Granados: Senior dancers defy expectations

Raleigh News & ObserverAugust 23, 2013 

For Judi Hinton, being 74 doesn’t mean whiling away the days playing shuffleboard and bingo. She wants to be active. She wants to do what she’s done for most of her life: dance.

“You just can’t keep up with a 16-year-old when you’re in your 70s, but you can still dance, and you can still dance well,” she said.

She and her friend Judy Smith decided they needed to get a group of like-minded seniors together to start a dance troupe. One that can keep their minds and bodies healthy, while entertaining some of their peers.

They got together Tuesday at the North Carolina Dance Institute in North Raleigh to host an audition of senior women who want to make dance a regular part of their lives.

“We were really pleased with the way things had gone,” Hinton said. “And we’re excited to start a new group.”

The women, from ages 58 on up, vied to become one of 11 women on the Razzamatazz Dance Troupe. In total, about 12 to 15 women came to the two auditions held. Hinton and Smith weren’t looking for just anybody.

“We were really looking for people who have some dance experience and really are passionate about dancing in their later years,” she said, adding that some didn’t make the cut. “We had a few who just didn’t seem to have the right rhythm or grace.”

Hinton has been dancing with various groups over the last 17 years. But she and Smith decided they wanted to start a new group of seniors. The hope is that they can start taking shows to area retirement and rest homes, and church socials for seniors.

“We tend to basically cater to our own age group because they are the ones that would appreciate that we’re still active,” she said.

Now, I don’t know about dance. It’s a beautiful thing, certainly, but as a man in a society full of stereotypes, I’ve never felt that dance was quite for me. Of course, the bias when thinking about dance is to imagine it as a young woman’s game. So Hinton and her crew are defying expectations in their own way.

Hinton says that people who have those narrow points of view are shutting the door on a powerful opportunity.

“I think people are missing out on a lot,” she said. “It’s mental exercise. You have to learn dances, you have to remember them. … And if you’re going to perform, you have to learn several dances and have them polished.”

And just because you’re older doesn’t mean you can’t dance vigorously, although you may not be moving at the same speed as some of your juniors.

“Obviously, we would not be able to keep up with teenagers,” she said. “And probably 10 or 12 years ago, I was taking dance in a class that was mostly younger kids. … They’re definitely more limber. More agile.”

But it’s about fun. In fact, Hinton even danced at her 50th high school reunion, proving that though decades have passed, she hasn’t missed a step – just slowed down a bit.

In our culture, we’ve come to view the elderly in a certain way: a way that does not accept dancing and exercise and vibrancy as normal. Hinton wants to change all that

“We’re just trying to redefine what’s expected when you’re retired and of a certain age,” she said.

So keep your eyes out for the Razzamatazz Dance Troupe, and prepare to see your elders in a different way.

Alex Granados writes about people, places and traditions in North Raleigh and beyond. Contact him at


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