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Senior Dance Teams Score With NBA Fans

Pro basketball teams welcome performers age 50-plus and their energetic hip-hop routines

Senior Dance Teams Score With NBA Fans

— AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Men in the minority

Golden Grannies is a women's squad. Other senior squads welcome men, although they tend to be outnumbered by females. "It's actually quite an honor. I get to be the only guy in a whole harem of beautiful women," says Ronnie Churchill, 58, of Luling, La., a retired chemical plant operator who dances with the New Orleans Hornets' Used to Bees. His wife, Irma Netting, a 54-year-old attorney, has a different role—she's the squad's unofficial photographer.

"When a bunch of seniors come out on the court, you expect them to dance like seniors," explains Used to Bees manager and choreographer Ashley Deaton. So yes, they do the twist, thumping to their generation's beat. When they switch to the music of Lady Gaga and Beyoncé and other top hits, that's when the crowd goes wild. "They're someone's grandparents," says Deaton, 33. "And they're doing the kind of moves kids are doing nowadays in the clubs."

Practices are held once or twice a week, depending on the squad. "Obviously, they have to be physically fit to get through their two-hour rehearsals, but we've had dancers of all shapes and sizes—and ages," says Kimberlee Garris, 31, entertainment manager for the New Jersey Nets.

Joe Bianco, 66, has danced with the NETSational Seniors for "four wonderful years." This will be his fifth. "It's a way to meet people socially and get exercise at the same time," says Bianco, of Ramsey, N.J., who is married and co-owns a commercial real estate firm. He was the lone male dancer in Gotta Dance, a 2008 documentary filmed about the squad when it got off the ground. Since then, a few "fellas" have joined in the fun.

Gotta Dance filmmaker Dori Berinstein, 48, wanted to make a movie that celebrated life and aging. When she saw a newspaper notice for senior dance auditions with the Nets, "I thought this could be it," she recalls. She hopes to develop a Broadway show with the same theme—emphasizing that it's never too late to chase your dreams.

Susan Kreimer is a writer in New York.

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