Crow's Feet Podcast

A 68-year old Former Rockette is a Youngster in This Chorus Line

May 24, 2023 Crow's Feet Season 2 Episode 10
Crow's Feet Podcast
A 68-year old Former Rockette is a Youngster in This Chorus Line
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Show Notes Transcript

The New Florida Follies Proves That People Of All Ages Can Put on a Show. Artistic director and choreographer Cheryl Steinthal has been dancing most of her life, from Radio City Music Hall to a career in choreography and retiring to Florida where she joined the dancers of The New Florida Follies. Host Jean Feldeisen talks with Cheryl about the troupe of dancers who put on an annual Broadway calibre show, complete with tap dancing and Rockette-style big production numbers to raise money for children's charities in South Florida.

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Cheryl Steinthal:

We have someone this year, she's turning 95. She does a full split, she still tap dances. And they are an extraordinary group of women. We start at 55 and go all the way up to 95.

Voice Over:

This is Crow's Feet, a place where we ponder the

question:

Are these our golden years? Or does aging just suck? Well, yes, getting older is not for the faint hearted. But aging also brings wisdom and humor, a finely tuned perspective on life. In our podcast, you'll meet writers and others rethinking our later years, people who inspire us to reimagine our future.

Jean Feldeisen:

I'm Jean Feldeisen. I'm a lousy dancer, just ask my husband. I can't remember even the simplest of steps. I walk on his feet and trip clumsily around the dance floor and at 73 I don't care what I look like. Sometimes when a good song comes on. I just can't help moving. You know what I mean? Our guest today is the artistic director of a troupe of dancers aged 59 to 95 that she choreographs to perform a yearly show for charity. Let me introduce you to Cheryl Steinthal. Cheryl is a 67-year-old mother of two grown children, and the artistic director, choreographer and a dancer for the New Florida Follies. A former Rockette, Cheryl grew up in New Jersey, moved to New York City right out of high school, and since then has racked up an impressive list of dancing and choreography credits. Today, she lives in Florida, creating and dancing in an annual show. So welcome, Cheryl, quite an impressive resume. There's just one question we picked out of there that we want to ask you about, everybody wants to know the same thing. What was it like being a Rockette? Every little girl wants to be a Rockette on the kick line, you know, it's a lovely opportunity to be part of something that is so well known and is a legend. And at the same time you're doing something that you love, and it feels normal to you while you're doing it. And you can always say yes, I was part of that great legend. And I know you told me that you had had this experience where you had to turn them down at one

Cheryl Steinthal:

I actually auditioned for Radio City Music I had already run their auditions when I got the call point. Hall while I was a senior in high school, I passed the audition and got an acceptance letter. And then was told that I had to wait until there was a space, an opening in line. So I from Radio City. And in my mind, I felt well Radio City Music moved into New York at that point. And I was taking dance classes waiting for that call from Radio City. And in the meantime, I did start auditioning for other things. And I got great summer stock opportunity. I was a dancer, I Hall is a historic landmark. It's not going anywhere. It'll got to be the dance captain, the assistant to the choreographer. And I also was given the opportunity to choreograph a couple of shows that summer.

Jean Feldeisen:

How cute. So why don't you tell us about the new be there when I get back. And in the meantime, between my original audition and that point, so much time had passed. It was almost two years time so they made me audition again. I actually had a personal private audition with the choreographer. Florida Follies?

Cheryl Steinthal:

It is a nonprofit 501 c organization that raises funds for children at need. So what we do is we And she approved me and started teaching me to be a replacement. have the opportunity to perform, make our audiences pleased. We get to dance. And then the proceeds all go to charities. We have three charities that we give to and our current track charities are Children's Diagnostic Treatment Center of And I was taught all of the routines first by myself before Fort Lauderdale. They treat 10,000 families. They treat not only the child, but also the whole family. It's a wonderful organization. Then also we give to Make-a-Wish of South Florida, I was ever with the other Rockettes. And then I went in as which everybody's familiar with Make-a-Wish. And we tried to gear it towards someone who is theatrically inclined. So during COVID It was great. We gave this little girl singing lessons. She wanted to be a singer, and they got her professional singing a spring replacement into an Easter Show. That was my first lessons. And it was during the COVID period. They were able to do it online. So it was a wonderful thing. And then our third organization that we give to is called the Ukulele Kids Club. It's national but we give the gift to the one that goes to show. I got to be a bunny rabbit. the hospitals here in Florida. They give ukuleles to the sick children, they bring guitars and their own ukuleles, teach them how to play and sing with them because music therapy is one of the best healers, for children. So those are the three groups that we give to. And our group is all volunteer. We have 36 women and three men this year that are dancing in the show. We do about a dozen dances throughout the show, we have professional entertainers that sing in between so we can change our costumes. And every season we put on a brand new show. So this year show is called Magic, Music and Mystery. And then our 2023 Season will be over. We've done seven performances, three different venues, and we've had a great season. So we look forward to be able to donate to our charities real well.

