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Better with Age

Senior ShowStoppers dance circles around stereotypes

Jean Milazzo leads a line of belly dancers.

Sultry women draped in gossamer, adorned with trinkets and coins, shimmy their hips on the main stage. All the women gyrating are over 70; some are in their early 80s. These members of Joanne DeWilde’s belly dancing troupe are just a fraction of the elite entertainment group called The Senior ShowStoppers.

 

Phyllis Laser and husband Larry dance the Tennessee Waltz.

 

The ShowStoppers tour Anne Arundel County with an eclectic performance featuring musicians, singers, line dancers, magicians, guitar players, joke tellers, tap dancers and belly dancers — indeed, anyone with any talent who wants to perform.

“We aspire to inspire before we expire,” says DeWilde, the head of the group.

 

Act I

When DeWilde came to the Edgewater Senior Center to teach belly dancing three years ago, her classes became the hot ticket at the center, with ladies lined up to learn the proper ways to shake and jiggle. Mid-Eastern dancing became a highlight of the ShowStoppers, founded by Vicki Smith of the Talent Machine, and DeWilde shimmied into the position of director.

DeWilde now arranges ShowStoppers tours, booking the group to appear twice a month at public venues from senior centers to county fairs.

In August, the group took a break from touring to “rest from the heat.”

Now that September has cooled the climate, the ShowStoppers are back with a new variety act.

 

Heidi Kammer performs country, pop and classic songs.

 

Act II

“My belly dancers are a hot item when the ShowStoppers hit the road,” DeWilde says.

But there is more to the group than seductive hip shakes. The ShowStoppers seek to inspire their audiences by proving that getting older doesn’t mean getting out of step.

Recovered stroke patient Phyllis Laser embraces her husband Larry as they twirl to the Tennessee Waltz. “Can’t keep me off the floor. It’s my life,” Phyllis Laser says.

Peg Colt is the group’s comedienne, bringing down the house with jokes and bits. Lip-synching her comedy act to Patsy Kline’s “She’s Got You,” with each phrase she plucks from beneath her blouse … a pack of CDs … a man’s tie … an old shirt … and a pair of Superman underwear. 

Colt says the act was DeWilde’s idea, and at first she was doubtful. Now, she says, “I can’t tap or belly dance, but I still wanted to be part of the show. This act has kept me going.” 

The Lasers and Colt discovered their stage presence in ShowStoppers. The troupe also brings professionals back to the stage to perform with the same gusto they brought to their working years.

Retired U.S. Navy Band singer Heidi Kammer belts out country, pop and classic songs. Ballet Dancer Joyce Clautice, 1999’s Miss Senior America, performs choreography to familiar songs such as “Pretty Woman.”

“I love what I do,” Clautice says.

 

Special Guest Stars

On occasion, the ShowStoppers invite special guests to perform.

Sheriff Ron Bateman joins the ladies of the troupe.

At the Arnold Senior Center performance, Anne Arundel County Sheriff Ron Bateman wowed the audience with his version of Aaron Neville’s love song “Angola Bound.” The uniformed Bateman brought a blush to female faces as he gazed into their eyes while he crooned away. Bateman says he loves karaoke and admits to singing when on patrol.

Humans aren’t the only ShowStoppers. Sheba, a mixed shepherd rescued from Hurricane Katrina, accompanies Butch Boswell while he sings and plays guitar.

 

The Finale

ShowStoppers clockwise from top left: Eileen O’Neil, Maggie Collins, Orlin Cantrell, Mahal May, Phyliss Bilhuber and Mary Lou Brown.

As each show comes to an end, the audience is invited to sing along with “God Bless America,” followed by all the performers singing and dancing to a tongue-in-cheek version of The Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive.”

They’ll do it all again, two weeks hence, and all for free.

“To bring a smile, a twinkle in someone’s eye, a laugh, see a foot tapping along, is our payment,” says DeWilde.

Catch sultry sirens troupe belly dancing at Annmarie Garden’s Artsfest, Sept. 19.