96-year-old Stuart Hodes took his first dance lesson at the Martha Graham school after being discharged from a distinguished stint as an air force aviator in World War II, and he has been dancing through life ever since. He recently wrote a memoir called "Onstage with Martha Graham," and joins us to provide his Brief but Spectacular take on dancing into old age.
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Tonight's Brief But Spectacular comes from 96-year-old Stuart Hodes.
Hodes took his first dance lesson at the Martha Graham School after a distinguished stint as an Air Force aviator in World War II, and he has been dancing through life ever since.
He recently wrote a memoir called "Onstage With Martha Graham."
Well, I'm 96. How are you supposed to feel at 96? A lot of people don't live that long. And I'm here.
Death doesn't bother me. I don't really think it ever bothered me. When I was 19, your age, I was flying combat missions. And they were shooting at me. I didn't like being shot at. Who the heck would? But the idea of dying was not like, oh, my God, I might die.
And I still don't feel that way about it. When the time to die, I will be quite content to understand or to experience whatever comes next, or, if nothing, that.
I guess I have been a dancer most of my life, although it was really foolish to become a dancer, but I did it anyway. I started at the age of 20. And the last performance I had was four years ago. I was 92.
Flew B-17s in World War II. That was the time when you flew in the cockpit, and you felt the whole country was up there with you. I knew I loved flying. I had to solo first. You have to fly the plane yourself. And the plane became an extension of my body. And I was crazy about it.
And after the war, I had the same experience hitting dance. I loved it. I felt that dancing and flying were two ways of getting to the same state. People don't understand how flying and dancing can be similar, but they do something to you.
I think anything that you do with every particle of yourself can be wonderful, and it can make you forget the world. It's magic. How the heck am I supposed to describe it? Something happens. It takes everything you have got. And, for that — for those brief moments that you're dancing, you're transported.
You're in another world. You sense nothing but that moment. When it hits you, you want more. I can't imagine dancing outside of being completely myself. I never liked my own dancing because I was too conscious of my own flaws.
Well, I wanted to be perfect. I think all dancers do. When I watch old videos of myself today, I think, I'm not as bad as I thought I was.
Sometimes, I like them. I still see the flaws. But I don't expect to be perfect anymore, so why make a fuss about it?
My name is Stuart Hodes, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on magic time.
Done? You got a big editing job, don't you?
That was perfect. That was great.
It's going to be terrible.
Spectacular, for sure.
Stuart Hodes, dancing through life, thank you so much.
And you can find all of our Brief But Spectacular segments online at: PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.