At 87, Pauline Clark proves that you're never too old to dream — no matter how out of reach that dream may seem. When Freedom Inn of Countryside's activity director asked the resident what she'd like to do if given the opportunity, Clark gave her an amazing answer. "I'd like to dance with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall."
Linda Mason-Allen would have to get back with her on that, but within a few months, it had all been arranged: Clark was on a plane to the Big Apple with her best friend's daughter, Janet Motz, 65. The pair would enjoy two nights at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Secaucus, N.J., and a Dec. 8 performance of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, a holiday extravaganza featuring the world-famous Rockettes.
Later that afternoon Clark would participate in the Rockettes Experience, a half-day workshop for aspiring dancers. She is the oldest person to ever do so, a Rockettes representative confirmed.
During the experience, Clark and some others were taught a simple routine by Rockette Lindsey Howe. They kicked and saluted like toy soldiers as Tchaikovsky's March of the Toy Soldiers played in the background.
"I had my brand-new tap shoes on and they called my name," Clark recalled. "I set my walker aside and did some kicks this way, then that way.
"It was like I was in a dream."
Her lifelong desire to dance with the Rockettes was made possible by Brookdale Senior Living, parent company of Freedom Inn, and Wish of a Lifetime Foundation, a nonprofit organization established in 2008 by two-time Olympic skier and former NFL football player Jeremy Bloom (seniorwish.org).
The organizations make seniors' wishes come true.
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Pauline Clark took her first dance lesson from her big brother, Riley, when she was only 7.
"He didn't want me to go to dances and be a wallflower," she said. "We'd roll up the carpet on the living room floor and just dance. We'd tango, jitterbug, rumba, waltz. We did them all."
As a young woman, she taught dance at a USO center, and later, at an Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Tallahassee.
Then came marriage and children, and it seemed as if her days spent tripping the light fantastic were over.
"I married two men with two left feet," she said. "I could shove them around, but they couldn't really dance."
Through the years, her love of the art form never died.
Mason-Allen remembers the day Clark's daughter-in-law brought her to live at Freedom Inn. The silver-haired octogenarian still knew how to make an entrance.
"We were having happy hour and Pauline came in wiggling her hips with a big smile on her face," Mason-Allen said.
"I knew this lady had rhythm. I thought, 'This is going to be fun.' "
Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at [email protected]