‘Senior Sensations’ members dance to feel great, stay fit - and spread joy

They call themselves the Senior Sensations: The eight-woman troupe of tap dancers are seniors —almost 70 to “surrounding 80″— but they’re also sunny and very serious about their mission to spread joy.

Twice a year, these area residents and their road crew take shows to nursing facilities, senior centers and other organizations across the Miami Valley, bringing happiness to others and to themselves.

“When they ask ‘When are you coming back?’ it makes you feel great,” says dancer Judy Servaites from Centerville. “The audience is just so appreciative.”

The team rehearses as a group on Mondays at a Kettering church as well as practicing at home, says artistic director and choreographer Jodi Quinn, who has been working with the group since 2018. The women study step charts and videos and practice with their props, including hats, flags and umbrellas.

Senior Sensations debuted at the Centerville Fourth of July Americana Festival in 2006, and other than a brief break during COVID years, the troupe has performed during Christmas and Summer seasons, completing 290 shows, including 16 performances in 2023. Dancer Carol Sheehan adds that the group should dance their 300th performance in 2024.

“They do a great job,” says Quinn, a dance and fitness instructor.

And Quinn is the only professional level dancer. Servaites tapped as a child and youth then decided to focus on becoming an educator. Englewood resident Phyllis Treat also tapped as a child for several years. About 60 years later she was ready to try again.

“It’s just like riding a bike,” Treat said with a laugh. She went to watch the group before joining in 2018 as well as watching videos of past shows. “I was impressed. They are all very talented.”

“I don’t know about that,” says dancer Susie Todd. “I picked up tap when the group handed me a pair of tap shoes.”

The dancers had professions before their retirements, and a desire to stay fit and get involved led them to the Senior Sensations. Todd and Servaites were educators for 30+years. Treat was a Montgomery County Courts bailiff. You’ll also find a retired pharmacist and mortgage loan originator, not to mention “domestic goddess.”

As the dancers put away their umbrellas from Singin’ in the Rain and shift into the swing hit Straighten Up and Fly Right, Quinn watches over her shoulder as the dancers follow her moves. Dances are often re-purposed, altering the steps slightly and changing the tune, says Quinn. But there are always new things to learn.

Every show has a theme, which Quinn sets when she selects the music. This Summer will be the Senior Sensations’ Greatest Hits featuring a dozen of the group’s favorite tunes and dances, including Mama Mia and Boogie Fever.

Rehearsals began in January and will continue to showtime. Dancer and marketing manager Sandy Christie, an 18-year Senior Sensations veteran, manages the schedule, taking reservations and keeping track of when troupe members are unavailable.

“We try to book no more than three times a week,” says Christie. “We space them out.”

Their all-volunteer effort includes a supporting cast, including an MC/announcer, a sound engineer who sets up and operates the troupe’s sound system, a Santa at Christmas—even several volunteer performers who keep the audiences’ toes tapping between numbers so dancers can quick-change costumes.

Dancers purchase or make their own clever costume pieces—from 1960s fringe vests to Christmas toy soldier uniforms—and add them to basic black leotards and black pants. Everyone does their own makeup.

“I probably have five or six (garment) bags of costumes in my closet,” notes Christie. To afford the necessary equipment and costume pieces, each dancer pays $5 in monthly dues. There is never a charge to organizations requesting shows, though Christie says they do take donations. And they are currently looking for a volunteer to videotape the Summer shows.

“It’s all about having fun and dancing,” Christie said. “We all love to dance.”

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