These Minnesota women just keep on kickin’
“Who are these incredible women?” I asked myself at the Edina Community Center as I stared in awe at a photograph of a chorus line. The 17 women were dressed in glittering costumes with fishnet-clad legs, top hats, and dripping rhinestones. I scrutinized their faces. Beautiful, beaming, not one of them a day under 60.
They are the Rhinestone Rockettes, a nonprofit performing tap dance group. My work life was incompatible with their practice and performance schedule, but I vowed someday to be part of this group, and 10 years later, in 2005, I retired and contacted the group’s instructor.
FFI: To book the Rhinestone Rockettes, or for audition information, call 651-454-2103.
Unlike other members of the group who have dance backgrounds, I had no dance training. But I just knew I could do it. Experience is great but often just determination and sheer audacity is what it takes. I took lessons with one of the members for nine months before I was accepted into the larger group of feisty women. Currently, the age of members ranges from 59-90, or maybe older. One day I asked one of my favorite ladies how old she was. She said, “Can you keep a secret?” Honored I would be privy to such classified information I readily shook my head yes. With a twinkle in her eye she told me, “So can I.'”
The Rhinestone Rockettes, including one member who was a former New York City Rockette, was formed in 1987 under the direction of Ruth Bakken, who died in 2002. The group has continued with subsequent teachers adding new members over the years. All but one of the original members have passed away or hung up their shoes because of health issues but their legacy of love of dance, commitment to practice and having fun lives on. “The Rhinestones” are the highlight of my week. Not only do I get a great physical workout, but my brain gets charged by continuously learning new routines. It is an honor to be part of this group of energetic, sassy women who are invested in passing the torch to new members. Our repertoire of over 50 routines ranges from Broadway musicals to choreographed dances to high-impact tapping.
Currently we have a pretty low profile compared to the peak performance years of Ruth Bakken, but we have gigs several times a year to help cover studio rental and instructor fees. I love seeing the delighted faces of our audiences when we perform. People tell us how they are reminded of their childhood dance performances, veterans salute us when we do the “Military Dance” and the joy of vicarious pleasure and celebration of older women abounds. We plan to keep on kicking.
June Blumenson is grateful to be alive and dancing! She lives in Fridley.