Bruce Frankel

Author of the new book "What Should I Do with the Rest of My Life? True Stories of Finding Success, Passion, and New Meaning in the Second Half of Life."

Thomas Dwyer

Mission Impossible

He extends lanky, marionette-like arms and moves his 127-pound frame on flamingo-thin legs. And it comes as something of a shock when he breaks from a pose of finger-to-lip concentration or of bemused distraction, and hurls himself to the floor, collides with another dancer, or bounds the stage in rapturously self-absorbed reverie. A whispering curiosity spreads through the audience as the usual assumptions about what an elderly body can do clash with his sinewy defiance of them. Small wonder then that he draws steady notices as a company standout. The New York Times’s Jennifer Dunning has called him an “immense but understated presence,” a presence Wendy Perron of Dance magazine wrote is by turns comic and poignant. It is a presence, too, that can be hauntingly sensuous or grave.

… “Still, I can’t believe I’m doing this.”

His family could not quite believe it either. Doris, his wife of fifty years, and his three grown children were initially mystified, if not perplexed. When his children were young, he had a controlled, conservative demeanor, and never showed the slightest bit of athletic ability or artistic inclination. But there was something even more antithetical to his later life pursuit of dance. Thomas had only one quality of movement—rigid.

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“When my father first announced that he was going to perform modern dance, it was a strange and almost unfathomable thing,” his daughter said. “It was like someone saying, ‘I think I will take a Sunday drive to the moon.’”