By Walter Rutledge
Dance Of the Village Elders, a program of Harlem Hospital Center and Ailey Arts in Education and Community Programs, are seniors who keep in shape by keeping in step. The dance and fitness class in residence at Harlem Hospital uses movement-based exercises to strengthen muscles, increase cardiovascular function and mobility and to have fun!
Recently the group has started performing in local Harlem based events. On Saturday, June 14 Dance of the Village Elders were part of the annual Juneteenth celebration and parade. They rode on a float in the parade and performed Satin Doll in the awards presentation and festivities. For some of the ladies it was their first time on a float in a parade. The ladies smiled and waved at the onlookers with the charm and grace of debutantes. The program reinforces the notion that new experiences are not only for the young.
On Friday, June 20 and Saturday, June 21 The Dance of the Village Elders will participate in Summer Solstice on the 125th Street Pier. The performances are presented by Dancers for a Variable Population, another program offered to seniors throughout the city. The program conceived by choreographer and founder Naomi Goldberg Haas brings together dancers of various ages and styles to create and perform a work designed especially for the pier.
Performers include Ailey dancer emeritus Dudley Williams and Loretta Abbott (who danced the Wade in the Water section of Alvin Ailey’s Revelation with Ailey until 1964) Christopher Fishburn, Naomi Goldberg Haas, Dyane Harvey, Sandra Genter, Bruce Heath, Walter Rutledge, Robin Williams and over 50 community- based seniors and professionals. They will dance to choreography by Haas, Harvey, Genter, Rutledge and Tony Award winner George Faison. Performances are scheduled for Friday at 6pm and Saturday at 5pm and 7pm.
On Sunday the Dance of the Village elders will perform in Dance Harlem in Marcus Garvey Park. The performance will also feature The Uptown Dance Academy and Forces of Nature. Showtime begins at 4pm.
In December the closing program was held at the Joan Weill Center for Dance also referred to as the Ailey School. The “Ladies” were well received by a standing room only audience of friends and well wisher. The group will return to the Ailey School for their end of year showcase on Tuesday, July 1 at 6:30pm.
The Dance of the Village Elder met twice a week for class. The class combines exercise executed both standing and sitting, and movement across the floor design to increase mobility. Classes are scheduled to resume in September.