Dancing into the golden years - East Valley Tribune: Phoenix & The Valley Of The Sun

Dancing into the golden years

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Posted: Monday, July 4, 2005 5:35 am | Updated: 8:32 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

After a successful career as a Radio City Music Hall Rockette and a member of the Folies Bergere at the Tropicana Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Twila Stern decided to share her dance skills.

In 1982, Stern opened a studio in Scottsdale to teach tap, hula and other forms of dance — with a twist. The Forever Young Dance Center caters mostly to senior citizens.

"My kids left home, and I had a lot of free time," said Stern, who began dancing when she was 8 years old. "I wanted to give older women something they could do, enjoy and help stay fit. When you get 60, there’s nothing really strenuous you want to do. It’s mostly ballet and jazz.

"I went to a senior center to see if I could teach a class there. They said I’d need at least six people to get it going. I got that many, and it just started to grow."

Stern, who wouldn’t reveal her age, said most women in her classes are 50 to 82.

She said she asks each student to work to the best of their ability. She wants them to be flexible and as agile as possible.

"I don’t dance down to their (skill) level," said Stern, a Rockette for four years who danced at the Tropicana for five years before starting a family. "I want them to be positive and have a great time."

Myrna Harper Foster has been a student of Stern’s the last several years. The 68-year-old said she enjoys hula, tap, ballet and everything about the classes.

"It’s as much a social thing," Harper Foster said. "The friendships we’ve made are priceless. We’ve traveled together to dance. We’ve sweated together in the studio."

Harper Foster said her 8-year-old granddaughter, Ariana Bensch of Kingman, enjoys watching her perform.

"She doesn’t know what to think," Harper Foster said. "She’s been at the studio and seems fascinated with what grandma can do. It’s fun for her, even to just watch."

Stern said she’ll continue teaching dance as long as she’s able. She’s adding hip-hop and cheer classes for children in hopes of getting more younger girls involved.

"In 1982, I never really thought I’d still be doing this over 20 years later," Stern said. "I live for the moment. This has changed my life and the lives of others."

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