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Dancing for fitness and fun

Riderwood on-campus dance groups win hearts

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January 24th, 2012

Riderwood has several dance groups, and for those who don t like to stay fit in the traditional way, tapping, twirling, and sashaying are great ways to keep the body healthy. With ballroom, square, line, tap, and Latin styles on the roster, there s sure to be enough variety to pique any dancer s interest. Here s just a sampling of two clubs at Riderwood, both led by people who live at the vibrant Erickson Living community in Silver Spring, Md.

The Riderettes

Frank and Shirley Robson met at a ballroom dance club at Maryland University in the 1960s, and they ve been dancing together ever since. In 2000, they created the Riderettes after they retired and wanted to pursue their true passion: line dancing. They taught on campus for five years before moving to the community themselves. With line dancing, one can integrate steps from other genres of dance. From Western line to ballroom dancing, it s a great way to open other dances otherwise limited by needing partners. Shirley develops the choreography, aiming to come up with something new every time so it s always exciting and fresh. It s great exercise, Frank says, and it helps with coordination. And since line dancing has a lot of repetition, dancers can learn by watching the person in the line in front of them. In addition to the 15-member Riderettes, the Robsons teach other groups: the Dancing Dolls, a group outside Riderwood started in 1992 that has performed more than 430 shows, and the Seasoned Players, a group of 18 at the community that blends singing with dancing. Both groups perform at Riderwood regularly. In 2011, the Seasoned Players performed a successful Elvis-themed show in the community s performing arts center. Aside from dancing, the Robsons love designing and building props for each performance. They ve designed and bulit a spaceship, jukebox, and pink Cadillac, all by hand. They both agree: We re having so much fun.

Riderwood on Tap

Another Riderwood dance group, Riderwood on Tap, combines the rhythm of dance with the slap, tap of their shoes. Six years ago, Charlotte Wagner started the group and then handed over the reins to fellow Riderwood tap dancer Pat Martens. They coordinate group practices, while an outside instructor teaches each class. Pat is no stranger to dancing. She performed on Broadway with the June Taylor Dancers and on TV shows. Though ballet was her first love, she learned tap professionally. Today, Pat taps for exercise. Tapping is as much, if not more, of a listening exercise than a looking one, she says of tappers and those who watch a performance. The feet constantly change to create different sounds. It helps with focus, coordination, balance, memory, and arthritis, and it keeps you moving. Peg Custer, who co-chairs the group with Pat, also tapped professionally with groups. They share a true passion for dance, which they pass on to the other group members. For [someone] to start learning later in life is remarkable, Pat says. In fact, their instructor learned how to tap while in her 50s, so she understands what it takes to learn the technique later in life. The tap group won first place in the 2011 Riderwood Has Talent. And this month, Prince George s Community College adds the class to its continuing education program, which is being taught at Riderwood.

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