Tap Dancers Boogie Positive Aging Into the Zeitgeist

What do you call a group of women over the age of 50 who dance for fitness, friendship and fun? Amazing. Inspiring. The Boogie Woogie Mamas.

Bill Warford of the Antelope Valley Press once wrote: “The Boogie Woogie Mamas are another wonderful American phenomenon the terrorists could never understand….” And once you’ve seen them perform, you’ll understand exactly what he means.

The Boogie Woogie Mamas (BWMs) perform at local events, and have been recognized by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for their civic and community service. They perform tap and lyrical dance to Broadway musical numbers, such as “A Chorus Line,” “Chicago,” and “Menopause.”

The group was founded in 1987 by then 72-year old Peggy Wallace Risley. At the time, her daughter, Joyce Pearson, the current director, instructor and choreographer of the group, told her mother

Peggy Riesling

“enough with the Bingo.” Peggy, who had been a dancer, was putting on weight after becoming inactive in her retirement. Spurred on by her daughter’s admonition, Peggy says she launched the Boogie Woogie Mamas “to have fun, keep active, and mature with grace and dignity.” Since the group is non-profit, the women buy their own costumes and raise money through garage sales and bake sales.

Many of the women had never danced before joining the group, according to the group’s publicity director, former teacher Barbara Adolph. “Most were born right after the Great Depression and their families were focused on paying the bills,” she says. Adolph, herself, had wanted to dance when she was young, but never had the opportunity.

The women enroll in classes at Caravan Dance Studio in Palmdale, Calif. Once they gain a little confidence in their newfound abilities, they join in the group performances at local health care facilities and veterans’ homes and at local events like the High Desert Senior Expo, the Poppy Festival, and the Antelope Valley Fair.

Today the group boasts 35-40 performance dancers from very diversified backgrounds—moms, wives (military and non), homemakers, hairdressers, office managers, teachers, and yes even a few dancers. One danced in Las Vegas, one taught for years, another danced with the USO, one had her own studio, and one has her Masters in dance. Two of the women were belly dancers. There’s a mammogram technician, an aeronautical/electrical engineer who happens to be working toward her doctorate, a Nascar crew chief, an award-winning pilot, a black belt in Judo, an American Kennel Club judge, two published authors and volunteers and docents serving the community in multiple ways.

And the dancers have discovered more than just fun and exercise through their involvement. They’ve gained confidence and support during the tough times. Many have lost mates and other loved ones. Several have battled cancer, and two are dancing on replaced knees. Yet together, they dance, with their eyes pointed toward the future and their taps merrily clacking to the rhythms of life as they exercise their right to be the best that they can be at any age.

Peggy no longer dances with the group; she’s a positively old 96. Her daughter, Joyce, has taken up

Bertha Ewing

the torch, confessing that she’d actually had the acceptance age for the group lowered to 50 so she could join earlier. Bertha Ewing (Bert as she is known) is still going strong with the group at 86. A former WAVE in World War II, she’s been dancing with the Boogie Woogie Mamas for 19 years.

In watching this group of ladies at a recent rehearsal, it’s amazing to see their energy and enthusiasm, not to mention their ability to memorize new routines (not one of my personal strengths I must confess!) In a country where obesity is reaching record highs, it was inspiring to see so many women over 50 strong and in shape. “I love to see how the ladies’ legs transform when they start dancing with us,” shared Pearson. “They may not lose weight, but their legs definitely firm up.”

I hope that I don’t embarrass any of the women when I say that I was watching them from behind during the rehearsal. For a group with the average age of 69, and 107 children, 212 grandchildren and 58 great-grandchildren between them, their derrieres looked lovely. Congratulations and good work, ladies!

If you’d like to see the Boogie Woogie Mamas for yourself, they are performing on Saturday, June 11, at 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm at the Lancaster Performing Arts Center in Lancaster, Calif. Proceeds of “A Class Act…with a Broadway Flair” will benefit the Antelope Valley Community Clinic. Call LPAC for details at 661-723-5950.

For more information on The Boogie Woogie Mamas or to learn about joining or booking them for a performance, visit their web site, www.boogiewoogiemamas.org

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3 Responses to “Tap Dancers Boogie Positive Aging Into the Zeitgeist”
  1. admin says:

    Yes, I can understand that this site is really not easy to view with an iphone or Android phone. As I just began the site in September of last year, I have not yet progressed to the stage where I can invest and create Apps for those phones, which is generally how you get the most compatible layouts. I will also need to assess how many of my constituents use these medium before I make that investment in the future, so it’s good to hear from you so I know that at least one person IS trying to find me that way. If you get a chance, I’d love to get some examples from you of web sites that you feel ARE effective on your phone…without a special App of course. That way I can consider future modifications based on those layouts. We tried to do something similar with our web site at work and just decided to invest in the Apps there, but of course, their budget is a little bigger than mine.

  2. admin says:

    Thanks for the nice comments, Erinie, and for finding us. It’s a fairly new site (only began last September) so we’re busy trying to get the word out.

  3. admin says:

    If you subscribe to the blog site on http://www.positivelyold.com, Newton, you will automatically be added to my weekly updates on the site. The site is still fairly new, so I won’t state that the weekly email reminder is a full-blown newsletter, but there are definitely plans for newsletters in the works. Glad you liked it!

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