Cal­en­dar Girls

Em­pow­er­ing the com­mu­nity and each other

Cape Coral Living - - Cape Departmens - BY RENEÉ NOVELLE

Kather­ine Shortlidge was easy to spot. As she walked into the restau­rant, the move­ment of her lean frame ex­uded poise and grace. Wear­ing a youth­ful side pony­tail and a black T-shirt with the words “Cal­en­dar Girls” em­bla­zoned on the front, her face lit up in a wide, warm smile as she greeted me from across the room. The self-de­scribed “jock” who played Di­vi­sion 1 bas­ket­ball for Penn State—prior to com­plet­ing mul­ti­ple mas­ter’s de­grees and teach­ing gifted chil­dren for 35 years—now calmly em­bod­ies her new role as di­rec­tor of one of South­west Florida’s most pop­u­lar dance teams. Founded in 2006, the Cal­en­dar Girls bor­rowed their name from the pop­u­lar 2003 movie when form­ing their team. And true to in­spi­ra­tion, they adopted a char­i­ta­ble cause. At the time of my in­ter­view, the group had raised enough money to spon­sor 16 world-class guide dogs that would be given to veter­ans through the Paws for Pa­tri­ots or­ga­ni­za­tion of Pal­metto, Florida. And they're al­most ready to spon­sor the 17th, which they'll name An­chor. At a cost of nearly $60,000 to spon­sor just one

puppy, the en­deavor is im­pres­sive by any stan­dard. “It’s a tan­gi­ble gift,” Shortlidge ex­plains. “When you give to the United Way, or what­ever, you don’t see what you’re get­ting.” But with Paws for Pa­tri­ots, the ladies not only get to see their gift, but in­ter­act with it as well. “We field trip there a cou­ple times a year, and they love us.” The dogs visit their per­for­mances as well. “When we per­form, our cus­tomers see the dogs that we’re spon­sor­ing, and they’re more gen­er­ous be­cause they see ex­actly what we’re do­ing. And that we’re do­ing it for a veteran,” Shortlidge notes. Team member Kris Brey­ley was con­vinced to join the ranks af­ter watch­ing such a per­for­mance. “It so struck me to watch them in that en­vi­ron­ment, sup­port­ing our troops, rais­ing money for the guide dogs. That was just a real turn­ing point for me in find­ing a way to give back to the com­mu­nity as well as en­ter­tain, dance and net­work.” The con­nec­tion the team shares—whose mem­bers range in age from 50 to 80—goes far deeper than their mu­tual love of move­ment and char­i­ta­ble causes. “Most of us have had ca­reers, we’ve had chil­dren, we’re tak­ing care of el­derly par­ents … in the ’70s we went through women’s lib­er­a­tion, we were at Woodstock, we went through all of that,” says Brey­ley. Know­ing that they weren’t too old to stop danc­ing, and that there must be more ways to give back to the com­mu­nity than the roles that so­ci­ety would rel­e­gate them to, these fiercely in­de­pen­dent women are re­design­ing what they think this stage of their life should look like. “You will never find a more ac­cept­ing group,” Brey­ley en­thu­si­as­ti­cally re­as­sures. “It’s just such a boost to your self­es­teem to come into a group of women who are do­nat­ing their time and ef­fort to some­thing that is mean­ing­ful to them, and it’s a re­ally good feel­ing to be a part of that.” With 130 per­for­mance days a year, and prac­tices at least twice a week, the ded­i­ca­tion that the team de­mands is no light mat­ter. “I want them to know that danc­ing is fun, but it’s se­ri­ous busi­ness. It’s hard work,” Shortlidge ex­plains. That hard work is pay­ing off. The team was in­vited to au­di­tion for Amer­ica’s Got Tal­ent, where they per­formed their pop­u­lar “Gang­nam Style” piece, chore­ographed by res­i­dent chore­og­ra­pher Lori Madl, who’s re­spon­si­ble for all of their re­cent rou­tines. “They were so proper, and we were so Amer­i­can,” Shortlidge says, laugh­ing as she re­calls the au­di­tion process af­ter she loaded 30 women into a do­nated limou­sine and drove to Mi­ami where the event was hosted. Although they didn’t make it through to the next level, the judges loved their en­thu­si­asm. “It re­ally was some­thing that we’ll al­ways re­mem­ber as a team,” she adds. “Gang­nam Style” is just one of many un­ex­pected themes that the Cal­en­dar Girls per­form. They keep a playlist of at least 16 rou­tines, and will ac­cept the chal­lenge of find­ing a song for ev­ery oc­ca­sion. Over the years they’ve done Dolly Par­ton shows, Cher-based themes, a Ha­vana night and even per­formed the group fa­vorite—“Su­per Freak” by Rick James. And they aren’t stop­ping any­time soon. “We’ll do it all. Over the years, no one’s stumped us,” Shortlidge con­fi­dently con­fesses. “There’s no chal­lenge that we’d back down to cre­atively. What­ever the theme, we’ll ac­tu­al­ize your dream.”

South­west Florida's Cal­en­dar Girls, which formed in 2006, will sched­ule 130 or more per­for­mances in 2017. En­ter­tain­ment pro­ceeds ben­e­fit a guide­dog pro­gram for mil­i­tary veter­ans.

Cal­en­dar Girls make their show cos­tumes and chore­o­graph dance rou­tines based on ap­pear­ance themes that can in­clude zom­bies and cow­girls.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.