman
- American Heritage History of the Presidents by Michael R. Beschloss
- Worst. President. Ever.: James Buchanan, the POTUS Rating Game, and the Legacy of the Least of the Lesser Presidents by Robert Strauss
- 9 Presidents Who Screwed up America: and Four Who Tried to Save Her by Brion McClanahan
As you might imagine, our library staff reads a lot of books! I recently asked CPL staffers what their favorite reads of the last year were, and the list was varied and long, a mix of fiction and nonfiction, older titles and new releases. If you’re looking for some “librarian-approved” reading, we’ve got quite a few suggestions for you!
- Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett
- Redemption by David Baldacci
- Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
- Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini
- Auschwitz Lullaby by Mario Escobar
- The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves
- All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
- Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristan Higgins
- Full Throttle by Joe Hill
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
- A Brief History of 7 Killings by Marlon James
- Knife by Jo Nesbø
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
- The Overstory by Richard Powers
- The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
- Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig
- Less by Andrew Sean Greer
- The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
- Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny
- The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
- Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
- The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion
- This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews
- Operatic by Kyo Maclear ; illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler
- Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis
- They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott ; art by Harmony Becker
I don’t read as much as I wish I could; I just don’t have time at the moment. It doesn’t help that I wind up with sometimes 600 page books in my hands, and those take longer. I never know what I’ll read next, and I read a bunch of good ones last year. Here are some of my favorites:
One of the two best books I read this year, I’ve already blogged about: Creativity, Inc, by Ed Catmull, was amazing. Not just a history of Pixar films, it’s also the best darned, most entertaining book on business and employee management you will read. Pixar is a 5-star company for a reason.
The second of my Best Reads this year is The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James. From approximately 1898 to 1912, a serial killer traversed the US by train – coming through New Haven’s Union Station on the way – with an MO of bludgeoning his victims with the back of an axe. Because of communications at the time, few people were able to connect the murders. James painstakingly, with the utmost detail, traces the dozens of murders and examines them, deciding if they were likely by the same killer or not, and why. He traces the paths through the states and the seasons, chasing the trail to a man who was most likely the killer. By the time he’s done, you are convinced and amazed. I could not stop reading this book. I read it while waiting for the school bus. I read it while cooking. I would have read it in the shower if I could have. If you love a mystery, if you love history, if you love crime stories, this book is a must.
I’m only 30 years late in reading Neuromancer, the Hugo-winning cyberpunk novel by William Gibson. I can see why it is held as one of the greatest novels of our time. Gibson predicts and writes about today’s modern computers and internet and gaming – long before they existed. The scenarios he describes are both familiar and futuristic at the same time. While not only visionary, it’s written in a flawless style and with realistic, interesting characters. If you loved Ready Player One or The Matrix (which has to have been influenced by this book), you will love Neuromancer.
If you’re aware of social and racial issues, I strongly recommend Survival Math, by Mitchell S. Jackson. A professor of writing, in achingly beautiful prose worthy of Martin Luther King Jr., with the voice of a preacher without being preachy, Johnson breaks down the issues faced in his own family, examining how he came to where he is, how racism played into it without even being visible, and how despite all the odds, it’s possible to thrive. He covers harsh topics without flinching. The book is brilliant, spellbinding, and a superb read from a voice that soars with truth.
Far more than I expected, I loved Total Recall, an older door-stop of a biography on Arnold Schwarzenegger. From his birth in a tiny town in Austria (which still has only 2500 people) to his divorce from Maria Shriver, Arnold is witty and candid and down to Earth. No matter what you think of his politics or his movies or his personal life, this book may be older, but it was highly entertaining. His best friend just died in September of this year.
Not my favorite, but worth mentioning because of its local importance, is Frog Hollow by Susan Campbell. Campbell, a former reporter with the Hartford Courant, digs into the history of the notorious Frog Hollow section of Hartford, and through tireless research shows the former glory of the neighborhood as not only an important area in Colonial times, but once a major manufacturing center (in 1898, Pope automotive made half the cars in the US). I was hoping for a deep sociologic dissection of the issues, but instead Campbell gives us an upbeat view from street level about the good aspects of Hartford and the people who live there, not just the doom and gloom of ad-selling news clips.
Last but not least, I’ll throw in a kid’s series you probably missed; with 18 years between my last two kids, I certainly did, but my youngest is so hooked on the British easy reader series Urgency Emergency! by Dosh Archer, I wound up buying most of them. The series is so witty and enjoyable you don’t mind reading them over and over again. Doctor Glenda, Nurse Percy, and the Pengamedics, in predictable melodrama, assist the maladies of Humpty Dumpty, The Big Bad Wolf, the Itsy Bitsy Spider, and many more. They are a delight. The library has several of the stories; be sure to read them all!