Coverage by Nobuhiro Hosoki
From the left, The Nets Senior Dancer Betsy(Betty), Claire, Director Dori Berinstein, Deanna
Story : "Gotta Dance," captures the adventures of the New Jersey NETSationals, the first-ever, seniors hip-hop dance team. Despite swollen ankles, challenges from their 20-something Nets Dancer coaches, exhausting rehearsals, fashion crises, radical personality transformations and seemingly impossible dance steps, the NETSational Seniors spread joy, inspiration and cool dance moves as they hip-hop their way into the hearts of Nets fans and beyond.
Opens Friday, July 31, 2009
Runtime:1 hr. 34 min.
Q: How did you get to find out about the Nets dancers try-out?
Dori: I read about it just as so many of the Nets dancers did--in the newspaper. They were having the audition for The Nets senior dance team, It was very thrilling to me because I had in my mind for a very long time to make a movie that celebrates life, and it was exciting to me that this could be it.
Q: Could you take me through the audition process. How many people was there and cut?
Deanna: Well, for the first time, they must have been 50 people at the audition. Remember, some people sat down when they found out that we had to audition with a hip-hop routine, so I think maybe 40 people ended up auditioning. That was it for the first years. This is our third year, so it grows every year.
Q: How did you work out with the Nets dancers? Was it tough to learn all the movements initially?
Claire: Well, Nets dances who are about 40 years younger than we are roughly...
Q: But you had ballroom dancing experience previously. Even then was it still tough to manage that?
Claire: The ballroom experience is different from hip-hop, although you still are required to be disciplined. Though you are still required to learn certain steps and moves, it isn't exactly an identical experience. So I would have to say the hip-hop poses its own set of challenges unlike in other dances. And also you are dancing solo, not with a partner. You are dancing with a team. Of course that means something. But the young women (Nets dancers) teaches us [what it's like when you're] significantly younger and their bodies are more flexible than when you get older, so we had the individual challenges to overcome, but we did that. We worked really hard, and they worked very hard with us.
Q: Was there any stage fright prior to the Nets game performance?
Deanna: I was nervous the very first time I performed three years ago; there were butterflies in my stomach, I was very concerned with how the audience was going to perceive us. After all, we are all over 60 years old. There were lots of young people in the audience. I didn't want them to be unkind to us or possibly laugh at us. But to our wonderful surprise, they treated us with utmost respect. The funny thing was that, the very first time we perfomed, we ran out and started our routine--ah, we do a little rock 'n' roll routine before we do the hip-hop--and they were very polite, they were applauding and smiling. The minute we started the hip-hop routine, we heard the roar of the audience! They went crazy. We had never seen 20,000 people screaming at the same time. It was so amazing! But we are pros now, so we don't get nervous as we used to.
Q: Did you ladies have some physical check-up before this performance? You know it's very strenuous work.
Deanna: Yeah, like heart attack or drop dead, LOL. Well, they didn't ask us to have a physical check-up. I had a medical check-up; they didn't ask us to submit or anything. But we did have to sign a waiver and things like that. But we are all pretty healthy. You couldn't do this if you aren't healthy, to be honest.
Betsy: And we did the audition. I'm sure if we got out of breath, they wouldn't select us. I guess they did pick the people that had endurance.
Q: What did you do to keep in shape previously?
Claire: I do watch what I eat most of the time, although I do like to eat. So I'm always the right number of pounds weight-wise. But I also go to the gym, and I have a trainer, and make sure to use my upper body and do other things that keep me in pretty good shape. And I'm a very big walker: I prefer to walk through New York City any day of the week rather than take a bus or train. Dancing has always been very much fun. I've been ballroom dancing for a long time.
Q: Betsy, you teach in kindergarten. How was the reaction of the kids?
Were they excited that you were dancing in the Nets arena?
Betsy: To be perfectly honest, the kindergarten children really don't understand. All they think about is themselves: "Oh, I can dance or I want to dance." So my little ones really don't care, but the older students when I worked with in another class, I think they were impressed. I got a lot of cards from them, a lot of wishes and good luck.
Q: Betsy, you initially complained about the uniforms. Have you guys been wearing the same uniform still?
Betsy: No, it changed a little bit.
Deanna: We were wearing these because of the movie, so when people come to interview with us, we like to show the same uniform as the movie, because that's how they connect with us. But our present uniform, we wear bright red hip-hop pants that are very, very cool. We do wear the jersey but they are white, and we have grey colored hoodies instead of white ones. So it changed a little bit.
Q: But Betsy, were you satisfied with the shirts?
Betsy: Well, It's still a man's shirt. We need to have a girl's shirt!
Q: In the middle of the film, if those dancers didn't performed well, they'd have to cut the team. What did you think about when you heard it?
Dori: When I was making the movie, what I saw was that the seniors were treated as a dance group. And if the group wasn't good enough as a whole, they were not gonna be allowed to go on. They had to support each other, work very hard as a team to be able to create the performance that was spectacular, so they would be allowed to perform. They were very helpful to each other and they worked hard even outside of the rehearsal time to train. If somebody had some trouble with a particular move, they really worked to help that person and raise that team up.
Q: There's the one guy named Joe, the only guy who performed with all you ladies. What did you think about his dancing?
Claire: First of all, we love Joe. He's our guy, no question about it. He loves us; we have a really wonderful relationship. And he's now no longer the only guy. This year he has another guy, a second man named Roger: they have bonded beautifully together.
Q: Did you ladies get any injuries while you were practicing?
Claire: I got injured during the warm-up initially despite the fact that I was in good shape because of all the ballroom dancing. And I ended up being out of the team; I had foot surgery that took me a number of weeks away from performance and practice in the film. I was very upset about that. But I did get back into shape as fast as I could. I came back. The Nets gave me a chance to catch up, and I took it. So I'm fine now dancing!
Q: What kind of message do you ladies want to convey through this film?
Claire: The message is, you should follow your dream, however old you may be, whatever stage you are at in life. We all have dreams, and you should follow those things that give you pleasure. So that's one. Two, I hope we can also impart the message that says "when you are older, life doesn't end, you still can do things, you can learn new things." They can be physical as well as mental challenges, and you don't have to stop growing because you've reached a certain age. So I think those would be two major messages that I hope the movie does convey, and that we convey as individuals and as team members.
Betsy: I think seniors can make a difference, even if they can't dance and can't be physical. They can stuff envelopes for cards or anything they can do, not just using age as an excuse. Go ahead, make a difference in the world to make a better place. That would be my advice.
Deanna: I totally agreed with my two teammates. Never say "never", that's not in my vocabulary. If I want to do something, no matter how oddball it may sound to some people, I just go ahead and do it. Same with fashion: I wear what I want, I do what I want, and you should always follow your dream. You're never too old to follow your dream.