Parrywinkle, April 14, 2016

One of the joys of writing this column, week after week, is the opportunity to meet people - both young and old alike - who through their positive outlook on life have heartwarming stories to tell. Stories that are a real pleasure to share with readers of Your Local Journal.


CARING CAMERON – People like young Cameron Nolan who, instead of looking for presents for her 7th birthday on March 31, asked her parents if they could help organize a little raffle of ideally seven prizes with tickets at $2 a pop. With all the money raised going as her personal thank you to the Montreal Children's Hospital where she was underwent surgery for a serious eye disorder called Strabismus a little over two years ago.

Guess what? The total, and still counting, a staggering $3,015 that will be presented to the hospital in cheque form on May 6. Tell you folks, with all the negative crap and acrimonious carping going on in our little community on so many fronts, doesn't that warm the cockles of your heart?!


DYNAMIC BALLROOM DUO - And then while shopping in the village recently, I just happened to bump in to St. Lazare resident Silia Milner and her 6-year-old daughter, Victoria, for the first time ever. Mom was pulling a big suitcase on wheels and so, naturally, I assumed that they were either going on holiday or had just returned from a trip from out of town.

Could not have been more wrong! Stopping to chat, I learned in fact that they had just left their regular ballroom dancing class with teacher-instructor, former European and World Champion Alex Sharov, at the Hudson Dance Centre on Main. And that the suitcase contained their costumes that they would both be wearing competing in the Danse Elite competition at Centre de Loisirs in Ville Saint-Laurent organized by Studio 2720 on April 2.

Wonderful? For sure. But here's the inspirational twist to the story. Silia, a doctor herself specializing in neuropharmacology, was diagnosed with a life-threating brain tumour (Meningioma) in August, 2014, and was told that she probably only had another year to live. And, as she told me, at the time she was unresponsive and experiencing severe migraines.

Also, that following successful surgery in France in January last year, her sensory abilities were completely out of whack. Her perception of her center of gravity was totally off, which affected her walking and moving around. Intensive physiotherapy followed and, while she tried several types of therapies including yoga, tai-chi and intramuscular stimulation, she was far from happy with the results.


WINNERS ALL THE WAY - And then one day, in August last year and on a whim while registering Victoria - a student at Evergreen Elementary School - for ballet and tap dance at Sharon Weiner's studio, she asked about the ballroom dance classes available there. She jotted down a phone number and just a name, Alex.

Says Silia, “He was away in Europe at the time but he got back to me immediately on his return. I explained to him why I wanted to try ballroom dance and what had happened to me. He agreed to give me a trial lesson. And from the very first instant, not only did I know that he was a terrific teacher, but I knew that I had found an activity that would help me concentrate and move.”

What she didn't know, adds Silia, is that, “He would also teach me to walk! Over the weeks, then months, dancing improved my balance, posture, and decreased the morphine for pain I am prescribed by my doctor at the Hudson Medi-Centre, as well as gain confidence. I started with flat shoes and, after a couple of months, I was able to dance with 4-centimetre heels. And I truly believe that, under the right supervision, dance could help tremendously for any type of injury or physical recoveries.”

Adds Silia, who has just turned 50 and who says she enjoys life with her daughter every single day, “The fact that one dances in a warm studio, with proper posture, while learning how to apply counter pressure to the hold of the partner, also helps improve the sensory system. And while it’s a great workout that is very enjoyable and not too tiring, for someone who can't do weights such as myself, it greatly helps to improve muscle tone of the upper body and arms.”

In January, to the amazement of her husband, Ted Milner - professor of Kinesiology and Physical Education at McGill University specializing in musculoskeletal biomechanics and neural control - Silia went back to the treadmill after 15 years fighting pain and physical limitations. Not only because of the brain surgery but also because she suffered from meningitis in 2000.

Says Ted, “Dance, that she shares with our daughter and the amazing Alex, has given her so much and a completely new positive outlook on life. She has found a way to fight and win over long-term pain and physical disabilities. And I am so proud of her!”

As for that dance competition, I mentioned earlier? Incredibly, dancing with Alex, Victoria won 1st prize in all of her eight categories. And Silia, competing in 10 and again partnered with Alex? A mighty impressive 4-first and 6-second place finishes.

As I said, truly an inspirational story. And thanks for sharing it with us! For info on Alex's classes, by the way, he can be reached at Am even thinking of taking a few lessons myself with my beautiful Sunshine as, to date, I have always been something of a clodhopper on the dance floor. Well, apart from the Twist, that is!


THE LADY IN THE VAN - And now from ballroom dance to film. More specifically, that wonderful 2015 British comedy-drama, The Lady in the Van, starring the inimitable Maggie Smith, recently 'retired' along with the rest of the cast and crew from Downton Abbey. It's a fundraiser for Nova Hudson, there will be two screenings at Hudson Village Theatre (HVT) at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Monday, April 25. Tickets for each are $20 and are available at Nova Boutique, 455 Main Road, open every day except Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The critically-acclaimed film written by Alan Bennett tells the true story of Mary Shepherd - portrayed by Smith who also played her in the original 1999 theatrical production in London's West End - an elderly woman who lived in a dilapidated van in Bennett's driveway for 15 years.

Just for the record, by the way, there's plenty of parking space around the theatre so you won't have to park in anyone's driveway!


SPOTLIGHTING SPOTLIGHT – Still on movies, ditto at HVT for this Sunday's, April 17, 2 p.m. screening of Benjamin Britten's opera, Peter Grimes. Often called 'the true operatic masterpiece of the 20th century' and the last in this year's Hudson Film Society's Opera and Beyond series.

Then on Monday, April 18, HFS will close its 10th Anniversary Season with screenings - at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. with tickets at $12 at the door at 28 Wharf Road - of the Oscar-winning film, Spotlight. A great opportunity to see this powerful film and decide for yourself if it indeed deserved the year's highest cinema honour!

And that's a wrap!


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