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She Makes You Feel Like Dancing

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Some things never change, thank goodness.

“If by some chance I had to give up either acting or dancing,” Cyd Charisse told the Saturday Evening Post in 1952, “I’d choose to keep on dancing.”

Sure enough, every weekday morning at 9, Charisse, 73, is at the barre. (The one exception is when she is involved with Arctic Spray, an aches-and-pains product she had developed for her mother’s arthritis.) The one-hour class is taught by lifelong friend Tania Riabouchinska, “who still teaches with a stick” at the Lichine School of Dance in Beverly Hills.

“After 20 to 25 minutes at the barre, we go to the middle of the floor and do stretches,” Charisse explained, “and after that we do just a few of the little, simple steps.”

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Charisse, who has been married to singer Tony Martin for 48 years, also maintains her slender figure by eating in moderation. Typically, breakfast is melon, Raisin Bran, orange juice and a cup of coffee. Lunch is all of a sandwich or salad or fruit.

Dinner is the main meal, sometimes chicken and vegetables, maybe even a steak. “The minute I feel tired, I really feel that it helps me. I don’t know any vegetables or fruit or grains that can replace a steak. I’m from Texas so I was raised on that kind of food.”

It was in Texas where Tula Ellice Finklea, who as Cyd Charisse would go on to dance with Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, was raised on ballet.

“When I was 6, I was very ill. Afterward, I was so frail that people literally were afraid to touch me,” Charisse recalled. “The doctor said I had to exercise my muscles, so I started dance--and with good, solid Russian training. I just fell in love with it.”

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One of her favorite dances on film is “Dancing in the Dark” from “The Band Wagon” (1953).

“It was not the most difficult number technically, but the mood was absolutely charming, the music was lovely, the choreography was marvelous and Fred was a dream to work with.”

Guest Workout runs Wednesdays in Life & Style.


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