Eileen Herman-Haase taking Tony Anzalone for a spin on the dance floor. (Marianne Salza)
Lifestyle, News

Medford seniors dance through time and history

MEDFORD—Genita Johnson wanted to learn about dancing. She didn't expect to be part of the show during the Dance Throughout Time and History event at the city's senior center.

"It was fun," she said. "I came to learn dancing, and I not only learned the history, but the dance steps."

Johnson and other seniors found themselves in the middle of the dance floor soon after Dance Caliente's Eileen Herman-Haase and Raul Nieves, started the Oct. 5 lesson.

Herman-Haase, 66, and Nieves, 62, performed Latin and ballroom routines in dazzling costumes, grabbing the hands and waists of the audience members to join them on the dance floor.  

The interactive ballroom dance show at the Medford Senior Center was meant to inspire seniors to keep moving and laughing, according to Council on Aging Director Pamela Kelly.

"We have many people who may have been dancers in their past or used to go out with their husbands and wives and dance on Friday nights, and haven't been able to do it in many years," she said. "It's great to see them smile and enjoy themselves."

Kelly hopes the event, sponsored by the Medford Council on Aging and the Medford Arts Council, will encourage participants to stay active physically and socially.

"Eileen and Raul are fabulous and move wonderfully. The dresses and costumes are absolutely beautiful," said Kelly. "They love to watch it and participate."

Herman-Haase and Nieves described the origins of dance that occurred over the past 100 years as they performed waltzes, foxtrots, and tangos.

"The waltz started in pubs with people singing drinking songs. People started dancing after a couple of drinks. When people are singing a beer drinking song, they're actually singing a waltz," said Nieves, an award-winning Latin dance competitor.

Seniors, ages 60 and older, explored the basic rhythm and steps to dances like the salsa and rumba. They "oonka ah-ed" and "yeah pa pa-ed" (Nieves's alternative to counting steps) to the grizzly bear and bunny hug, two early 1900s swing moves.

"It's very exciting to come back," said Herman-Haase, who earned an M.A. in Dance Education from Columbia University. "We want to inspire them to have fun."

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