Community Voices

Families turn out to cheer seniors ‘Dancing Through the Decades’ in Coral Gables

Marcia Kolber and Jessie Oroso teamed up as dance partners at “Dancing through the Decades” held at The Palace Coral Gables. They won the first-place trophy.
Marcia Kolber and Jessie Oroso teamed up as dance partners at “Dancing through the Decades” held at The Palace Coral Gables. They won the first-place trophy. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

The dancers prepared for months and the time had come to perform. Their friends and family were in the audience and the stage was set in the packed theater.

Some hadn’t danced in decades. Some had never danced at all.

But the 11 older folks, teaming up with managers from The Palace Coral Gables, took to the Jan. 21 competition like pros at the senior living community’s recent “Dancing through the Decades.”

The average age was 84 and the dancers performed before a panel of professional judges.

The first-place trophy went to Marcia Kolber, 88, and dance partner Jessie Oroso, manager of customer service. They danced a hip-hop routine called “Coca Cola.”

The oldest dancer was Eve Greenfield, 98.

“At my age, I never thought I’d be dancing in a show,” she said. “I never had pink hair in my life, and this is so special.”

The seniors rehearsed and trained for the event with choreographer Edgar Cunningham, who teaches at The Palace.

Cunningham and The Palace’s social director, Pamela Parker, thought up the competition last summer to show people that “there are few limitations associated with chronological age.”

“If there is a desire and spirit, one can accomplish feats far beyond one’s expectations,” Parker said in an email. The residents signed up and promised a week of practice before the big day.

Cunningham choreographed the show and insured each team had a dance routine and costumes to fit the music selected from five decades of favorites.

“The best part of the event was that it was simply fun with so much camaraderie,” Parker said. “Each team was a winner. They worked diligently and loved the outcome. Seeing the look on their faces as they took a bow in front of a live audience and the faces of their children in the audience was simply so amazing.”

Some family members had flown in just to watch the dancing.

Sarah Wishnia’s son and daughter-in-law came from Louisville, Kentucky, to see her perform.

“When my daughter-in-law told her friends she was going to a recital, they thought it was for their child,” Wishnia, 85, said. “They were shocked to learn they were heading to the Gables to see her mother-in-law hoof it in a talent show.”

The program was styled after TV’s “Dancing with the Stars.” Judges included Emelie Garcia, ballroom dance champion and instructor at Arthur Murray International in Coral Gables; Lourdes Artega, artistic director of Miami Royal Ballet; and Jennifer, the Miami Dolphins Cheerleading squad captain.

Cunningham also facilitates a class at The Palace called Barrerobics, based on the New York City Ballet’s exercise program for dancers. It incorporates stretching, and participants are seated. The twice-a-week class helped the senior dancers prepare. They also improved their endurance in the fitness center guided by personal trainer Julian Hevia.

“Dancing is great exercise,” Hevia said. “It helps with the more technical aspects of fitness, including coordination and balance. I recommend it to all of our residents because they end up having a lot of fun and forget they are exercising.”

WOMEN WHO MADE CHANGE

Everyone is invited to attend the Women’s History Coalition celebration of the life of Julia Tuttle at a kickoff event for Women’s History Month at noon on March 1 at the Miami City Cemetery, 1800 NE Second Ave. The cemetery is the final resting place of Tuttle, who is considered the mother of Miami.

Penny Lambeth, a local preservationist instrumental in restoring the cemetery, will be honored as well. Lambeth, who often dressed in costume as Tuttle at events, died suddenly in October.

“Penny breathed new life into the cemetery by spearheading its restoration and replanting. She also breathed life into Julia Tuttle in her costumed re-enactment of our city’s founder,” said friend and fellow volunteer Dolly MacIntyre.

Refreshments will be served at the event that will include highlights of Miami’s history and Tuttle’s life.

The Women’s History Coalition was founded in 1983. The group is dedicated to “preserving and promoting the history and accomplishments of women in Miami-Dade County.” Members have published two books, “Julia’s Daughters” and “Beyond Julia’s Daughters.” A third book is in development.

The Coalition also honors six “Women of Impact” each year. Members choose outstanding women who have made significant contributions to our community. The next awards banquet will be March 12. For more on the group and activities, visit http://womenshistorycoalitionmiamidade.org/.

JAZZ SINGER AND CIVIC CHORALE

Take this chance to hear Wendy Pedersen in a one-time-only event, “Jazz, etc.,” 4 p.m. Feb. 26 at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, 14260 Old Cutler Rd., Palmetto Bay. Pedersen is a well-known local jazz vocalist who has won many awards, including “Best Vocalist” by Miami New Times, as well as PACE/Southern Bell “Jazz Artist of the Year.”

She will be backed by the eclectic harmonies of the Civic Chorale of Greater Miami. Cost of the event is $20 for adults, $15 for seniors, $5 for students, and free for children 6 and under.

To learn more about this concert and others planned, and to learn how to join the Civic Chorale, visit http://www.civicchorale.info/.

PEACEFUL MUSIC IN THE GARDEN

With a mission to promote peace, love and harmony, the Greater Miami Symphonic Band led by music director Robert Longfield will perform at 3 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Pinecrest Gardens Banyan Bowl, 11000 Red Rd., Pinecrest.

Inspiring and uplifting selections include “What The World Needs Now Is Love,” “Appalachian Spring,” “A Gershwin Tribute to Love,” “Solamente una Vez” and the premiere of Robert Tindle’s original composition, “Peace.”

Bring friends, family and colleagues to this heartwarming concert. Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for students and children over five years old. They are available at the box office on the day of the concert, or in advance online at http://gmsb.org/. Ticket holders can visit the garden for free on the day of the concert.

AUTHOR GIVES BOOK REVIEW

“Everyone goes to Finnegan’s…” is how the Goodreads review of “Flawless” begins. The book involves the pub in lower Manhattan operated by the Finnegan family for generations. Now, one of the Finnegans has become a criminal psychologist “despite her less-than-lawful past.”

“Flawless” author Heather Graham will discuss the plot at the next Coco Plum Woman’s Club meeting at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 28 at 1375 Sunset Dr., Coral Gables. Everyone is invited to hear this writer of more than 150 novels. Cost is $20 and snacks will be served. For reservations call Anita Jenkins, 305-665-6762 or 305-793-9641.

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at christinammayo@gmail.com.

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