October 31, 2007 > Golden years glitter Vegas style
Golden years glitter Vegas style
By Julie Grabowski
The days of rocking chair retirements with stationary, quiet living and clean calendars are a thing of the past. Today's seniors are some of the most active and energetic people around, and nobody knows how to kick up their heels better than the members of the Golden Follies. On Sunday, November 11, the elaborate Las Vegas style review returns for its seventh sparkling year with its cast of Bay Area residents ranging in age from 55 to 83. Over 60 dancers will be tapping to tunes from 42nd Street, Guys and Dolls, the World War II era, and an All About Women segment featuring "I Enjoy Being a Girl," "Trashy Women," "Queen of the Night," and "Dreamgirls."
The idea for an all seniors review emerged from the popular dance classes of sisters Susan Bostwick and Diane Tembey-Stawicki. Born and raised in Oakland the girls started dancing in their mother's studio and continued at college before an L.A. audition launched them throughout the country and around the world performing as opening acts for such big names as Wayne Newton, Goldie Hawn, and the Pointer Sisters. To Bostwick, dance is "a mind, body, spirit, health advantage" that is a means for sharing talent as well as providing a tremendous amount of joy.
With over 25 years of experience, Bostwick and Tembey-Stawicki serve as producers, choreographers, directors, and costume designers for the Golden Follies. The entire wardrobe for the show is constructed by hand, the sisters making the headdresses while the other ladies help sew on trims and decorations. Rehearsals are held two to three times a week in Dublin and Hayward through Dublin's Dance Network. Though the schedule is busy there is no lack of participants; dancers stream in each week from Fremont and Castro Valley, Dublin, Pittsburgh, Antioch, and even Sacramento to don magnificent feathered headdresses and glittery costumes. The cast is primarily made up of women, but the two male dancers aren't complaining.
"We've really expanded our senior base," says Bostwick. "The word sort of traveled, it just kind of evolved." Teaching adults and seniors is the primary focus for the sisters, and the experience has been nothing short of wonderful. "It's like a whole new life for them. They're just feeling like celebrities," Bostwick says. And like any celebrity, these dancers spend their fair share of time in the public eye. In addition to the Follies a smaller review cast performs 10 to 15 shows a year at casinos, private parties, charitable events, and care facilities. "We are sharing in giving these people a whole new perspective on their golden years. It's just been a real pleasure for both of us," says Bostwick.
Jeanne De Silva has been dancing with Bostwick and Tembey-Stawicki for the last 18 of her 78 years. After retiring from a desk job at a telephone company and with all her friends still working, De Silva vowed she was not going to sit around - she was going to be active. "It has just evolved into a wonderful experience," she says. "It keeps our mind going along with our bodies. You're learning all the time." De Silva's devotion keeps her commuting from Manteca which she claims is not so bad; she visualizes the dances while in traffic and finds herself home in no time. Along with the mental and physical benefits, De Silva enjoys the playful dress-up, fun atmosphere, and supportive friendships. They always help each other out, as well as giggle at their errors. Her family is also a great support. "My husband just gets a big kick out of it," De Silva says, telling how he loves attending rehearsals and watching what the directors can get out of the group. Her grandsons come to every Follies show, one calling De Silva a "foxy grandma." She says she feels like an inspiration to young people. "They don't laugh at us; they just think it's wonderful. They say they're going home to tell their grandmas."
Oakland resident Pat Petinaud had always wanted to dance, and early retirement and an invitation from a friend gave her the opportunity. She began tap lessons through the San Leandro Adult School and moved on to study with Bostwick and Tembey-Stawicki. "I've been loving it ever since," says Petinaud who has logged 20 years under the sisters' instruction. "Our teachers are very patient with us; they make us look great. They make it fun for us." 'Fun' is a recurring attribute in Petinaud's experience of dance and the Follies, which she has been part of from the beginning. The dressing up, great exercise, and new friendships are all cause for delight, as well as the fact that "I can be a showgirl at 61!" She acknowledges the distance that some of the dancers travel to participate, their dedication and enthusiasm making for a special experience. And like fellow dancer Jeanne De Silva, Petinaud feels that she's making a difference. "It's something I can give back," she says of the opportunities to perform at charitable events, hospitals and convalescent homes.
At 83, Marie Mazza's friends and family can't believe she's still dancing. "For me it is the most wonderful thing I ever did for myself," says Mazza, who was born during the depression, followed by years of work and raising six kids. The jitterbug and belly dancing were standards on her dance card before a friend persuaded the uninterested Mazza to take tap. It has been 18 years and counting. "Susan and Diane are fantastic," she says, adding "talented and phenomenal" to her impressions. "We just have so much fun and work our buns off! I love the false eyelashes and the makeup," she confesses. "Most people that come to the show for the first time are stunned and they can't wait to come back next year." Mazza also remarks on the heartwarming and lasting friendship among the dancers, how everyone is quick to offer support and encouragement, always willing to help in anyway they can. "One of the most important things, I think, is the friendships I've formed." It is a unique experience that Mazza just can't say enough about. "It makes me feel proud to be a Golden Folly girl. I think we're very blessed."
And those blessings are passed on. In addition to covering operating costs, money made from the Golden Follies is donated to Blue Star Moms, an organization that sends boxes to troops overseas, and to individual troops that are grandsons of the dancers. As a 'thank you' for their support, troops are sending the Follies dancers a flag that flew over Baghdad, which will be displayed in the show's finale, a patriotic salute to America.
Sunday's event will also showcase special guest acts including the Starr Steppers from Rossmoor, members of the Red Hat Society dancing to "She's a Lady," as well as the vocal talents of Rick Ellis and Paulette ReNee. So for a fast paced, high-energy show that shines like no other, prepare to go golden.
For tickets or more information contact Margo Tembey at (510) 785-8097 or (925) 803-9020, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Golden Follies
Sunday, November 11
Chabot College Theatre
25555 Hesperian Blvd., Hayward