Queens Theatre has seniors movin’ and groovin’ 1

Nora Palka plays her ukelele at one of the Queens Theatre’s online performance programs that entertain seniors and help them stay connected.

With most live performance venues remaining dark because of the pandemic, Queens Theatre is offering several ongoing events online to help stay-at-home audiences continue to enjoy the arts.

Two are tailored specifically for older adults, who, perhaps more than anyone else, can suffer from feelings of isolation and loneliness ... and they’re completely free.

One program is “Golden Hits Wellness Check In.” As its name suggests, it combines entertainment with an opportunity to visit with other shut-in contemporaries.

Interested participants may join this weekly virtual hour of singing, dance, poetry and classic comedy routines on a computer or other device or just by telephone.

Richard Hinojosa, the theater’s director of education who had been involved in a story-telling program at area senior centers, explained that the online program began following the closure of those popular gathering places because of the virus.

“It started as a check in,” he said in an interview. “We started calling folks because we knew they were isolated.” Those individual phone calls turned into conference calls, and soon began to include bits of entertainment, ranging from a song or two to dramatic monologues. Before long, classic old radio comedy routines, such as those of Abbott and Costello, were added to the mix.

“We moved to Zoom and invited friends from the stage to do performances,” he said.

Each week’s offering begins with an icebreaker, a question of the day, such as “What is your favorite decade for music?”

Hinojosa leads the program each week, along with teaching artist Brian Feinstein, a composer, producer and performer in his own right, joined by different guest artists.

It’s important, Hinojosa said, for seniors in particular to be able to reach out to others. “A lot of the community they had is just gone,” he said. “This way they can sort of connect with their friends. It’s vital, especially during the holiday season.”

With a core of about a dozen followers whom Hinojosa described as “very grateful,” along with others who drop in — all are welcome — the series goes live each Wednesday, through Jan. 27 at least, at 2 p.m.

Another series of online programs, called “Movin’ n’ Groovin’ Mature Adult Dance Class,” may well “transport you to another time,” according to the theater’s web page.

Led by teaching artist Allison Plamondon, along with special guests, this series offers a different dance class each week, including tap, contemporary, jazz and hip-hop.

According to Plamondon, each session begins with warm-up stretching, leading into the dance of the week. “Musical theater is a favorite dance,” she said.

Like Hinojosa, she appreciates the need to bring such a program to senior citizens. “They can sometimes feel so isolated,” she said, adding that the program provides “a sense of connection.” She said it also helps to “get the blood flowing, feel a little more awake.”

She suggested it’s “a miracle we’re able to connect that way. We all make it work.”

It is important to note that the program is accessible for dancers and nondancers alike. Participants may stand or remain seated while involved.

The class runs each Tuesday at 2 p.m.

For further information on either series, visit queenstheatre.org.

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