CLEARWATER - The majority of the eight ladies in the troupe are senior citizens in their 60s, 70s and 80s. One member is decades younger but "qualified" due to the distinction of being a grandmother. What they all have in common is the love of dance. They call themselves the Grandmother Rockettes and they have "kicked up their heels" for audiences all over Pinellas County for the past 24 years.
Peg Cameron, spokesman for the group, is a native of England who came to this area 25 years ago from Connecticut, where she headed a professional dance troupe called Peg's Personalities. The 86-year-old said she has been dancing since the age of 8. Her dad was a professional comedian, so show business is in her blood. She began performing professionally in England while in her teens. Cameron takes after her dad. From time to time, she takes off her tap shoes during a show and enjoys performing as a comedienne.
Cameron and retired school teacher Frances Lung, who is 85, are the only two members of the original group still performing since its founding 24 years ago. Fran Norwood is another long-time member. A former professional dancer, she joined after moving here from Maryland. She is 78. Vi Weaver, 82, and Jackie Winslow, who is in her mid-70s, have also been with the group for many years.
The Grandmother Rockettes have won numerous regional and national tap dance competitions over the years, including first place in the national Show Stopper American Dance Championships. What's more, they have often competed against dancers more than 20 to 30 years younger, Cameron advises. Locally they have performed at Ruth Eckerd Hall and for various clubs and organizations, including the Clearwater Yacht Club and Largo Woman's Club.
The ladies, who get together for practice four to six hours a week, currently have over 10 different routines in their repertoire. "We have costumes to match each of our numbers," Cameron explained earlier this week. Their costume collection includes bright yellow raincoats and rainhats for their Singing in the Rain number and black tails and top hats when they perform to New York, New York. In April the dancers will be performing at the Seminole Recreation Center and for the Women's Guild at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church. A show for the patients at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Center is on the troupe's May agenda. In June they will be taking part in a recital presented by the Jeanne Lynn Dance Studio at the Mahaffey Theater, after which members will take a break until the fall. Performances are already scheduled in October and December.
How do the Grandmother Rockettes keep up such a schedule? "We enjoy the camaraderie and we all love to entertain," Cameron says.
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