South Charlotte

Senior dancers' pizzazz dazzles area crowds

The Brookdale Dazzlers have traveled throughout the Charlotte area bringing laughter and excitement to fellow seniors.

They wear wacky costumes, have lots of energy and can-do attitudes.

The idea for the senior dance group came from Samantha Duncan, the Life Enrichment Coordinator at Brookdale Place of South Charlotte on the corner of N.C. 51 and Rea Road. Duncan, 28, constantly looks for ideas to keep the senior living facility residents active and happy.

"I went to an Alzheimer's walk in November and there was a senior dance group that performed at the walk," Duncan said. "I knew my residents could do it, so I came back and pitched the idea to them."

The first group had six women and a man: Ron Zak. They ranged in age from 67 to 93.

Once the group was formed, all the Brookdale residents voted on a team name. Brookdale Dazzlers won.

Duncan ordered T-shirts for the members as well as magnetic business cards to pass out.

So far, the group has performed at Monroe Square, Carrington Place, Pineville Rehab, Brighton Gardens and Harbor Chase of Rock Hill.

"It makes you feel good," said Taffy Anderson, 88. "Us older people performing for a bunch of other older people."

None of the group members belonged to formal dance groups when they were younger, though Anderson said she did the typical dances of her day such as the jitterbug.

The group has six songs they do regularly: "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" by Pat Benatar, "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" by the Andrews Sisters and "Proud Mary" by Tina Turner are fan favorites.

Between each song, Duncan and her volunteers help the performers with quick costume changes, mainly changing the accessories, hats and props.

Anderson's daughter, Dot Grom, made all the costumes and helps with every performance.

"I think the most rewarding thing is when you're traveling and the other people are watching you and you're bringing a smile and laughter to their faces," said Ron Zak, 67. "We hand out noise-makers so they have the opportunity to join in with the fun and the more you get the crown involved, the more fun they have."

While the group travels every week to perform, and they also perform at Brookdale every two weeks or so.

Feb. 23, the Dazzlers charmed residents and staff, surprising everyone with a new song, "Conga" by Gloria Estefan.

In the song, the group's oldest resident, Shirley Green, played Carmen Miranda - the popular Broadway and Hollywood star famous for wearing fruit on her head.

Upon making her entrance, the Brookdale crowd went wild, and Green beamed.

Only a couple of the dancers stand while performing. Most remain seated and use their arms, props and attitudes to make the song a hit.

"What's really important to us when we perform is showing people who watch us that no matter how old you are or what your disabilities are, you can still join a dance group and still have fun," Duncan said.

Duncan holds rehearsals for the group twice a week. "I always tell them I need more drama," she said. "I tell them that making people laugh and smile is the most important thing."