Danc­ing away the Golden Years

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Ma­gog

I think I may have dis­cov­ered the prover­bial ‘foun­tain of youth’ in Ma­gog, last Fri­day, and it looked like a pair of tap-danc­ing shoes. I vis­ited the Janann Dance Stu­dio to meet with the stu­dio’s owner, Rachel Pagé, and her

two most se­nior tap-danc­ing stu­dents: France Dion, of Ma­gog, and Boyn­ton’s An­drée Clorenger Kemp, both in their sev­en­ties. To­gether, the three dancers put on free dance per­for­mances at se­niors res­i­dences and for other so­cial or­ga­ni­za­tions, both en­ter­tain­ing their au­di­ences as well as in­spir­ing them.

“We’ve given per­for­mances in Granby, Sher­brooke, Mon­treal, Outremont and Ma­gog,” said France, who be­gan tap­ping at 67. “Up to now, we have per­formed in twenty res­i­dences across south­ern Que­bec,” com­mented An­drée who was a lit­tle younger, 66, when she first put on a pair of tap shoes.

I was treated to a per­for­mance my­self in the stu­dio on St. Pa­trice Street, and I couldn’t have been more im­pressed. The two women in their sev­en­ties, I can’t call them old af­ter watch­ing them dance, tap-danced three chore­ogra­phies, with style and grace, like dancers half their age. They are nicely com­pli­mented by their teacher who is an ex­cel­lent dancer, up­dat­ing her train­ing reg­u­larly in the United States.

How th­ese two sep­tu­age- nar­i­ans first be­gan tap-danc­ing al­most seven years ago is a heart-warm­ing ex­am­ple of the power of friend­ship. “At the end of Au­gust my el­dest sis­ter passed away. A few days later on my way to a nurs­ery to buy plants with France, she asked me if it was my time to leave this earth, was there any dream I had not yet re­al­ized. Af­ter a short pe­riod of re­flec­tion, I an­swered that the only thing I wish I had done was tap­danc­ing. It had been a dream of mine since I was a lit­tle girl,” ex­plained Mrs. Kemp.

With­out An­drée’s knowl­edge, France con­tacted dance in­struc­tor Rachel Pagé and asked her: “Would you teach two old ladies to tap dance?”

“At first we did a lot of ex­er­cises and we had to work on their equi­lib­rium. One of the first things I taught them was to put their weight down on the in­sides of their feet; this would min­i­mize the chance of any knee or hip in­jury,” com­mented Rachel who has been a dance in­struc­tor at the Ma­gog stu­dio for six­teen years, danc­ing and chore­ograph­ing much longer. She took over the dance stu­dio from her mother who founded it thirty-two years ago. “They are now both good dancers and they’ve kept their own style,” she added.

Tak­ing up tap-danc­ing at such a late stage in life has proven to be, be­sides a lot of fun, quite ben­e­fi­cial. “It’s so healthy to dance,” said Mrs. Dion who takes lessons three times a week. “We wish ev­ery­one could do it. It gives you con­fi­dence, gives you a good shape, and gives you lots of en­ergy.”

“My bone den­sity has im­proved,” said An­drée who was once at risk to de­velop os­teo­poro­sis. “Dance class is my best hour of the week – je sors mon fou! I can’t be­lieve that, at this age, some­thing could trans­form me. I had a stroke in 1999 that left me par­a­lyzed for half a day; I couldn’t even re­mem­ber phone num­bers for about six months. I can’t be­lieve it when I look in the mir­ror and I’m so thank­ful that I’m not in a wheel­chair,” com­mented An­drée who must write down all the in­tri­cate steps of the chore­ogra­phies and prac­tice them ev­ery day to re­tain them in her me­mory.

“When you dance reg­u­larly your health be­comes stronger- you even ab­sorb vi­ta­mins and min­er­als bet­ter. The more you move the more your mind im­proves, too. And hav­ing to re­mem­ber all the chore­ogra­phies is good for the brain,” added Ms. Pagé.

More re­cently, France was able to con­vince Ms. Pagé to be­gin teach­ing her clas­si­cal bal­let. This led to the dance teacher start­ing a begin­ners’ bal­let class for peo­ple in the ‘ troisieme age’, a class that is now full! “Study­ing bal­let has given me more grace and con­trol of my move­ments,” said Mrs. Dion.

Fol­low­ing the dance demon­stra­tion, France ex­plained where she got the idea to put on per­for­mances in se­niors res­i­dences. “We used to visit se­nior res­i­dences to give away books and our games ev­ery year,” said France who has co-au­thored many bird books and cre­ated ed­u­ca­tional games with her hus­band, An­dré Dion. “I would of­ten think of those peo­ple; it really means some­thing to me.”

“Do­ing the per­for­mances has also had ben­e­fits for France and An­drée. France has devel­oped her stage pres­ence and An­drée has devel­oped her con­fi­dence,” men­tioned their teacher who also en­joys per­form­ing for the se­niors.

Th­ese three dancers would love to per­form, free of charge, at se­niors res­i­dences in the re­gion. “We’re ready to go and we’re happy to go!” con­cluded Mrs. Dion. If you’d like the dancers to visit your se­niors res­i­dence, con­tact France Dion at 819 868-9094 or at diofranc@cgo­ca­ble.ca.

Photo Jour­nal

p. 12

Seen from left to right are Rachel Pagé, An­dreé Clorenger Kemp and France Dion as they prac­tice a tap-danc­ing rou­tine at Janann Dance Stu­dio, in Ma­gog.

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