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Leaps to longevity

Seniors find key to health is staying light on their feet on the dance floor.

September 10, 2010|By Liana Aghajanian

They might have lived through World War II and Neil Armstrong's moon landing, but don't expect age to put a damper in their step. For many seniors who have become part of a growing dance movement, the cha-cha, waltz or rumba is a way of life.

This cultural art form that has been a part of ceremonies and celebrations for eons exists as the foundation for a movement that is replacing the loneliness and inactivity many seniors suffer from with social circles and renewed energy.

Paul Maure, a renowned ballet instructor at the Burbank Media Dance Centre, would know — he's been dancing for 68 years.

"I want to keep teaching," he said. "I haven't stopped dancing since 1942."

While he teaches various levels of ballet and loves watching advanced students dance, Maure has worked with famed choreographers like George Balanchine and danced with the Grand Ballet de Monte Carlo.


While traveling the world as a dancer for 15 years, Maure has performed with several companies and picked up a few languages in the process. At 84, he has no plans to slow down and scoffs at the thought of retiring.

"I think it's the most wonderful job in the world," he said.

Like Maure, 79-year-old Natalie Middleton, who teaches tap at Burbank Media Dance Centre, has a history with dancing. She's been tapping since she was a child.

"I've performed all my life, and I've always been extremely active," Middleton said. "I can't imagine anyone not being active, although there are seniors who hang up their shoes and sit on the couch."

Middleton, who performed in the "Our Gang" (also known as "The Little Rascals") series made in the 1930s and '40s and appeared in many Marx Brothers films, was also a professional opera singer, performing with the San Francisco Opera and retiring from singing when she turned 60.

She will probably teach as long as her brain stays with her, she said.

"It's in your blood, and it doesn't go out of your blood, it really doesn't," she said.

While the dance teachers at the Burbank Media Dance Centre perfect the pirouettes and heel-steps of their students, seniors like Janet Eggleston have their dancing shoes on in full force across town at Glendale's Moose Lodge.

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