Ruth Hancock and her dance instructor Vlad Ivanov show off some moves at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Fayetteville. Photo by Hayleigh Gowans
By Hayleigh Gowans
Sometimes she loses her balance, runs out of breath or makes a wrong move, but that doesn’t stop 95-year-old Ruth Hancock from attending lessons at Fred Astaire in Fayetteville three-times-a-week to learn the fox trot, slow waltz, rumba and tango.
“Sometimes I think you’ve got to take time for yourself and do something that you might be afraid to do because it will teach you things about yourself you never knew,” said Hancock, of Cazenovia.
The National Institute on Aging suggests adults continue or begin to be active as they age because it leads to better mental and physical health, and Hancock said she agrees with that advice.
“Dancing has been wonderful not only for exercise but also for keeping me thinking and learning,” said Hancock. “If I didn’t [dance], I probably would be sitting on the front porch and turn into a mushroom … I’ve always been very involved in the community and think you’ve got to keep meeting new people or you’re going to stay stagnant.”
Hancock has led a long and very busy life. A life-long resident of the Syracuse area, she married Stewart F. Hancock, Jr., who served as a judge in the New York State of Appeals, in 1949 and together they raised six children. During her lifetime, she supported her husband in his political and business endeavors, raised six children and was an active member of numerous volunteer groups and community organizations, Hancock said.
In 2014, after her husband’s passing, Hancock decided it was time to do something that had always been interested in — learning to dance. “He [Stewart] loved to dance, he would have wanted me to do this,” she said.
Hancock decided to go into Fred Astaire one day and met her instructor and dance partner Vlad Ivanov, and hasn’t looked back.
“A lot of the time your brain is the only limit you have to trying something like dance. A lot of people may be interested in dance lessons but feel afraid because they are not sure how to present themselves in those movements” said Ivanov. “Ruth is a perfect example of someone who has been able to get past these things and learn how to go from being uncomfortable to comfortable while dancing and creating a healthy balance in life.”
For Hancock, the Fred Astaire Dance Studio is not just a place to learn dance — it’s a place where she is able to get together socially with new friends through events put on by the studio.
“Vlad [Ivanov] is the perfect instructor for me. He teaches me how to breath, have better posture and is there to catch me if I lose my balance,” said Hancock. “And he’s turned into a great friend … The whole studio is very welcoming.”
Ivanov said that the learning and friendship felt by Hancock goes both ways. For example, Hancock had knowledge of the opening gala of the new Hotel Syracuse in July, and suggested the studio get in contact with the organizers of the event to see if they could perform at the opening, which they did.
“Ruth is a great connection for us to have here and she knows so much about the Syracuse area. Being from Russia, I don’t know too much about the area myself but Ruth is a great resource and has taught me a lot,” said Ivanov. “She also teaches us at the studio about life lessons and it has gotten us all to look at life in a better way.”
As for the future, Hancock hopes to continue to progress through the different levels of Fred Astaire dance lessons, and suggests anyone who has wanted to try dance to just go for it.
“I hope I can continue to do this as long as I have two legs that work,” said Hancock. “I would encourage anyone who has an interest in dance to just come in and try it.”
To learn more about the Fayetteville location of Fred Astaire, go to fredastaire.com/syracuse.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.