By Brandon HENSLEY
Performers from Aloha Allure came to say “Mele Kalikimaka” to the Twelve Oaks Senior Lodge last week, but it was one of the center’s own members that stole the show.
Barbara Dempsey, owner of Aloha Allure that teaches Polynesian and Hawaiian dance fitness, came with a group of six to treat Twelve Oaks members to a Hawaiian-themed Christmas performance.
Dressed in leis and Christmas attire, the group, consisting of Michelle Stanton, Beth Ahlers and her children Abby, Tori, Priscilla and Ben, danced and sang holiday tunes such as “Joy to the World” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
Eventually, they got Twelve Oaks resident Bill Hughes to come up and dance, and even play with poi balls, tethered balls which are a key part of Polynesian dance.
Hughes was hardly shy. He spent the minutes before the performance talking about how much he loves boogie woogie music, and said to look up a video online of pianist Silvan Zinng playing “Jingle Bells.” (The video is in fact very impressive.)
During “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” Hughes ad-libbed the end of the song and sang, “Gonna have a beer with me” instead of, “You’ll go down in history.”
Dempsey told the audience what he said, and everyone laughed.
“I was in the Marines for six years. We have to modify it a little,” said Hughes.
The music was provided by Elsie Anderson, a small elderly woman with bright red hair. She strapped her accordion on and spent the afternoon walking around trying to galvanize the room.
She wouldn’t say how old she was, only that she has been playing the accordion since 8 years old. As far her being able to stand up with that heavy instrument attached to her, “It’s gets harder, but I still manage,” said Anderson, who had another gig to play later that night.
For Dempsey, she teaches weekly hula and other dance classes at the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge as well as the golf shop her husband Patrick owns in Tujunga.
Stanton approached Dempsey one day and asked, “Barb, do you ever do things for seniors?” When Dempsey said yes, Stanton asked, “Do you think we could?”
There wasn’t much time to prepare for the Twelve Oaks performance. Dempsey said the Ahlers kids had two lessons prior, while Stanton had six weeks.
“It was corny, but it was fun,” said Dempsey, and added she enjoyed watching Hughes.
“I have to come early and watch, and see who’s physically able to do something,” she said of picking out volunteers, as Hughes was. “Once music the starts, it’s an odd transformation and I don’t care how old you are or how little.”
Dempsey also said the dancing has helped Stanton.
“It’s helped her come out of her shell,” she said.
Dempsey had knee surgery from a torn meniscus in 2011. She took a “Hot Hula” class at 24 Hour Fitness to get back in shape, and then got certified. A technique she uses to help people grasp the movement of Polynesian dancing is to reach out and pretend to squeeze an orange and then drop it and move their arm to the side.
It’s the same thing she helps her sister-in-law with who has Parkinson’s. Helping people like that is something that is special to Dempsey.
“Oh man, it makes you feel on top of the world. I’m just so happy,” she said.
For information about Dempsey’s classes, visit alohaallure.com.