12/28/17 O&A NYC DANCE/HEALTH AND WELLNESS: The Village Elders Celebrate First Year In New Home

By Walter Rutledge

The Dance Of The Village Elders ended their first fall session at St. Philip’s Church with a performance and a party. The dance and fitness program, which began in 2010, was forced to disband in 2015. In February 2017 the program reorganized as a “Fitness Cooperative”, and relocated to St. Philip’s Church, 204 West 134th Street.

We didn’t have any funds, but we had the will to stay together; so money became the least important reason not to work together. St. Philip’s Church came to the rescue offering us space in the Harlem community, which kept to program accessible to many of our participants. On Thursday December 14 the “Ladies” presented a holiday celebration demonstration/performance to a standing room only crowd of family and friends. The 60 minute presentation, which included a warm up with audience participation, and performances by the Ladies and Three Jazz Kings (Andrew Damakakos, Bless Goode and Judah Marable) courtesy of the Dance Program at Harlem School of the Arts.

Dance Of The Village Elders- Santa Baby excerpt

The celebration continued the following Thursday, December 21, during our last class  Everyone brought a dish, and I shifted responsibilities from instructor to disc- jockey. This is always one of my favorite sessions it gives us an opportunity to fellowship. Everyone is relaxed and even more jovial than usual,  still reveling in the success of our performance a week earlier. 

We will resume classes on Thursday January 4, 2018 2- 3:30pm. The classes are free to the public and all are welcome. Have a happy holiday season and a prosperous New Year! We hope to see you in January. 


10/17/17 O&A NYC DANCE/ HEALTH AND WELLNESS: The Dance of The Village Elders Leap Forward With Fitness

The Dance of The Village Elders resumed classes at St. Phillips Episcopal Church (204 west 134th street) in early September. After a few weeks of getting back “in step” strength/resistance training was added to the weekly dance and fitness regiment. “CoCo (aka Coline) mentioned that she had joined a gym and wanted some advice on using free weights properly. Based on the conversation we decided to add strength and resistance training to our class”, states director Walter Rutledge. “We chose the resistance bands because they provide an efficient way to build and strengthen muscles without adding undue stressing the joints and ligaments.”

The 90-minutes class presently takes place on Thursday afternoons beginning at 2pm. It incorporates stretching and breathing, calisthenics, aerobics and dance/choreography. The class is “senior specific” designed to encourage and assist each individual reach their personal best.

More important Dance Of The Village Elders addresses the challenges associated with aging such as loss of motor skills, hand eye coordination, short-term memory,  and mobility and balance issues. The classes are offered free to the public. Dance Of The Village Elders will present their holiday fellowship fundraiser on Thursday December 14, 6pm at St. Phillips Episcopal Church. For more information contact Walter Rutledge at (917) 744- 2601.








1/23/17 O&A NYC DANCE: The Dance Of The Village Elders Returns To Harlem

By Walter Rutledge

The Dance Of The Village Elders, dance and fitness class for seniors, returns to Harlem after an eighteen-month hiatus. The classes will be held on Thursdays at 2pm. beginning February 2, 2017 at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, 204 West 134th Street.  The classes run thru the end of June, culminating with a performance/fund raiser given by the senior participants.

The program conceived by former Program Coordinator Monique Hedmann began offering classes for seniors in 2010 at Harlem Hospital. Ailey teaching artists Wendy Amos, Ethel Calhoun and Walter Rutledge each taught 12-week sessions in 2010 and 2011. The program was suspended in 2012 due to funding restrictions, but returned in 2013 with Rutledge as the primary teacher.

Under Rutledge’s tenure the program expanded to include a performing element. Over the next year the Dance Of The Village Elders began to build a loyal following within the Harlem community. This culminated in 2015 with; overflow crowds at their bi-annual performances, guest performances with Dancers For A Variable Population and Dance Harlem, and guest artists (and dance legends) Dudley Williams, Loretta Abbott and Dyane Harvey, who enhanced the performances with solid yet subtle artistry. The Dance of the Village Elders was quickly becoming one of Harlem’s new breakout boutique dance companies. Then the music stopped.

Harlem Hospital Auxiliary had generously funded part of the 2014/15 season. The remaining third of the funds came from money raised by the seniors through their spring performance. As we negotiated for funds of the fall/spring 2015/16 season the Auxiliary chose to go in a different direction. The Ailey Arts In Education Community Programs graciuosly offered to pursue funding sources, but nothing materialized. The program officially ended.

The classes may have stopped, but the camaraderie between the “Ladies” seemed to only get stronger. Many are tech savvy and we have became friends on Facebook, or on line, others reach out by telephone, while some attend dance events discussed in O&A NYC Magazine. Despite the class ending our bond is strong and we have stayed a family.

This made me more determined to find a way to keep my Ladies dancing. I realized that money (or in this case the lack of money) was the least important reason not to do something. So we adopted the belief let’s dance in the third verse of We Shall Overcome – “God is on my side”. We decide to treat the Dance Of The Village Elders as a movement/fitness cooperative. Simply put we would raise the money and take control of the fate of the program.

St. Philip’s Episcopal Church  204 West 134th Street, Harlem, Manhattan

St. Philip’s Episcopal Church has always been forward thinking and the close proximity to our former location (St. Philip’s is located at 204 West 134th Street between Adam Clayton Jr. Boulevard and Frederick Douglass Boulevard) made the church ideal for the new class. The church recognized the importance of the program and the positive effect it will have on their congregation and the Harlem community- class begins February 2 at 2pm. Thank you St. Philip’s!!!!!

The 90-minute class will be free to the public. The only prerequisite is that you are striving to be a better you. We open with a warm up that uses breath and relaxation, then address participant concerns with motor skills, balance and mobility, strength and conditioning exercises, and we finish with movement and choreography. The music is from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s so you can sing along or just reminisce where you were when the Chairman of the Board asked us to, “Give Me Just A Little More Time”.

Dance Of The Village Elders 2017 Fundraiser

If you are interested in joining the Dance Of The Village Elders we meet on Thursdays, 2pm at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, 204 West 134th Street. There are no start dates or attendance policy, and the only commitments you need to make is when you do attend have a good time. We attend to make Harlem dance. For more information contact Walter Rutledge by telephone at 917-744-2601 or email him at walterutledge@gmail.com.

3/24/15 O&A: Only In The Darkness Can You See The Stars- Dance Of The Village Elders Perform Friday


The Harlem Hospital Auxiliary, in partnership with the Ailey Arts In Education & Community Programs, presents The Dance Of The Village Elders in Only In The Darkness Can You See The Stars on Friday, March 27; 6pm in the Herbert Cave Auditorium located on the 2nd floor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Pavilion at Harlem Hospital Center, 560 Lenox Avenue at 135 Street. The program title Only In The Darkness Can You See The Stars was a statement made by Martin Luther King Jr. during the bleakest days of the civil rights struggle. Continue reading