Lodinews.com

default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
|
||
Logout|My Dashboard

90 years young: Phyllis Bigelow teaches dance at Hutchins Street Square

Print
Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Friday, August 13, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 9:59 am, Fri Aug 13, 2010.

Phyllis Bigelow is 90 years old, but she can dance up a storm. She had a stroke in November that hinders her speech slightly, but when you've been dancing for 80 years, the steps come subconsciously. It sure seemed that way.

Bigelow helps her daughter and granddaughter teach ballroom and other forms of dancing on Wednesday nights at Hutchins Street Square in Lodi.

"Look how young she looks," said Lodi resident Patricia Brakke, a student in the class at Hutchins. "It keeps her young." First of all, Bigelow arrived at Hutchins Street Square on Wednesday night wearing an exquisitely formal black dress, earrings, dark nylons and high heels.

That's right — a 90-year-old in high heels. She's very prim and proper that way.

Though daughter Hope Nemie, 51, and granddaughter Gianna Nemie, 17, do the bulk of the instruction, Bigelow will jump up to the dance floor and help a student, especially if she sees a flaw in their style.

She also makes sure that everyone sits and stands with perfect posture. Their shoulders must be erect. She'll get on her children and grandchildren if they don't show perfect posture, and the students at Hutchins know better, too.

Bigelow practices what she preaches. She sits straight up — there is no curve in her back.

Bigelow got into the dancing bug through her father, a musician in his native Italy. As a child in the 1920s, Bigelow would sneak into her older sister's closet, put on her flapper costume and charge her neighbors in Hartford, Conn., a penny to learn the Charleston.

Bigelow's daughter, Hope Nemie, is now in charge of the classes, which cover the fox trot, swing and other traditional ballroom dances. Hope said she walked for the first time when she was 7 months old and danced "The Twist" at 9 months. That's because she observed her mother as an Arthur Murray dance teacher in Sacramento.

"She didn't get me a babysitter," Nemie said. "She took me to the studio."

Nemie has only taught at Hutchins for one year, but the 12-year Lodi resident taught dancing for 23 years for the Stockton Parks and Recreation Department. She still teaches at Stockton Ballet School.

"We teach technique and the 'why' and 'how' of dance," Nemie said.

Perhaps Nemie's claim to fame came in 1986, when her "Classy Country Dancers" performed at the World's Fair in Vancouver.

The threesome also teach in Vacaville, where Bigelow lives, and at nearby Travis Air Force Base.

Nemie's daughter, Gianna, a senior at Lodi High, doesn't miss a step on the dance floor, either. She admires Fred Astaire's ability to mix acting and dancing.

"If he can do it, so can I," Gianna Nemie said.

The youngest of the three generations of dance teachers wants to be a dancer and actress, but she wants to maintain the skills to go back into teaching, if necessary to make a living.

In addition to teaching their craft, Bigelow, Hope Nemie, her husband, Joe, and niece, Terri Siewell, will kick up their heels at Cellardoor in Downtown Lodi. They often show up for a few minutes during the Thursday Farmers Market, and they come back for a longer stint on Fridays.

"They know about the 90-year-old and her daughter," Hope Nemie said. "The men at Cellardoor ask Mom to dance."

They'll be at Cellardoor at 8:30 or 9 tonight.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

Rules of Conduct

  • 1 Use your real name. You must register with your full first and last name before you can comment. (And don't pretend you're someone else.)
  • 2 Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually oriented language.
  • 3 Don't threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
  • 4 Be truthful. Don't lie about anyone or anything. Don't post unsubstantiated allegations, rumors or gossip that could harm the reputation of a person, company or organization.
  • 5 Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
  • 6 Stay on topic. Make sure your comments are about the story. Don't insult each other.
  • 7 Tell us if the discussion is getting out of hand. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
  • 8 Share what you know, and ask about what you don't.

Welcome to the discussion.

1 comment:

  • John Kacergis-Lamb posted at 8:08 am on Sat, Aug 14, 2010.

    John Kacergis-Lamb Posts: 17

    Beautiful, Beautiful Story! The human body is a very complicated work machine --- if it sits idle it gets fat and then literally falls apart. Add some music (your own or from a radio --- whatever's handy) to your work motions and you're dancing (with a formal partner, nailing shingles on a roof, or anything else). Like this article shows dancing is good for your body and also for your mind. Mrs. Bigelow shares with us something essential to our physical and mental health: find some rhythm and dance.
    (I remember thirty years ago hearing a joke in a San Francisco comedy club:
    "Something's very wrong with our society. Everyday some fool is shooting at people
    from his car or doing bad damage to people he doesn't even know. Of course, when
    caught these guys usually tell the police, 'the voices told me to do it.' So they hear voices. That's no big deal. What I don't understand is why the voices never say something like, 'Hey! Go Dancing!".)

     

Video

Popular Stories

Poll

Should graduations return to the Grape Bowl?

Lodi Unified leaders are moving Lodi and Tokay high school graduations from the Grape Bowl to the Spanos Center at UOP in Stockton. They cite limited seating, costs and unpredictable weather at the Grape Bowl. But others say graduations at the Grape Bowl are an important Lodi tradition, and one reason many supported renovating the stadium. What do you think?

Total Votes: 92

Loading…

Mailing List

Subscribe to a mailing list to have daily news sent directly to your inbox.

  • Breaking News

    Would you like to receive breaking news alerts? Sign up now!

  • News Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily news headlines? Sign up now!

  • Sports Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily sports headlines? Sign up now!

Manage Your Lists