It has undoubtedly been a long time since that golden age of dancing that is remembered so fondly by the older generations of today. But fortunately for those who have a recollection of this era, Carmichael’s Mission Oaks Community Center is assisting in the efforts to make these times seem a little less a part of the past.
- Eddie Lovato (right) and his group perform at last Tuesday’s senior dance at the Mission Oaks Community Center in Carmichael. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong
Certainly nothing can replace those good old days when legendary band leaders such as Glenn Miller, Harry James, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Duke Ellington and Count Basie were delivering their music to countless numbers of people.
This music, which led to other memorable music of the era of those who are now in their 60s or older, was synonymous with one common theme – dancing.
In understanding the importance of dancing in the lives of today’s seniors, the Mission Oaks Community Center at 4701 Gibbons Drive maintains its tradition of offering bi-weekly dances for seniors, as well as anyone else who might like to join them.
Every Tuesday and Friday, from 1:15 to 3:45 p.m., the community center transforms into arguably the region’s best and most popular senior dance venue.
Meyer Tuplei (right), shown dancing with a female partner, said that at 93 years old, he still feels good on the dance floor. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong
Supporting this view is Winnie Pollock, a regular of these dances.
“This is one of the best places for seniors to come to dance,” said the Scottish-born Pollock, whose longtime dancing partner is simply known as “Dancing Dan.”
Dancing is joyful
Nancy Pritchard, recreation specialist for the Mission Oaks Recreation and Park District, said that the center brings much joy to those who attend the dances.
“They love the dances,” Pritchard said. “They can socialize, exercise, dress up and have a fun time. And they’re reliving their youth with their music and they laugh, they talk, they dance, they have a ball.”
Although one might have the impression that these senior dances simply consist of a couple dozen people sparsely scattered about a large dance floor, this is far from reality.
Although the center features a large, wooden dance floor, the floor is consistently filled twice per week with about 100 or more dancers, many of whom seldom miss a single dance at the center.
While not all seniors at these dances maintain the same level of dancing, almost all attendees of the dances have the same degree of enthusiasm for dancing. And with this passion for dancing, these dancers, whether they realize it or not, are demonstrating a fine message to other seniors that one is never too old for dancing.
A couple dances at last Tuesday’s senior dance at the Mission Oaks Community Center. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong
Feet keep moving
A prime example of the energy that dancing brings to those participating in these dances is perhaps best portrayed through the words of a regular attendee of these dances, 93-year-old Meyer Tuplei.
“I can barely walk, but when I get out there and dance, I can’t stop my feet from moving,” said Tuplei, who began dancing in about 1937.
While attending last Tuesday’s dance, Tuplei explained that one of the reasons his feet move so freely when he dances at the center is due to the quality performances of the four to five-piece Eddie Lovato group.
Providing music for such ballroom dancing as Latin, fox trot, waltz, samba, rumba, cha-cha, tango and swing, the group, Tuplei said, is “very good.”
“The orchestra here plays so many great songs and my favorite song that they play is the song that they play at the end of this dance,” Tuplei said. “It is so good I almost cried. Their arrangement (of this song, which is called “Dream”) is excellent. It’s so romantic. I love it.”
Another fan of Lovato’s group is Bill Reiff, who regularly takes a shuttle bus to attend the dances and has even paid to travel to and from the dances via taxi.
Fair Oaks residents Jack and Norma Kersten are among the many people who enjoy attending bi-weekly dances at the Mission Oaks Community Center. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong
Reiff, who grew up in Detroit and first danced in Sacramento at the Dante Club in 1975, said that Lovato has a great understanding of the music of his era.
“In the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, we learned to swing dance and do the waltz and fox trot,” Reiff said. “All of these people who come here, they’re all dancers. The beat that this band plays is the one they learned to dance to. This is one of the only places that you’ll find someone to dance with that dances the way you do. The generations now don’t have this dance beat.
“There are songs that have no dance beat in them. They may be beautiful songs, but they have no dance beat – nothing that makes you feel like dancing. Eddie puts that beat in the music that makes you feel like dancing. He understands the music that’s needed (for dancing).”
Lovato, who has been a dance instructor since 1955 and has played live music since 1960, provides music for the Tuesday dances, while another group plays live music at the Friday dances.
Among those attending last Tuesday’s dance were Fair Oaks residents Jack and Norma Kersten.
In regard to the health benefits of dancing, Jack said, “Walking is better than anything and dancing is better than walking.”
Senior dances are held at the community center every Tuesday and Wednesday. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong
But obtaining exercise is only a part of the reason that the Kerstens enjoy dancing.
The main reason is their love for dancing, in general.
Both Jack and Norma have memories of dancing in earlier times in Sacramento.
Jack, who was once an Arthur Murray dancer, has been dancing since the 1940s and once danced to the music of Harry James at the Aerojet Recreation Center.
Norma, whose favorite dance is the jitterbug, recalls dancing at the Trianon Ballroom, above the Senator Theater at 9th and K streets, at Mather and Travis air bases, at the roller rink at 9th and R streets and on the upper floor of the bowling alley at Watt and El Camino avenues.
Southern California natives Joe and Rose Thomas, who celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Sept. 25, also have fond memories of dancing during the earlier years of their lives.
Dancers show off their costumes at a recent Halloween-themed senior dance at the Mission Oaks Community Center. / Photo courtesy of Mission Oaks RPD
“One of the first dances I went to was Lawrence Welk at the Aragon Ballroom (in the Ocean Park district of Santa Monica),” Rose said. “I was a teenager and that was an old person’s dance. And then when we first started dating, we went to see the Ink Spots.”
Joe, 80, said that during the earlier years of his life, he danced to the music of Harry James, the Dorsey brothers and Glenn Miller.
When asked why he enjoys attending the Mission Oaks dances, Joe said, “It brings back memories.”
And sharing her interest in the dances, Rose added, “We love the dances. It just feels like one big party twice a week.”
For additional information about the bi-weekly dances at the Mission Oaks Community Center, call (916) 972-7371 or visit the Web site www.morpd.com.