Good Life

Silver Spurs members ‘jam down memory lane’

Ginny Mulhatten leads a line dance during a Silver Spurs Line Dancers rehearsal at the Nittany Mall on Feb. 10.
Ginny Mulhatten leads a line dance during a Silver Spurs Line Dancers rehearsal at the Nittany Mall on Feb. 10. nmark@centredaily.com

Editor’s note: The following is part of the Active Life special section.

In organizer Ginny Mulhatten’s 15 years with the Silver Spurs Line Dancers, there’s only been one guy in the group.

And he became a lucky one a few years ago, she said.

“He was the only man, and someone snatched him up,” Mulhatten said.

He met a woman in the troupe who, like him, was widowed, and after two years, they tied the knot.

The couple wasn’t present during a practice in mid-February at the Community Room of the Nittany Mall, so Mulhatten didn’t want to reveal their names.

But she said that’s just one example of the camaraderie there is when you’re a Silver Spur.

And they don’t let years, joint replacements or snow birds get in the way of performing.

The group

The dance group was formed about 30 years ago by a group of women in a cancer support group.

Silver Spurs Line Dancers was founded 30 years ago with 6 members

Mulhatten, 72, said it started with about six women, but now has 23 members, and is sponsored by the Centre County Office of Aging and the Centre Region Senior Center, which is operated by Centre Region Parks and Recreation Authority.

However, not all members participate in shows.

Mulhatten said about 15 women are actively involved in the more than 20 performances the group participates in each year.

“I think for a lot of women, it starts out as exercise and then grows on them,” Mulhatten said. “We do line dances, but it’s much more than country-western songs.”

It’s also much more than just physical activity.

Health benefits

Members such as Rita Berg, Sandy Kline, Jackie Varner and Joan Vincent said they each joined because it keeps them social.

“Sure it’s exercise, but we also make friends,” Kline said. “It’s social, we laugh a lot and have a good time, and it’s something you don’t need a partner for. There are so many benefits.”

Mulhatten also said some seniors use it as physical therapy after surgery.

We have members who’ve had knee and hip replacements, double knee replacements, and it’s very easy on your limbs so you can keep moving without overexerting yourself.

Ginny Mulhatten, Silver Spurs Line Dancers organizer

“We have members who’ve had knee and hip replacements, double knee replacements, and it’s very easy on your limbs so you can keep moving without overexerting yourself,” Mulhatten said.

For some, like Vincent, it’s also a way to keep your mind going.

“You have to at least be a little bit coordinated,” she said with a laugh. “But you need to learn the steps that go with the music, so you’re using different parts of your body and brain at the same time.”

The oldest member is 80 and the youngest member is in her late 50s, and members come from as far as Lewistown to dance with the group.

“We take anyone who wants to join us,” Mulhatten said.

Practice makes perfect

The group meets three times a week for one-hour practices — normally on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Positioned in three lines, the dancers take their assigned spots and practice the dances that Mulhatten said are “very basic.”

During a practice last month, the group danced to songs like “Drinkin’ Bone,” “Baby Burlesque,” “9 to 5” “Wagon Wheel” and “All About that Bass.”

They shuffled, kicked, pivoted, did ball-change steps and swayed their hips in sync with the music and each other.

Generally in practice, Mulhatten will speak the step that comes next so beginners can catch on.

And for those new members, the best advice veteran dancers like Varner has is to “stick with it.”

“We’re all so good, but it wasn’t always like that,” said Varner, who’s been dancing for about four years.

The hit by Meghan Trainor, “All About that Bass,” also had the ladies in a discussion about the lyrics being controversial, yet encouraging to women who don’t have the physique of a model.

“You see,” Berg said with a laugh, “We’re much more than just dancing.”

Breaking it down

With some women who flee to states with warmer weather during the winter, the group is sometimes left with a few missing members.

Mulhatten said most members she called “snowbirds” go to Florida or Arizona.

But there are still usually enough dancers to put on a live public performance.

The group is organized by Mulhatten, Jill Anderson and Cordy Swinton, who have their own responsibilities.

Anderson, who is in Florida, generally brings back new dances. Swinton choreographs the routine, and Mulhatten teaches the steps to the other members.

“We all have something to do, and Cordy’s job might be the most important, because she translates the steps from paper to foot,” Mulhatten said.

Each verse comes with a set of steps that are repeated every certain beat.

But Swinton said it’s all in the music.

You just get a feel for the steps as soon as the song comes on. You can find that rhythm — just let the music tell you what to do.

Cordy Swinton, Silver Spurs organizer

“You just get a feel for the steps as soon as the song comes on,” she said. “You can find that rhythm — just let the music tell you what to do.”

The dances are pre-choreographed from a website that provides steps to songs, but Silver Spurs sometimes puts their own twist on them in the form of arm motions and hip rotations.

And the showmanship is all part of how they perform in a live show.

Performances

Each show has a theme and is tailored to the audience.

Mulhatten said they have different songs and dances for people they perform for in nursing homes, and then those they perform for the general public, like at summer’s People’s Choice Festival in Boalsburg.

In February, the group had Mardi Gras- and Valentine’s-themed shows. They also have annual dances during the holidays and perform at Relay for Life events.

But what some members said is the most rewarding is being able to help bring a smile to others.

Mulhatten said Silver Spurs are part of a memory enhancement program with local nursing homes that serve people with Alzheimer’s.

The group calls their performances “jamming down memory lane.”

“We keep it fresh,” Mulhatten said. “They don’t remember a lot, but we try to dance to songs they recognize, and we often see them smile or start singing along and moving in their seat like they remember. ... It keeps us young, but it can sometimes help others, too.”

That, Mulhatten said, is the best part.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo

For more information

Contact: Centre Region Senior Center, 231-3076

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