The documentary ‘Calendar Girls’ follows an exuberant dance troupe of older women in Florida

written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN

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In matching sparkly unicorn hats, rainbow tutus or furry white boots, a group of 30-something older women have made a name for themselves in South Florida with dances choreographed to pop songs. Dubbed the “Calendar Girls”, the dancers are not professionals, but perform 130 shows a year, doing their own make-up and styling from YouTube tutorials, under the rigorous direction of 71-year-old athlete Katherine Shortlidge .

Calendar Girls ready to dance in unicorn hats and rainbow tutus.

Calendar Girls ready to dance in unicorn hats and rainbow tutus. Credit: Dear Martinsen

Their lives are the focus of a new documentary that toured the festival circuit and opens in select theaters in New York and Los Angeles, among other cities, this month.

In “Calendar Girls,” Swedish filmmakers Maria Loohufvud and Love Martinsen follow the group as they navigate a stage of life that can be misrepresented in popular culture: with grown children and careers that have ended, they search for a new address Through performance, some of the women become more comfortable in their own skin, wear exaggerated costumes and bright makeup that they might never have worn before, push themselves physically and creatively and focus, perhaps for the first time , to prioritize. of others

A Calendar Girls dance routine featuring hand mirrors and pink leopard dresses.

A Calendar Girls dance routine featuring hand mirrors and pink leopard dresses. Credit: Dear Martinsen

“(His) transformation was very interesting,” Martinsen said in a video call. “You don’t think about it that much, but you keep changing your whole life.”

Some found the dance group by chance: Nancy, a former police officer who took early retirement due to degenerative hearing loss, joined after seeing the group perform at a mall and seeing the ‘opportunity to express a different version of herself.

“We’ve been talking about this movie as if it’s a coming-of-age story, but a coming-of-age story,” Loohufvud added on the same call.

golden years

The directors, a married couple, filmed the dance group over the course of two years after meeting the Calendar Girls at an event while on vacation with their children in the Fort Myers area.

“They started dancing, and it was so mesmerizing – we couldn’t stop watching. It made us happy,” Loohufvud recalled. They contacted Shortlidge, who founded the group more than a decade ago, for an initial interview, but did not expect to film a documentary on the subject.

As they spoke to more members of the company, they were moved by how much dance had affected the women’s sense of self. The filmmakers wanted to depict a different view of life after 60, one that focused on the dancers’ personal relationships and dedication to their practice. Some of the women struggle with health diagnoses, partners who don’t support their non-traditional decision to dance, and work past retirement age. Being a part of Calendar Girls gives them a support system.

The dance group is organized in a formation by fanning their arms at different levels.

The dance group is organized in a formation by fanning their arms at different levels. Credit: Dear Martinsen

Loohufvud noted that many films often do not take women above a certain age seriously. “A lot of them tend to make fun of the character, like it’s so funny that a woman over 60 wants to be sexy, for example,” he said.

Martinsen added that movies also don’t usually value their current experiences. “Very often (the story is) about their past lives. It’s not about their present life.”

Through the Calendar Girls performances, the women raise money for Southeastern Guide Dogs, an organization that assigns trained dogs to veterans. Shortlidge said early in the film that the group has given him a new sense of purpose.

“It’s going to be 14 years of my life. I’ve done this, there’s nothing I regret,” he said. “I love performing. I love the idea of ​​serving my community… We’re not just old people dancing, we do it for a reason.”

“Calendar Girls” will play in select US theaters in November.

Add to queue: Women, reframed

Listen: “Archetypes” (2022–)

Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, is behind one of the hottest new podcasts of the year. She has brought in a guest list that includes Serena Williams, Margaret Cho, Issa Rae and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau to dismantle the reductive labels assigned to women, such as “good” or “bad” mothers, stereotypes of the “diva ” or “angry black woman,” and the double standard of ambition.

Reads: “Old Women” by Jillian Steinhauer (2021)

Art critic Jillian Steinhauer wrote for Believer magazine about the art world’s tendency to “discover” women artists in the later years of their lives. “The best way to succeed as a female artist is to be old. Not necessarily dead yet, but with the specter of death hanging over you…” she wrote. “Preferably you’ve been making art for a while, and it’s been gathering dust in your house, rarely if ever shown, or mostly exhibited in alternative and educational spaces… At the same time you’re a safe bet. since you’re a discovery”.

I will see: “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” (2022)
This British comedy stars Emma Thompson as a 55-year-old retired teacher who hires a 20-year-old sex worker to help her achieve her first orgasm, after the death of her husband, her only sexual partner. The film was recently Oscar-eligible, and Thompson told Vanity Fair in a podcast that he hopes it paves the way for more stories along the same lines.
Reads: “It’s Not All Downhill From Here” (2020)
Terry McMillan is a master writer of books about black women embarking on a journey of self-discovery (see the iconic “How Stella Got Her Groove Back”), and her latest title centers on a shop of beauty products for 68 years. owner whose life is suddenly shaken by loss. “I wasn’t sure anyone would care about this story,” McMillan told The Guardian at the time of the book’s publication. “It’s not that I don’t think it’s good. It’s just that … this is a story about a 68-year-old woman. I asked myself, ‘How many people are going to read this?'”

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