BATH, Maine —
Mick Jagger and David Bowie may have sung about everyone around the world "dancing in the street,” but in Bath, women in their 70s and 80s have put the words into action.
OK, so they're not exactly dancing in the street, but they have taken to a parking lot outside the now-closed Bath Area Senior Citizens Activity Center. When the senior center closed its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it meant the exercise classes, cribbage, and bingo games—along with bean suppers—were put on hold. Along with that—no more boot, scoot, and boogie for the line dancing class taught for the last 22 years by 84-year-old Marjorie Perkins.
This is, until one of Marjorie's students said, "why can't we dance in the parking lot?" Marjorie got out her tape measure to test the widths of the parking spaces. They passed.
"These parking spaces are seven and a half feet wide so if they stay in the middle they're pretty well protected from anything close by," Marjorie explains.
The group meets every Monday and Thursday at 10 a.m. to rehearse the more than 100 choreographed line dances in their repertoire, under the watchful eye of their instructor. And Marjorie knows a thing or two about teaching. She taught elementary school for 35 years, then figure skating at Bowdoin and has been teaching senior line dancing for the last 22 years. Teaching is just a way of life for the Maine native.
"We all do all kinds of dance to all kinds of music. We do country, big band and a lot of oldies. That's good music," says Marjorie as she shuffles through her cassette tapes. Marjorie plugs her boom box into a shed sitting on the parking lot perimeter and blasts Marvin Gaye, Edelweiss, and polkas.
All of the women are over 55. Most have been coming to the line dancing class for several years. On the day I visited they all wore their "I love line dancing" blue t-shirts as they shimmied around their parking spaces.
Marjorie says the group was idle for seven weeks until they decided to head outdoors. Ana Lou Elwell, 77, loves to dance and danced at home when the group was not meeting.
"I think it keeps us fit mentally," Ana Lou said. The group sometimes takes their dancing on the road to preform for assisted living facilities.
"We're all old ladies sometimes we go and perform for a nursing home and some of those people at the nursing homes are younger than us. They get so amazed to find out how old we are," Ana Lou said.
Toinette Weybarnt and Faye Pye are 79 and 78 years old, respectively. They met at a dance class in Bath when they were just three-years-old.
"And we've been friends ever since," says Faye. They both say they will continue to dance until they can't walk any longer. Faye says the women in the group have a bond. Before the pandemic, they used to go out to eat together once a week. Now some of them get take-out and sit outside, apart, and eat together.
"I think it's the music always keeps us...happy. It's a fun exercise. We do an hour and a half and I could do more," Ana Lou said.
The women bring lawn chairs and some take breaks when they need to catch their breathe or rest their knees. Others just come to watch the women moving in unison. For Marjorie, the class is a time to relax and be with friends.
"it gives me a chance to breathe and the music makes you feel good and it just makes us happy," Marjorie said. "We need each other. We're not hermits," Marjorie giggled.
Even if it is from a parking space away, these women continue to dance and hold out hope they will soon be even closer.
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