Older dancers show amazing gracefulness

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Carol Sorgen

Antonia will perform a belly dance as part of Dance Baltimore’s “Ageless Grace” concert, featuring dancers from their 40s to 70s, on May 29.
Photo courtesy of Dance Baltimore

In a discipline filled with young, flexible dancers, it isn’t often that seniors have the opportunity to take to the stage and offer their own expressions through movement.

Their leg extensions may not be as high as they used to be, nor their lunges as deep. But older dancers bring deep emotion and vast experience to their performances, according to Cheryl Goodman, director of Dance Baltimore, now in its 13th year. [Editor’s Note: Dance Baltimore should not be confused with Dance & Bmore, another nonprofit we wrote about in the April Beacon.]

Dance Baltimore will once again present its annual concert, “Ageless Grace,” featuring both former professional dancers as well as recreational dancers ranging in age from their 40s through their 70s. The concert will be staged at the Creative Alliance at the Patterson, 3134 Eastern Ave., on Sunday, May 29, at 4 p.m.

Senior companies will perform solo, duet and ensemble pieces, featuring tap, modern, belly dance, African, Polynesian, jazz and other types of dance.

“The annual Ageless Grace concert has become one of the most inspiring productions we offer,” said Goodman. “The dancers onstage are older, but our audience for this event is always mixed in age, with everyone touched by seeing life so passionately and continuously expressed. At 58, I love watching the show; I love dancing in the show.”

Performing soloists and ensembles will include: Antonia (belly dance), Branch Morgan (modern), Hot Hula Fitness (Polynesian), Tapsicore (tap), Leslie Ebert (modern), Cedric Teamer & Sheena Black (Casino de Rueda Baltimore/Afro Caribbean Salsa), Itinerant Dance Theatre (comedic dance, Delaware) and two selections featuring Dance Baltimore students from its Broadway Jazz and Intermediate Modern classes.

From ballet to stepping

Showcasing her “Hot Hula Fitness” will be Kirsten Ledford, a former professional dancer who has been teaching dance fitness since 1990.

Ledford has been involved in dance for 44 of her 48 years. She studied ballet until college and then switched to modern before finding “stepping,” which is based on a long tradition in African communities.

Ledford’s work as a dancer, choreographer and artistic director began with Step Afrika (a D.C.-based percussive/African dance company), which took her around the world on dance exchange projects.

After having her daughter, she returned to her profession as a special educator, but finally “got my groove back” when she got her license to teach Zumba — a dance fitness form that explores Latin and world dance and music. 

Polynesian dance has also always intrigued her, and Ledford visited “halaus” (hula schools) and avidly watched dancers on YouTube for years.

“Then, in walks Hot Hula Fitness into my life,” said Ledford, referring to a new dance workout inspired by the dances of the Pacific Islands. Ledford now teaches a variety of dance workout classes, and also performs at parties.

Myriad benefits

Dance offers a number of benefits, according to Ledford. “What other habit has side effects as positive as dance?” she asked. “From improved strength, to flexibility, sense of belonging, cognitive function, balance, stress relief…I could go on!”

For Ledford, the dance floor is a place “to express joy, to create, to share fellowship, to mourn…to live!”

Dance Baltimore is an arts service organization with a mission to enhance the role of dance in the Baltimore metropolitan area. The nonprofit organization regularly offers free and discount adult dance classes, performances and dance-inspired activities to encourage new audiences for dance. Dance Baltimore is a membership organization that has been in existence in the area since 2003.

Tickets for Ageless Grace can be purchased online at www.creativealliance.org. General admission seating is $15 in advance; $18 at the door. For more information about Dance Baltimore and all upcoming concerts, visit www.dancebaltimore.org or call (410) 370-8994.