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Shall we dance? - The Sun Chronicle : Local News

Shall we dance?

Plainville Senior Center's monthly event draws hundreds ready to twist, turn and twirl

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Posted: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 12:00 am

WRENTHAM - It's mid-afternoon on a Monday, and there's a big party going on.

A ballroom is littered with the remnants of an elegant lunch, napkins sit where diners have abandoned their places in favor of a turn around the dance floor.

The floor is packed, lined with men and women, dressed to the nines, turning and twisting to a caller's demand, smiles bursting across their faces.

"You know, people think, oh, it's seniors. But you look around and these people are so full of vigor," said Dottie Kettell, who was watching the action from a distance - though she's been very closely involved in the party for close to 20 years.

It's the Plainville Senior Center's monthly sociables luncheon dance, an event that consistently has nearly 400 people travel from all over the state, and on occasion out of state, for an afternoon of dining, dancing and friendship.

Since 1991, the seniors have come together on the second Monday of each month and it's been clear from the start that it's not just the town's dance lovers who have benefitted.

"There were five of us who used to go to a dance out of town, so we organized this one," Kettell said.

A lot of senior centers throughout the state have monthly or yearly dances for their members. So what has been the big draw for this one, held way out of the way, in various places over the years, and now in Wrentham at Lake Pearl Lucianos?

For Rose DeFilippo and her "dear friend" Richard Parnagian, it's the social aspect of a regular outing that appeals to them.

DeFilippo and Parmagian, who have been coming to the dances for 19 years, both live in Norwood, where there is a senior center but no social events that mirror the luncheon dances.

"When you become a widow or widower, you look for friends," DeFilippo said. "This is how we met - at a line dancing class."

At those line dancing classes, DeFilippo heard about the luncheon dances and was sold after her first visit. She talked Parmagian into taking some more dance lessons, at Fred Astaire studio.

"He didn't necessarily want to dance with me," she said with a laugh. "I just told him he didn't really know how to dance, and he knew dancing was the way to meet people."

For his part, Parmagian said he likes the atmosphere and the chance "to be interviewed by a lovely woman."

The social appeal of the dances is hard to miss. There are hundreds of regular attendees, the chance to linger over lunch and coffee and an opportunity to meet new people each month.

Kettell said organizers were never surprised the dances took off with such success.

"I think we loved it so much we figured others in our age group would love it just as much," she said. "And they did."

Five or six years ago, Annette Belsanti's friends, who were regulars at the dance, talked her into going. The Newton senior was instantly hooked.

She loves the exercise and dining - and her strictly girls-only outing.

"I come with lady friends," she said. "These outings are so few and far between now; it's nice to see everyone."

The dances have come a long way from the early days. The venue has changed several times to accommodate a growing membership and the organization now is found on the senior center's computer system.

Tickets for the next month's dance become available at the end of each afternoon, and about 95 percent of them are sold that day, according to Sue Hinksi, the senior center director.

"I just think the older generation loves to dance," Hinski said. "And they love the sociability. There are a lot of friendships that have been forged through the dance."

DJ Dave Valerio, who has been working the dances since the event's second year, said he considers the members more like family.

"I see about 75 percent of people at other things throughout the month. You make friends," he said.

It's also a date opportunity for seniors to relive the kind of evening out they may have enjoyed 50 or 60 years ago, when dolling themselves up and dancing the night away was a typical Friday night activity.

North Providence couple Irene and Tony Scrima has been coming for about 15 years.

"It's nice to see people up, moving around and having a good time," Irene Scrima said.

The Scrimas used to teach ballroom dancing at their home in Bellingham, and Irene previously owned a studio in Woonsocket, R.I.

"We used to tell other people to come here," Tony Scrima said. "I love the people, the food, all of it. The whole thing. How could you not like this place?"

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