When things sour, remember Jane Hayward/O'Neal. Into her eighties, the Arcadian is winning dance competitions, pushing herself into surprising places. Here's Jane's story.

“I am Jane Hayward, but paint under my pro name, as most people know me by Jane O'Neal, an artist with a studio out by Fire's Open Road Bar & Grill. I also dance, have done all my life, since my grandfather was a dance teacher in London (England). I was put in dance school at age 2.

“Moving to the states with my American husband, I still continued to dance. After his passing, I entered dance competitions throughout the states, working for and dancing with Enrique Curi, owner of the Fred Astaire Dance Studios.

“But after being hit by a car whilst cycling in Sarasota, I did not dance for five years due to many surgeries, rehab, wheelchair, crutches, etc. Being somewhat depressed over the situation, I moved to Arcadia, enjoying the peacefulness and inspiration.

“I was thinking I would never dance again, even thought of selling all my dance costumes. But my girlfriend said don't do that, you might just dance again! Throwing myself into my artwork (muralist, portraits, teaching or whatever the client chooses), Enrique Curi, now owner of the Venice Fred Astaire Dance Studios, invited me to try to dance; balance was a great problem, since my left foot was fused, many of my joints had been mended and were stiff. I wanted to give up, but he persisted.

“We entered a competition, was surprised when I got through the dances okay! I told Enrique I wanted to try to dance my favorite solo through the years; the Paso Doble, a very exciting Spanish dance portraying the man as the matador, the woman as the cape. We entered the Fred Astaire dance competition in Fort Walton Beach.

“Surprising myself again, we received many first places! Danced the Paso Doble solo, I thought, pretty well! But ... at the awards banquet at the end of the competition, I nearly fell off my chair when the announcer called Enrique and I up to receive a beautiful large trophy for 'Top Solo' of the competition.

“So ... when you think one should give up because of some handicap, some pain, some doubting, even age—I am 82 years young—DON'T! I owe so much to Enrique Curi, for all his encouragement and patience with me, saying 'you can do it!' Enrique … my friend!”

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