Friday, January 19, 2018
Stage

UT dance workshops let residents of senior complex cut loose

Martha Stratford does a shimmy wobble, Joan Echols a curtsey, Angela McKennelly a party move. What do these three women have in common?

They're all related, and they're all part of the University of Tampa dance series at the Ella senior apartment complex.

A small, diverse group of seniors living at the complex that is part of Encore, a redevelopment community just north of downtown's urban core, are participating in the creative movement/community dance workshops, including one family spanning three generations: Stratford, a grandmother who turned 102 this month; Echols, her daughter; and McKennelly, her granddaughter.

"We like that we have multiple generations, lots of different colors," said Susan Taylor Lennon, director of University of Tampa's dance program.

Lennon leads the workshops, which run Fridays through March 21, from 2 to 3 p.m., with the exception of March 14, when the university is on spring break.

"We just come here for an hour to play," Lennon said.

She starts the play by asking the group, "What's your move?" They respond with moves reflecting things that they like to do, from a swimming motion, to kicking their feet up and lifting their hands back as if they're floating.

The song Freedom by Mixed Company was a good fit because the workshops are about encouraging freedom of expression through dance.

Another highlight was when seniors danced to what Lennon calls the "down and dirty" song, Let's Get It On by Marvin Gaye. By dancing to that song, she said, the residents could allow themselves to let go and relieve stress.

"It's fun," said McKennelly. "We like to express ourselves."

"I love music. I love dance. I love everything," resident Eneida Hernandez added.

The UT students say they enjoy the experience as well and they've also learned life lessons from working with their elders.

"I have learned that you are never too old to get up and dance and have fun with it," student Natalie Osayande said.

"I have learned a lot of history just by talking to a few of them and hearing about their past," another dance student, Laura Remillard said. "Also, I think it has helped me grow as a dancer.

Dance student Alyssa Fessett added, "Their personalities don't fade over time, and they still love to express themselves. Honestly, they have more confidence than most 20-year-olds I know, and I hope to fully embrace that type of self-esteem as I age."

The workshops will help prepare residents for possible participation in the Urban Bush Women community engagement residency at UT March 25-31.

A dance company of women of color based in New York, Urban Bush Women, works as both a performing company and a leadership institute, leading and implementing community engagement programs throughout the country.

   
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