DENHAM SPRINGS — Gale Vodoeija, of Watson, has found a fun way to recuperate from knee replacement surgery and bring enjoyment to those, who, like her, were unable to move around.
The 68-year-old joined the YaYas, a line dancing group at Parks and Recreation of Denham Springs that performs everything from the shuffle to the freeze at area nursing homes and Council on Aging locations.
“I needed to start moving again, and this has definitely helped,” Vodoeija said.
The line dancing group — which began in January as a simple exercise program — now has more than 50 dancers, from ages 20 to more than 70, that head out into the community to bring dancing to people who may not be able to dance but enjoy watching, said Sandy McGrew, instructor at PARDS. The group was named after the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, a film and novel.
“The YaYas are a group of friends that are fearless, strong, loyal and beautiful that escape life’s everyday dramas that wear on the soul and replace experiences with clarity, joy, fun and adventure,” McGrew said.
The group made their first public appearance at the Livingston Council on Aging and Senior Center in Denham Springs on Thursday for an hour long presentation of dances.
Barbara Curtis, who came to the COA to watch the performance, didn’t waste any time showing off her line dancing skills. The 74-year-old stood up from her chair and began following the group’s moves.
“I love to dance,” Curtis said. “This is the best exercise in the world.”
Following the performance, Curtis she said she plans to join the YaYas and travel with the troupe.
The group practices twice a week at PARDS and is booked for performances every Thursday in July.
Shirley Farthing, 72, was already attending a variety of classes at PARDS, and signed up for line dancing immediately when she saw it was being offered.
Farthing said she believed dancing would help alleviate some of the pain from the arthritis in her knees.
In addition to helping with the pain, Farthing said the dance routines — in combination with other exercise classes she takes — have helped her lose weight.
“I went from a size 26 to a 16,” Farthing said.
Before joining the group, Farthing said she didn’t dance at all, but now looks forward to performing her favorites: Jack is Back, the shuffle and the freeze.
“It’s not the same thing every class,” Farthing said, adding that the variety of dances keeps the class interesting. “We learn different things all the time.”
In addition to providing a fun outlet to meet new friends, Vodoeija said line dancing is helping her walk — and now dance — better.
The YaYas will perform at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Harvest Manor, 9171 Cockerham Road, Denham Springs; 3 p.m. July 10 at Golden Age, 26739 La. 1032, Denham Springs; 2 p.m. July 17 at La Plantation, 26635 La. 16, Denham Springs; and 3 p.m. July 24 at Catholic Presbyterian, 655 North St., Baton Rouge.
To join the YaYas, contact McGrew at (225) 665-5405.