Flashy, fit and over fifty

Dancing divas use performances to support Paws for Patriots

They’re flashy, fit and over fifty.

The Calendar Girls sport fabulous figures and energetic dance moves, belying their age while raising money for a good cause.

This group of dancing divas is often seen at community events like the Red Dress Dash in Naples, Relay for Life of Estero and the Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival. These gals are always on the move, practicing twice a week and performing 130 shows a year.

“It’s a huge commitment of time and energy,” said Katherine Shortlidge, one of the four original Calendar Girls who has been with the dance troupe since its beginning in 2006. “We have fun together. We are modeling fitness and health throughout our community. We’re giving back and bringing smiles wherever we go.”

The group started as half-time performers for the Florida Flame basketball team, which briefly played at Germain Arena from 2004 to 2006. When the team folded, its 50+ dance team wasn’t ready to call it quits.

“They were short-lived, but we had so much fun, we decided we would stay together,” Shortlidge said.

They adopted the name “Calendar Girls” because the 25 members represent about 1,000 years of dancing experience and because these divas love to serve their community throughout the calendar year,

she explained.

Living the theme of “maturity in motion,” the Calendar Girls’ enthusiasm is contagious. They dance to popular songs from multiple generations, tempting their audiences to sing along.

“We feed off the audiences,” Shortlidge said. “We’re highly in demand, and we love it.”

No two shows are alike. The Calendar Girls pride themselves on creative costuming and choreography to match any theme. They’ve been cowgirls, showgirls, pirates, hippies, biker chicks, broadway babes and even zombies.

“I love the fact that at the age of 60, I get to wear fishnets and booty shorts,” said Linda Floyd, another of the founding members. “I feel that we are role models for women of all ages. No matter what your age, you can dance and be a vital part of the community.”

Many of the Calendar Girls have been dancing their whole lives. Why stop because of a few aches and pains?

“You’re going to have aches and pains when you’re 60 regardless of what you do, so you might as well get those from dancing and having fun,” said Shortlidge, 62.

Sandra Ensman is one of the eldest Calendar Girls, proudly dancing through her 70s. She was a majorette and a cheerleader in her former days, and she has always led an active lifestyle through golf, tennis and ballroom dancing.

“I’ve always loved to dance, but I’ve never danced like this,” said the spry Ensman, adding this may be the most physically active period of her life. “I started in October, and I just love it. We do weird things; it’s a very creative group.”

Although a love of dance is what brings the Calendar Girls together, they also share a desire to give back to veterans. The group’s primary charity is the Southeastern Guide Dogs “Paws for Patriots” program. Puppies in training often accompany the Calendar Girls to events, especially when they perform at local schools.

“We’re older and we’ve been through a lot as women, so we decided to do something patriotic,” Shortlidge explained.

Over the years, the Calendar Girls have raised enough money to sponsor 10 puppies in training, at a cost of $3,500 each. Trained guide dogs are given to members of the armed forces who are visually impaired or suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Some are placed in military medical centers to encourage soldiers as they recover from war injuries.

“We love the amount of support the Calendar Girls give us,” said Jennifer Bement of Southeastern Guide Dogs. “It’s so great to see a group of women who are so enthused and are right behind our mission. They’re a terrific megaphone to let the world know about Southeastern Guide Dogs.”

The Calendar Girls are hard to miss at community events, with sequins, tulle and wigs often incorporated into their costumes. While their wardrobes appear endless, they keep costs down through fabric donations and thrift store shopping, along with “creative vision” to reuse pieces in different ways, Shortlidge said.

“Any theme you want, we can work with it,” she adds.

Choreographer Lori Madl has helped the Calendar Girls coordinate moves for everything from patriotic songs to hip-hop to Broadway show tunes.

“They’re the ones who keep me young, honestly,” said Madl, who is a couple decades younger than the Calendar Girls. “They are a group of inspiring women. It amazes me they are so dedicated to what they do.”

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