Many dancers start taking dance classes and training as early as 3 years old. But one local woman found her passion for dance in her 50s.
Margaret Gidding, 57, grew up in the Sacramento area as one of 12 children. She raised her two daughters as a single parent and now she enjoys being a grandmother of three to Flinn, Rhiley, and Charlie.
“Gangster Boogie - Margaret Gidding - the greatest dancer, soul in Step I right now,” hip-hop dance teacher Myles Graves explained. “She brings this vibe to class all the time that’s just a strong positive vibe no matter the day, no matter what the world is going to and it’s just this energetic, strong vibe.”
“G-Boogie” stumbled across a Zumba class at a local gym late in life which sparked her love for dance. Now she’s become a fixture at Step I, welcoming and encouraging dancers of all ages, ethnicities, and experience during any class she’s participating in.
"Oh my gosh so this world of dance is absolutely amazing,” Gidding said. ”I think I found my passion, my heart, my love."
Over the last several years, Gidding has trained in a variety of different dance styles including hip-hop, contemporary, tap and ballet and she teaches Fierce Fit Funk classes every week. The 57-year-old has taken private break dancing lessons from Graves, also a Sacramento native, and has become known for her floor work amongst her peers.
"What dance did for me was you have to look inside and you have to let go of things and you have to figure out what's in there and you have to learn to express them through your dance,” Gidding said. "It gave me a lot of insight into myself and learning how to just let go and be in a moment."
Pepper Von, co-owner of Step I has watched Margaret grow from just being a mature dancer to being the soul of his studio.
“She lives every day like ‘I have this moment now. I can't tell you about 15 minutes from now or 15 days from now but I'm going to kill it right now,” Von said of Gidding. "Margaret carries this air of joy with her. If I had to find a word to describe Margaret… Just radiant."
Gidding’s radiance was nearly dimmed shortly after celebrating her 55th birthday and retirement from the federal government job she held for 35 years.
“I got the call that I had cancer,” Gidding said. “I was having a lot of very lower pelvic pain and it would come and go. I got diagnosed with endometrio carcinosarcoma so it was in my uterus. They [the doctors] were fairly confident in hoping it seemed like it hadn't gotten anywhere outside of that."
After undergoing surgery and six rounds of chemo and radiation Gidding could tell something still wasn't right. After a biopsy, it was discovered that the tumor in her pelvis had grown back and the cancer had spread.
“I had spots in my lungs and the chest - the lymph node was compromised,” Gidding said. “So now I've done four out of six chemo treatments and so far, it looks like the cancer is shrinking and so I'm very excited about that!"
“G-Boogie” went from dancing for hours six or seven days a week to spending most of her time on the couch recovering from treatment. Gidding will undergo treatment on Mondays and give herself about a week and a half to recover before returning to the dance studio to teach or take class.
“It’s rough. Chemo is not for the faint of heart. But I just refuse to let it [cancer] stop me from what I love to do,” Gidding explained. “And I think that push to get myself back out there as soon as I can has really helped me mentally, and physically, and to help me deal with the chemo."
Von was right beside Gidding when she received her initial cancer diagnosis. Having battled through his own personal health struggles, he’s been able to lend himself as a strong support system during difficult times.
“She understands choice and that struggle does not equate to suffering,” Von said of Gidding. “Struggle is sometimes - life brings struggle our way so we can grow in certain ways.”
From a young age, dancers are taught to move through every count and to go full out at every chance. Even though Gidding didn’t immerse herself in dance until she was in her 50s, she embodies these lessons that dancers are taught in their first classes. For her it's not about dancing like no one is watching, it's about dancing because the next eight count isn't promised.
"I just try to stay in a positive light, in a positive place and just know that it's going to pass ,” Gidding said. “I'm going to get back up and I'm going to be back in dance class doing what I love.”
Gidding does her best not to dwell on her situation or stay too long in the dark places her mind might take her. Her hope in sharing her story is that she will inspire others to fight hard and remain positive.
She offered this advice: “Find your passion and stay with it and let people help you. Find that support,” Gidding said. ”And for those who are supporting I would say being present with that person through that journey is the most you can do for them.”
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