Jean Feldeisen:

Tell us about the dancers, especially thel age group of dancers.

Cheryl Steinthal:

we start at 55 and go all the way up to 95. And we have someone this year, she's turning 95, she does a full split, she still tap dances. And they are an extraordinary group of women from all different walks of life. We have someone who has been a lawyer for 30 years, someone that worked for Merrill Lynch for 35 years. We have a nurse, we have teachers, we have people that danced when they were younger, and then came back to it as older and we have people that just decided when they were older, I want to learn how to dance. And they did that. And it's such a diverse group of people that are active seniors, very active seniors.

Jean Feldeisen:

What's the best part of working with older people?

Cheryl Steinthal:

They're mature, they've been through a lot. They know the value of life. So I live moment to moment. And I appreciate all the moments and I think one of the best parts of working with older people is we all know how to appreciate the moments and the time that has been given to us.

Jean Feldeisen:

Yes, beautiful. Are there any disadvantages or disabilities that you need to adapt to?

Cheryl Steinthal:

You definitely have to deal with a few more health issues than you did when you were younger. But we don't let it stop us. So we have people that have had hip replacements, shoulder replacements, heart issues, cancer issues. We keep active, we keep going and I think that is easier to deal with because of our attitude. We just say let's keep going.

Voice Over:

(Sound of an announcer introducing the dancers in their 70s and 80s.)

Jean Feldeisen:

You're listening to a dance routine with the New Florida Follies. women of a certain age who high kick like the Radio City Rockettes. In fact, their leader Cheryl Steinthat is a former Rockette and our guest today on the Crow's Feet Podcast. Could you tell us a little bit about the routine that the dancers have to go through every season, as far as practicing and classes and stuff?

Cheryl Steinthal:

We're finishing our season. And I just said to them in rehearsal yesterday, we can now count on one hand how many more times we're going to do these dances and then these dances will be retired, we will start fresh in May. And we will build a whole new show one dance at a time one step at a time. And the first thing we do is we practice, like almost like a dance class. We do a lot of tap dancing in our show. So we'll go through a lot of technique and a lot of refreshing of our strength and our abilities of what we know how to do and dance. And then we will start one step at a time, one dance at a time. And we will just keep learning and learning and practicing and practicing to be ready to present a full new show in January again. So, from May to December will be dancing twice a week.

Jean Feldeisen:

How long are the rehersals?

Cheryl Steinthal:

Rehearsals are usually about approximately in

the beginning 9:30 to 11:

30 that we go to 12. 12:30. When it's right close to the show -- and we have 12 dances -- we're rehearsing from about nine to one and then they do have to practice at home in between the rehearsals. There's practice at home so I make home videos. And they can follow the video and they can dance with me at home because dance is not an easy thing to do. And you can't just do it by yourself. Our memory is not as good as it used to be. So we have to keep refreshing our memory and keep practicing. So at home we do it almost every day to go over the dances so we remember them.

Jean Feldeisen:

We were wondering if most of your dancers were like super agers that had been dancing all their life. But you already said that a lot of them have come into dancing later in life. How does somebody start dancing later in life?

Cheryl Steinthal:

Well, I teach tap class for adults. And I have them divided into two classes and I have a beginners class. And then I have an intermediate advanced class, the beginners class becomes beginners, advanced beginners very quickly, because they start from scratch, and then they advance as we keep going. Some people find it easier than other people. I will be honest about that. But there are many people that come to my tech classes that just do it, not to perform, but because they love it. They just have so much fun coming and dancing and learning. But I'll tell you, when they come in the door, they're surprised if they've never tried before. Tap dancing is much more intricate than it looks. Most of the people that are in the follies have been active. There's many other exercise programs that many of them do. I know one of them is a runner, she goes out running every day. A few of them are interested in Pilates. We had a 98 year old, she retired last year she went does Zumba like three or four times a week, even in her 90s. I do Jazzercise and so if somebody is interested in dance, and has been exercising and taking exercise, the crossover they find quite similar and easy. So if it's someone that's been exercising inactive, they'll be able to come in and start learning to dance also. And they'll find that that's another exercise way of having fun.

Jean Feldeisen:

What are the benefits of being in a group like this, for older people?

