Dance instructor Angelina Richter says older adults can “probably do more than they think they can.”
She is one of the dance teachers assisting Bess Park with an addition to her dance curriculum at Wild Hare in Greenwood called Old Souls and New Moves. It is geared toward older adults but also intergenerational.
Wild Hare Productions Inc. is a nonprofit organization, founded by Park, that produces and presents theater, and dance performance and training. Located in the Shoppes at Hampton Place, Wild Hare has a black box theater space and a dance studio.
Park said this class is modeled after one started in San Francisco more than 20 years ago.
“As dancers mature, they should not lose their ability to practice their art form, coupled with my belief that intergenerational work in the arts is an extremely powerful way to positively impact lives,” Park said. “It is my hope that we can build more choreographic and performance works that crosses the borders of generations.”
Park said it allows all ages to come together for the creative process.
“And, it’s just plain fun,” Park said. “I’ve had several people ask me for an adult ballet and adult tap class. We’re also considering adding a ballroom dance component to the studio. It moved me to tears to watch these ladies, along with Denise Waldrep, perform in our spring dance concert.”
Being in Old Souls and New Moves, Waldrep said, has given her more energy, lifted spirits and has strengthened a foot that has stress fractures.
“I have loved getting to know our dance group and having fun,” Waldrep said. “It’s very freeing.”
Wild Hare’s dance studio offers classes for all ages and there is a community dinner and contradance event, with musicians performing live, planned for Aug. 4, in conjunction with a dancer from Greenville, Jennie Wakefield.
Contradance is a folk dance style involving pairs of people in lines, facing each other.
Brain stimulation, body coordination, and improving balance, fitness and agility are just some of the benefits of Old Souls and New Moves.
These dance classes began at Wild Hare Studio in September. A four-week summer run is underway now. A new September session begins at 11:30 a.m. Sept. 9.
Marion Farina, who is almost 72, said she was introduced to dance classes as a young girl, progressing to ballet and modern dance through her teens and majoring in dance in college.
“I was in the Garden State Ballet in New Jersey when I was in high school,” Farina said. “I taught dance for a while, but wasn’t making much money. We were having trouble making ends meet, so I took a job in an office.”
Farina continued to take classes and even took a class in her 40s with the New Jersey Ballet.
“I have not taken a dance class in years, until this one,” Farina said. “To have a real dance studio, with a sprung floor is just amazing.” Soon, Farina will teach a couple of Old Souls and New Moves classes.
Farina said she became acquainted with dance instructor Richter at Savannah Lakes Village, near McCormick, and found out about Old Souls and New Moves at Wild Hare.
“Being back in a dance class now has shattered some of the myths I had in my head, about the way I could move,” Farina said. “A lot of it has come back and I even did a dance solo during a recent concert. For me, dance is connected to my spirit.”
The solo dance was part of the concert titled “Gravity and Dreams,” Farina said, noting she has overcome health challenges of her own to continue to dance.
“It made a lot of younger dancers cry,” Richter, 71, said, of the solo performance. “For them, the idea is that you are only going to dance until you are 30 and then it’s all downhill...We started the dance crumpled on the floor and got up.”
Richter is a former dance professor who has taught at institutions of higher learning including University of Hawaii and University of North Carolina-Greensboro.
“I danced in New York early on and I have my own company, but it hasn’t been active in a while,” Richter said. “I smile a lot when I dance because it makes me happy. I had a heart attack two years ago. My heart is good and I am active, but it’s just the luck of the draw. You see that life is precious and we’re lucky to be here.”
Old Souls and New Moves is open to any age, no experience necessary, Richter said.
“Some people in the class have dance experience and some don’t, but for those who do, the body memory is just crazy,” Richter said. “People in the class come and go and our ranks tend to swell in the fall. We would love to have more Greenwood people.
“So often, once you get older, you don’t push yourself, because you are afraid of a heart attack or a stroke,” Richter continued. “Then, you become sedentary and it’s a spiral,” she said. “This is good for the body. We sweat.”
Richter said a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2003 looked at leisure activities and the risk of dementia in the elderly.
“Dance had a huge impact,” Richter said, noting the study showed participation in leisure activities has been associated with lower risk of dementia, and dance scored higher than a number of other activities cited in the study.
Richter said Old Souls and New Moves is, in her estimation, similar to a level one college class.
“It’s challenging,” she said. “We’re moving. We’re not for the faint of heart. While most of us have had exposure to formal dance classes, it’s not necessary for this class...Bravery is necessary, because it’s not easy to look at yourself in the mirror.”
Contact St. Claire Donaghy at 864-943-2518