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Dancing at Any Age: Bellydancing for Seniors

Posted July 30, 2014

Jennie Niles, one of the Ailey Extension’s more senior students, shares her story of how she and her friend, Lorraine Lunceford, came to be regular Shar-Qui® bellydance class takers at the Ailey Extension. Learn why, when it comes to dance, age is just a number.

For months, Jennie Niles, a midtown West resident, would often walk past the Ailey Studios on West 55th Street with a curious eye, but the activity taking place behind the glass seemed a bit too intimidating. “I live in the neighborhood, and when I would pass by, I would see from the window that the dancers were jumping up in the air and flipping all upside down. I didn’t want to be doing any of that.” Giggling, she clarified, “I didn’t think it wouldn’t be safe for me to be doing that – I’m a little over 21, you know?”

Jennie and Lorraine in class at the Ailey Studios. Photo by Danielle Padovano

She continued, “I wondered if they had classes for senior citizens there, though. So, I walked in one day and asked them, and they said that seniors are welcome to come and take classes. At first I had no idea what I wanted to take, but a friend and I had some prior experience with belly dancing classes, so it seemed like a great idea to come take it here on Fridays together. And I’m so happy that we did.”

SharQui - The Bellydance Workout®, offered Fridays at 6:30pm at the Extension, is an anatomical approach to bellydance taught by Sharon Zaslaw that can be adapted to accommodate participants of all ages and abilities. A structured, Egyptian-style form of bellydance, the technique works the entire body with emphasis on the core and focuses on everything from form and balance to strength and speed.

“I wanted to stick with bellydancing, said Jennie, “where I knew I’d be firmly planted on the ground with both feet, with my belly shaking around a little bit. I’ve been going for about two or three months now, and since I’ve been taking it I find that I feel really good physically! My joints and my muscles are limbering up. As far as I’m concerned, it’s good for the body, you know? It keeps the muscles working well.”

SharQui instructor Sharon Zaslaw and her students. Photos by Danielle Padovano

“It’s also a great mood booster, she noted, "because everybody is so friendly. That’s the thing I notice most of all. I have met some very nice and interesting people that I take the class with, whom I now call my friends."

 “I love this class and I love the teacher,” her friend Lorraine added. “The type of dancing Sharon teaches us is very natural and safe. That means there is no pain, which is absolutely marvelous.”

When asked whether she had any advice for younger people, Jennie exclaimed, “Oh yes! Keep dancing young people! [Laughs] Keep dancing and you’ll live to be my age, hopefully.”

Learn more about SharQui - The Bellydance Workout® with instructor Sharon Zaslaw, offered Fridays from 6:30-8pm at the Ailey Extension. View information about about class discounts for seniors ages 60+.