Cheryl Steinthal:

Many benefits. Well, the one that we were just discussing is the physical benefit. We are a support family to each other. It's not just a group, it's definitely becomes a follies family. And we support one another in the good times. And the bad times. For instance, one of our newest members is an actress, and she was just in a show. So 25 of us when we all went to see her in the show, and we went out to celebrate to dinner afterwards. So it's not just about the dancing, that's not the only benefit. It's great friends like having another family. Another way of staying active and staying in shape.

Jean Feldeisen:

Has belonging to the follies had any effect on how you approach aging? Or maybe you haven't even had time to think about aging.

Cheryl Steinthal:

I don't know when I got old. I don't know how that happened. I don't feel it. Except that my children are approaching - now my son is 41 and my daughter is 38, so she's approaching 40. So I don't really feel old. And I will never let it slow me down. I don't get into age, it's not an excuse. You get up every day. And you just keep active and keep going.

Jean Feldeisen:

Do you have any advice for seniors who are hoping to break into dance?

Cheryl Steinthal:

My advice for anybody, for seniors, for anyone interested in going to start dance, is try to find something you enjoy doing something that makes you happy, that keeps you active, keeps you moving and find what's right for you. So if you think you want to come and you want to take a dance class, go for it. I say go for it. Try it, don't let anything stop you or anybody stop, you don't make sure. Oh, gosh, I have to find somebody to go with you want to do something, get out there and just do it, go for it. That's why that's my motto.

Jean Feldeisen:

And it sounds like you've done that all your life. (Laughter) So there are three questions that we like to ask each of our guests, whatever pops into your head. So first of all, what surprises you most about aging?

Cheryl Steinthal:

I think what surprised me the most about aging is people expect something particular from you at a certain age. And I prove that theory wrong. I think It's mind over matter. I think you can give into the fact that you're aging or you can embrace it. And I'm just going to embrace it and keep on going.

Jean Feldeisen:

Those stereotypes you were talking about, I mean, have you experienced that with your with your troop, people thinking that you can't do what you do.

Cheryl Steinthal:

We surprise all of our audiences, the ones that come to our show for the very first time, do not expect what they get. They come out saying oh my gosh, this is like a Broadway show. I could see this in New York. They think it's going to be just a little adult dance recital. And we are anything but that. We have production numbers, big rockets, style tap numbers. We have focus lines, I still kick over my head. And we surprise people every moment of the show. They definitely underestimate us.

Jean Feldeisen:

That's great. So here's the second question. What would you tell your 25 year old self about aging?

Cheryl Steinthal:

I have always lived my life for whatever comes next, and never look back. That's it never looked back. Don't have regrets. Live your life to the fullest. And just keep going, don't let anything pull you down.

Jean Feldeisen:

And finally,what aspect of life or aging are you still trying to figure out

Cheryl Steinthal:

The one that I mentioned before. I'm supposed to know all the answers just because I'm older. I don't know all the answers. So I guess my outlook on life is just keep on going until I figure it all out.

Jean Feldeisen:

Well, thank you, Cheryl. Is there anything that you'd like us to announce to our listeners? Or, you know, have you started working on the next show already?

Cheryl Steinthal:

I actually do have my theme for next year. I cannot reveal it yet. But what I would like to tell your listeners is if anybody is going to be in South Florida, in January, February or March, to be sure to look us up. We have a website, the new Floridafollies.com Please check out our website, check out our dates and the locations and come see a show. And if there's any listeners in South Florida that are dancers or have a dance background and would like to join us, you could come in for all the fun. We have great fun while we're dancing. And join us and contact us if you're interested in being part of the new Florida Follies. So that's the message just stay healthy. Keep moving, stay active and appreciate every moment.

Jean Feldeisen:

Today's episode was produced by me Jean Feldeisen. My guest was Cheryl Steinthal of the New Florida Follies. Our executive producer is Nancy Peckenham, editing and sound design is done by Rich Halten, with support from the

Crow's Feet team:

Betsy Allen, Lee Bentch, Melinda Blau, Cathy Gilbert, Jan Flynn and Warren Turner. Our original theme music was composed and performed by Rand Bishop.

Voice Over:

Thanks for joining us on this episode of Crow's

Feet:

Life as We Age. Don't miss any of our great stories. Subscribe to Crow's Feet wherever you get your podcasts. And be sure to tell your friends and family to give a listen to and leave a rating or review. You can read more Crow's Feet stories online at medium.com/ crows-feet. So until next time, remember to savor every moment as Henry Ford said, Whether you believe you can or can't. You're right.