South Florida senior dance troupe returns after pandemic hiatus

Vivian Jeffers had to save her allowance for two weeks to pay for a 25-cent dance lesson during the Great Depression. Eight decades later, she’s still dancing at 98 years old. 

Jeffers is the oldest member of The New Florida Follies, a senior dance troupe of men and women based in Coral Springs. 

“You don’t stop dancing because you grow old, you get old because you stop dancing,” Jeffers said. 

The group performs Broadway-style dance numbers across South Florida, donating money from ticket sales to children’s charities. Most recently, they’ve donated to Children’s Diagnostic and Treatment Center, Make a Wish South Florida, and Ukulele Kids Club, a charity that donates ukuleles to children’s hospitals and offers lessons to children in the hospital.

“It’s camaraderie, it brings us together, it gives us something positive to do,” said Follies’ dancer Joyce Listro. 

The group had to put their dancing on hold when the pandemic cut their 2020 season short. Their last show was at The Parker, and they were also the last show The Parker hosted before closing.

“That was our last show, and their last show, and the world shut down,” said Cheryl Steinthal, artistic director and choreographer for the New Florida Follies.

Although the pandemic kept the dancers off-stage during 2021, they didn’t shelve their shoes for good.

A rehearsal (photo by Elise Gregg)

“We choreographed together on FaceTime,” said Steinthal. “I choreographed this new show Curtains Up in my sneakers, in my living room, and sent out the videos.” 

 Steinthal was determined to keep going, and everyone else followed suit. 

“It was harder for some people to learn by video, but I think everybody was determined to keep going,” said Steinthal. 

Many of the Follies danced when they were young, but had to quit when they became busy with professional careers or motherhood. 

“Most of these people danced when they were kids and went on to other lives,” said Steinthal.  “One of them is a surgical nurse: she raised her family, and then she went back to dance.” 

Dancing brings back the things they were passionate about when they were young. 

“A lot of them almost all of them have had dancing experience either in the Rockettes, showgirls in Las Vegas, cheerleaders,” said Santo Listro, Follies dancer and Joyce’s husband. “To do this is like bringing back the old times.” 

For some dancers, being part of the Follies has brought new passion into their life. 

“One of the new members, she came in and auditioned and had never tapped before,” said Steinthal. “She didn’t make it the first year, she came to my tap lessons and took private lessons for an entire year, and then the next year she re-auditioned and she made it.”

Photo by Elise Gregg

For all the Follies, the 2022 season has been a breath of fresh air, and they’re already looking forward to 2023. 

“We’re already deciding what songs we can do and coming up with new ideas, new concepts, new music, all-new dances,” Steinthal said. “We’re going to be ready for January, February, and March 2023.” 

Their 2022 season is over, but the follies plan to be back at Spanish River High School next year and are always looking for new members.

Although it’s mostly professional dancers, in the New Florida Follies, it doesn’t matter how much wear you have on your tap shoes. 

Elise Gregg is a junior majoring in journalism with a minor in criminal justice. Upon graduation, she would like to pursue a career covering international crime, particularly human rights violations and religious oppression around the world.