It started out small, with a handful of students looking to shuffle their way through retirement. Back then their teacher, Pat Griebel, was semiretired herself and looking for something to fill her downtime.
Word got around about the senior dance lessons Griebel was offering in community club houses, and pretty soon the little troupe began to grow — so much so that she started taking her dancers on the road.
In its heyday, there were 60 seniors, with an average age of 62, hoofing it up in civic and community centers and assisted living centers and at their annual show, "The Silver Follies Revue." Now in its 18th year, the troupe has dwindled some, to 28 students who range from 64 to 83 years of age.
Even so, they average about 20 local performances a year in addition to "the big show."
This year's Silver Follies Revue is about two hours long (including intermission) and will feature a salute to Fred Astaire. Other numbers include Minnie the Moocher, I Want To Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart and a fan favorite featuring grandmothers dancing with their grandchildren in Hey Daddy.
It looks to be a fun time with some rather colorful costume changes.
Think rainbow colored skirts and tops, I Dream of Jeannie-type costumes for a sultan's number, top hats and tails and a fair share of sequins.
"At this age (each costume change) takes us a while," Ann Poole, 72, said with a chuckle. She "started from scratch," as Griebel would say, having purchased her very first pair of tap shoes 11 years ago. Since then, Poole has been going strong, continuing the gig even after her own granddaughters outgrew the stint on stage a few years ago. "What can I say? I'm having a ball."
"I love it — just love it," said Carole Turner, 75, who was named for actor Carole Lombard and is now in her 10th year with the troupe. She had some prior experience performing, having danced as a Sparkelette in her younger years in Bridgeport, Conn.
"I think the camaraderie and the music is tremendous and especially the enthusiasm," said Donna Harris, 75, who has earned the admiration of her fellow dancers for returning to the troupe after having both knees replaced.
No doubt it's a fun group, with dancers laughing and cracking wise when Griebel tells them that, on the night of the show, she doesn't want to see any wrinkles on stage.
"Of course I was talking about the costumes," she said with a laugh. "I just wanted to make sure they ironed their skirts before the show."
And while there have been lots of laughs, the tappers have also seen each other through some hard times.
When Griebel's husband, Richard, who served as master of ceremonies, passed away a couple of years ago, the troupe stepped up in a big way.
"Every single one of those girls was there for me," Griebel said. "They really kept me going."
That's the way it is. As always, the show must go on.
Michele Miller can be reached at [email protected]