Positive, persistent, and forward-looking Lionel Simons was born in London and grew up in the suburb of Hendon, England. In 1950 at the age of 15, Lionel started taking lessons at a ballroom dance school near his home in Hendon that was run by former UK National Ballroom Champion Sydney Francis. One of his motivations was that he attended an all-boys school and thought that dancing would help him meet girls.
Eventually, dance became his principal means of entertainment and exercise. Proudly adding that it also helps keep him young. Lionel had been swing dancing in London for a while, so upon moving back to Orange County permanently he decided that he needed to find a local dance home. So he chose ATOMIC because it was the most highly recommended, which he quickly learned why upon joining.
After several years as an ATOMIC regular, Lionel says “I most enjoy the congeniality and lack of taking it too seriously. In my case, it is especially pleasant that I am so easily accepted at ATOMIC in spite of my advanced age. Plus I am encouraged by the willingness of partners to forgive my dance clumsiness.” He now goes out dancing five times a week with no sign of slowing down. Lionel has even learned to be an assistant teacher (taught by instructor Sydney) so that he could be used to partner with the ladies in the class who far outnumbered the men at the time.
Despite some of Lionel’s health setbacks, his dance dream goal is to spend a month dancing tango in Buenos Aires, traveling the world going to (Argentine tango) Milongas, and visiting Lindy Hop championships and festivals in Europe. He recanted, “Over the years I have had 3 knee operations followed eventually by 2 knee replacements. Plus I have had 1 eye removed and thus have no depth perception or any peripheral vision on my right side. Also in recent years, I have had extensive vascular surgery on my right leg, a broken left foot, a broken right wrist, and right arm and recently had 4 dislocated shoulders within a 4 week period. Each operation sidelined me for approximately 3 months.”
In addition to health issues, Lionel also had to deal with the passing of his partner of 52 years. They actually met at a YWCA Saturday night dance in Montreal in 1958. While she wasn’t as avid as a dancer as Lionel, she did do some social ballroom dance at one time. Connecting with everyone from his once life partner to total strangers, Lionel echoes the sentiments of many by contently saying, “Ballroom dancing is by far the best antidote to loneliness.” He also asserts that “No one is ever too old to dance; Keeps you young.” He also adds that the only things that would stop him from dancing is poor health and becoming incapacitated… and surely not some mere quarantine! Which says a lot about his perseverance because despite already having battled a series of major health issues, Lionel has not let that get in his way, and following brief periods of recovery, he is back at it with no signs of slowing down!
Lionel eagerly describes the pros and cons of doing such frequent, high-level dancing at his age. “Dancing is not only fun, it’s invigorating facilitates socialization and encourages pleasurable activity with no bad side. In case you couldn’t tell, he really loves to dance! Another thing Lionel loves is dancing at ATOMIC, explaining “Atomic Ballroom provides a home away from home to enjoy music, dance, exercise, and companionship. Ballroom dancing is by far the best antidote to loneliness.”
So in these times of quarantine and social distancing, social dance couldn’t be more needed. While CDC health recommendations still advise to practice physical distancing from one another, there has never been a better time to get together to dance with those in your household or connect online with others for a dance or two! This can lessen feelings of social isolation while burning some of those extra “Quarantine calories” so many are complaining about!
IN A NUTSHELL!
Favorite artists: D’Arienzo and Glenn Miller
Favorite music genres to dance to: Tango and Swing
Something people would be surprised to learn about you? : “That I am Jewish.”
Favorite dancer: Frankie Manning.
Guilty pleasure: Eating.
Favorite saying: “There is a good reason for what you do or say but then there is the REAL reason.”