Through the pandemic, Queens seniors bond over prayers and line dancing

Line dancing at a senior center ballroom…

By Vicky Potenciano-Vitug 

I met Rosalina Robinson about five years ago at Hillcrest Senior Center where I would visit with my husband. Once or twice a week, her group would be dancing and I would just be watching on the side. 

One day, as I was watching their performance, a member named Princess pulled me and said, ‘Let’s dance. Don’t mind anybody else, just sway.’ It didn’t take long for me to start moving my hips then my arms until my entire body was swaying, swinging, gyrating. I realized I could also dance like them. As time passed, even into the pandemic, my friendship with the women – who are mostly retired professionals and now ‘professional grandmas’ — grew and got stronger. 

…and in the park followed by potluck merienda.

We, the young-looking dancers are seniors in our mid-60s including some who are in their late 80s.   Our group brought so much pride and joy to Hillcrest and to the seniors in the neighborhood. Sadly, that senior center shut down in 2018 for unexplained reasons.

Rosalina – also known as Rose — has been volunteering as a line dance instructor at various places since 2004.  She introduced line dancing to Hillcrest in 2011. Her leadership skills, acquired from a previous career in Dental Practice Management, helped her in forming a group of line dancers among the seniors at the center. After a while, her line dance group got invitations to perform at various community events around New York State.  They were honored with a plaque of appreciation from the Borough of Queens and given the name Shining Stars.  They performed at the Robert Ross Johnson Family Life Center in Linden Boulevard at an event sponsored by N.Y. State Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman.  Their performance received a standing ovation. 

Rose’s line dance group would meet every Sunday afternoon at the Holy Child Parish Cafeteria in Richmond Hills. There, they continued to dance for hours and socialized with potluck merienda.  They also met every Tuesday at the community center.  By this time, the members are like one big, happy family!

The women of Shining Stars. The author is seated on the bench and wearing striped shirt.
Line dance mentor Rosalina Robinson

When COVID-19 put a halt to their dance exercises and gatherings, Rose did not lose heart. She got her technically savvy son, Fred Pangalapan, who was visiting from Las Vegas, to help set up Zoom sessions.  At each session, each member was designated to recite a short prayer. This was followed by additional prayers offered for various intentions, especially for the sick and the frail. A virtual prayer group was born.   This kept the seniors re-connected and gave them a chance to not only see each other but pray for one another. 

“The seniors found camaraderie, peace and solace in each other’s prayers and moral support,” Rose said. “Not being with them was sad enough but the thought of losing your dear friends without seeing them was even sadder.” 

As the COVID situation improves, the line dance ladies have regrouped. Lively line dancing has resumed — at Cunningham Park every Saturday afternoon– followed by a potluck picnic.

The group invites everyone — male and female, Filipino and all ethnicities — aged 65 and above for line dancing at the park.  Join us as we continue to bond over home-cooked food, music, spirituality, and line dancing.

(C) The FilAm 2021

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