Cary News

Dancers show age is just a number

The members of the REX Grand Dance Troop proved Tuesday that you’re never too old to get down.

The group of about a dozen dancers – all members of the REX Wellness Center in Cary – joked and carried on before performing for the residents at the UNC REX Nursing Care & Rehabilitation Center in Apex. Posing for pictures and giggling as they tripped over each other and practiced in the cramped space, they hoped to show that youth is nothing but a mindset. The members’ ages start at 40 and go upward from there.

“(We) just want to share the joy of dance, and have fun,” said Cindy Shackelford, 59, a dancer from Cary. “It’s all about having fun. You can communicate so much through dance, and it’ll help exercise, too.”

The group is relatively new, and the Apex performance was only its second one. Judy Jackson, operations manager of REX Wellness Center of Cary, started the group in May.

Their main purpose is to blend fun and exercise and exhibit that to others, Jackson said. The group plans to perform at other local senior centers.

“There are a lot of people that don’t quite relate fun and exercise in the same conversation,” said Jackson, who is also a fitness instructor.

Ultimately, she said, it’s a reason to prove that there’s no age limit on activity. She said she wants to break down the stigma associated with aging. Your youth is yours to decide, she said.

“The key for me is, you know, younger kids have recitals all the time, and they’re excited and they want to perform in front of people,” Jackson said. “People that are a little bit older are no different. So, if they can get up and perform to an audience that will enjoy it, they’re just as excited.”

The dancers, clad in matching bright yellow shirts and black fedoras, danced to a succession of songs – all upbeat and recognizable. They did their best Michael Jackson impression to “Billie Jean,” then transitioned directly into “Uptown Funk,” then to Elvis’ “Hound Dog,” which received a particularly loud reaction from the audience of mostly elderly women.

“Don’t ever put on an Elvis song around me,” said Frances Pendergraph, a resident at the center. “Because I will jump up!”

And she did. She joined in dancing as the music moved on to more interactive songs, like the Macarena and the Chicken Dance. Other residents, many of them in wheelchairs, joined in by twisting their torsos and moving their arms, all while laughing.

“The residents had a blast because they got up and they danced, and they smiled and it just made their day,” said Rosanna Granado, 64, a dancer from Cary. She is a retired REX staff member. “We had just as much fun.”

Sharon Pace, 69, of Apex, said she joined the group because “each person can make a difference.”

“Young or old, or whatever, it’s nice to make people happy and see them smile,” Pace said.

Granado joked that the group’s members know they’re not amazing dancers, but their love for dance shines through.

“We don’t know what we’re doing, we’re not professionals,” she said. “We’re just having fun, and we just love to move and make people happy.”

Paige Connelly: 919-460-2609; @pconnellly