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Holiday Faces: Seasonally sassy

Sassy Classics dance troupe members (rear, l-r) Linda McKinney, 68, Shirley Dimond, 87, Sharon Norton, 75, Wendy Johnson, 72, Carole Guld, 80, and Joyce Rothchild, 75, (front, l-r) Noela Woodall, 72, Gerry Bowles, 69, Felicia Baldwin, 81, and Andrea Gardner, 76. The group has been performing together for more than 12 years, with their youngest member being 68 and the oldest 87. They perform about 25-30 shows all year long, but incorporate festive numbers around Christmas. The ladies recently performed five different numbers, with five costume changes, at a local senior living center in Raleigh.
Sassy Classics dance troupe members (rear, l-r) Linda McKinney, 68, Shirley Dimond, 87, Sharon Norton, 75, Wendy Johnson, 72, Carole Guld, 80, and Joyce Rothchild, 75, (front, l-r) Noela Woodall, 72, Gerry Bowles, 69, Felicia Baldwin, 81, and Andrea Gardner, 76. The group has been performing together for more than 12 years, with their youngest member being 68 and the oldest 87. They perform about 25-30 shows all year long, but incorporate festive numbers around Christmas. The ladies recently performed five different numbers, with five costume changes, at a local senior living center in Raleigh. clowenst@newsobserver.com

Strutting into their small performance space, the 10 members of the Sassy Classics dance troupe looked sharp in their fishnet stockings; their fitted, sparkling blazers, their silver heels and black fedoras.

Queued on the portable CD player was their first number: a medley of songs by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

Their easy, warm smiles immediately lit up the room. Their audience at a Triangle retirement community clapped along and swayed to the music. Their high kicks drew ooohs and ahhhs.

The Sassy Classics finished big and then quickly scampered down the hallway for one of their five costume changes. Working quickly to get into different stockings, leotards and skirts, the group pivoted and twisted in the cramped quarters, as if they were performing another routine.

Linda McKinney, one of the dancers, called out to the other women from the doorway, “OK, let’s go ladies.”

And down the hallway they scampered again.

Back and forth from the rec room to their changing room, costume after costume, the group worked like professionals to keep their show moving and entertaining.

Through their choreographer, Freddie Lee Heath, they have had workshops with members of the famed Rockettes, both in New York and in North Carolina. They have performed at library openings, the Miss North Carolina Pageant and on the main stage on the Carnival Fantasy cruise ship.

They have been practicing together twice a week, year-round for more than 12 years. Although a few members have passed away, the group’s bonds of sisterhood have never been broken. Brought together by their love of dance and performing, they showcase their diverse numbers for 25 to 30 groups every year.

“Dancing keeps me young,” says Shirley Dimond, 87, their oldest member, who started dancing when she was 3 years old. “And I want to be dancing to my grave. These women are more than just a dance group to me, they’re my family.”

See more faces

Watch for Holiday Faces, photographed by The News & Observer staff, throughout the holiday season. Go to nando.com/faces to see a gallery of photos.

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