Many are dancing those cares away CARROLL COUNTY SENIORS

THE BEAT GOES ON

January 27, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

Gail and Grace Lorenz don't dance on Tuesdays. It's their day off.

Mondays and Thursdays, they go to the Reisterstown seniors square dance. Wednesdays and Fridays, they line dance. Saturday is ballroom night. On Sundays, they dance country.

"I have danced since I was about 12 years old," Mrs. Lorenz said. "I just love dancing."

Last Sunday, they came to the hoedown at the North Carroll Senior Citizens Center in Greenmount.

Couples jitterbugged vigorously as the band played a peppy country song. When the next song, a slow tune, began, the floor filled with swaying couples.

Whether it's to country music or ballroom music, Latin or folk, dancing is a central focus of the social life of many local seniors. Dances at senior centers, Moose halls and private venues keep older dancers on their toes.

The scene Sunday might have been the dance floor of any trendy country-western club, the band any group of musicians who had played together for years, watching each other for signals and chord changes.

But all the participants -- dancers, musicians, organizers and cooks -- were area seniors.

The music Sunday was old and new country from the North Carroll Retirees' Country Band. Many in the crowd of about 70 sported bolo ties and boots. Some of the ladies wore Western shirts and skirts that flared when they twirled.

"Belly rub," said Harry Brocato, following his wife, Katie, to the dance floor.

Mr. Brocato said he and his wife, who live in Reisterstown, dance three or four times a week. "It gives me something to do," he said. "It gives me exercise, and I enjoy dancing."

Some seniors come to the dances to socialize as much as to dance.

"I came because . . . I just had to be with people, and I imagine many of the others feel the same way," said Al-Les Lanning of Hampstead, a retired teacher who taught elementary school music for 33 years.

The North Carroll Senior Citizens Center hosts its dances on Sunday afternoons. Some seniors are less comfortable driving at night.

Admission is $4, which includes a hefty lunch.

Volunteers prepare the food, and they're orchestrated by Dorothy Houff, the North Carroll Senior Center manager-coordinator. As diners pass along the buffet, Ms. Houff is up to her elbows in dishes.

"Dorothy really gets in there and works hard," said Bud Smith, 68, of Millers, who plays lead guitar and sings for the North Carroll Retirees' Country Band.

Other band members are Arthur Nash, 69, of Hampstead, who plays rhythm guitar; his brother, Chuck, 62, of Timonium, who plays bass; and Ervin Lang, 61, of Hampstead, who also plays rhythm guitar.

Mr. Smith said the band has been together about a year, but its members have played together on and off since the 1940s.

In addition to playing country songs, they play standards from the '40s, '50s and '60s. Their repertoire includes such songs as "In the Mood" and "Sweet Georgia Brown."

The band has played at every senior center in Carroll County, Mr. Smith said. Band members also have performed at many nursing homes.

He said seniors really appreciate the entertainment provided by dances. "It gives them a chance to get out and keep in touch

with the world," he said.

Elise Silex, 79, agreed. She is one of the group that car pooled from Reisterstown for the hoedown. In turn, she said, seniors from North Carroll go to Reisterstown for line- and square-dancing.

"It gives us something to do, to meet people," she said. "You cannot sit home all the time and knit."

Beverly Sharpsteen, manager of the South Carroll Senior Citizens Center in Sykesville, said doctors encourage seniors to dance as a form of exercise to help their circulation and improve mobility.

Also, she said, "Music is an expression. Dancing is an expression."

At the South Carroll center, she said, 15 people take a tap-dancing class. About 25 participate in the line-dance class, where they learn such dances as the Electric Slide, the Cowgirl Hustle and the Hitchhiker. The class is now working on the popular but intricate Achy-Breaky, which has 32 steps.

Ms. Sharpsteen said this kind of dancing helps older people feel young because these are the same dances younger people are doing.

Line-dancing also offers another benefit, she said. You don't need a partner for line dance. That means women don't have to sit out for lack of a partner, and men don't feel pressured to ask women to dance.

Nelle Schaffer of Westminster comes to North Carroll for the country dances. She and some friends travel every two weeks to Pennsylvania to dance at their favorite ballroom, the Chalet. Ms. Schaffer also takes tap class at the South Carroll center and she is still learning new ballroom steps.

"Right now, we're learning the bolero," she said. "We'll never make a living at it, but we try."

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