Getting the Show on the Road
The South County Senior ShowStoppers want you to know they’re more than just belly dancers. Shimmying seniors on Social Security may be what gets the variety troupe noticed, but this diverse bunch has more than swiveling hips to recommend them. The troupe has earned the Governor’s Leadership in Aging Award for Performing Arts, recognizing outstanding contributions to quality of life and the field of aging.
“People are pleasantly surprised at the level of talent we have,” says ShowStoppers director Joanne DeWilde. “We’re putting smiles on people’s faces and lighting someone’s day up.”
Started four years ago as a senior center variety act, the troupe has entertained throughout Anne Arundel County with belly dance, tap, guitar music, lip-syncing, comedy and more. Under the motto We aspire to inspire before we expire, the group shows audiences that age is nothing but a number.
While the belly dancers get the press, each act has its own fans. It’s hard to qualify exactly what makes a ShowStopper, because the definition gets broader with every performance.
As director, DeWilde’s job is to keep the shows innovative. “When I’m supposed to be sleeping, I jump up with an idea,” DeWilde says. “One of the new acts is the Harmony GRITS, and they are the better singers in the group.”
New acts are only part of the ShowStoppers’ future. DeWilde wants to take them on tour.
“We’ve been to six counties, and we would like to expand to hit every county in Maryland,” she explains.
Alas, to go on the road, you need money, and the ShowStoppers come up short for the expense of a van. They perform for minimal costs, guaranteeing that a wider audience is able to enjoy them. During the months of November and December, profits are donated to SCAN Food Bank.
If it’s not the riches, what keeps the group going?
“The ShowStoppers mean a great deal to people,” explains DeWilde, who gets most of her new performers from the audience. “We started out with maybe 20 performers. We’re up to over 40 now.”
You don’t have to sing like Aretha or swivel like Shakira to join.
“We have some who are Showstoppers and some who are occasional Showstoppers. I don’t exclude anybody,” DeWilde says. “You don’t have to be a great talent.”
Members come to two meetings and practices each month. They perform two shows a month, too, making the rounds from St. Mary’s to Glen Burnie.
“There’s a lot of hours and money spent on gas in this,” says DeWilde. “You know we enjoy what we’re doing.”
Keep an eye out for the ShowStoppers, coming soon to a stage near you.