The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Features

January 27, 2013

Seniorettes dance group tapped into community

WINDBER — Patricia Marcinko of Windber keeps seniors tapping their feet to the beat.

Marcinko, who will turn 70 years old in September, teaches seniors how to tap dance five days a week at Windber Senior Center,  700 Fifth St., Suite 200, in Windber Medical Center.

She had taken tap lessons from an early age but was never a dance teacher until four years ago when she asked Eleanor Pile, senior services director at the center, if anyone would be interested in learning to tap dance.

“I just asked, out of the blue,” Marcinko said. “I hadn’t danced except at home to try to remember the steps.

“Eleanor put it in the newsletter, and three ladies showed up,” Marcinko said.

And the group, known as the Seniorettes, continues to gain members. Marcinko now has up to 19 women, mostly in their 60s and 70s, with two in their 80s.

“When she asked me, I told her I thought it would be great,” Pile said. “I’m all for encouraging whatever they want to do. Most times it works out.”

Marcinko has regular classes Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with beginner’s classes Tuesdays and Thursdays, all from 8 to 10 a.m.

“We break down routines into each step,” Marcinko said.

“It’s not just simple taps. We do shuffles and ball and chains.

“Most of them (dancers) are there every week. They don’t want to miss anything.”

Tap shoes are the only item dancers have to provide for themselves. There are no other fees.

Marcinko picks the songs the group performs and makes up the routines.

“We’re there to interact and have fun,” she said.

In addition to their early morning practice sessions, the Seniorettes join the center’s chorus to put on shows for various holidays and the summer picnic at the senior center and at area nursing homes and other senior centers.

Pile said she doesn’t know of an occasion when the two groups didn’t perform together.

“Last year for Halloween we dressed up as black cats and did the “Stray Cat’s Strut,” Marcinko said. “For Easter, we were white bunnies and did the “Bunny Hop.”

Marcinko has had a few dancers who didn’t want to stay with the group after joining.

Some didn’t like the idea of performing before others, but most have stayed.

“She’s very patient with them, and they enjoy it,” Pile said.

“It’s nice she has ones that have taken it for a while.”

The Seniorettes have performed with the center’s chorus at East Hills Senior Center and at Sunnehanna Country Club in Westmont for a retired nurses’ association.

“They want us back this year,” Marcinko said.

She didn’t express concern about handling more than her current 19 dancers, but did say she is running out of room to practice and perform.

An answer to that quandary should be coming soon. Pile said a room in the medical center where doctors treated patients should be accessible for the center’s use after buyers are found for the equipment.

“The senior center is in its own section on the fifth floor of the hospital, next to Health Styles,” Pile said. “We’re not part of Windber Medical Center.”

Marcinko began taking tap lessons in first grade while attending Chandler School in the West End section of Johnstown, where she grew up.

Even when her family moved to Clearfield because of her father’s job, she still attended two dance schools.

Today, Marcinko would like to take more dance lessons to learn new steps and refresh what she may have forgotten.

“When I have the time,” she joked.

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