Ruth Lewis of Homer was awe struck at the parade at the Groton Old Home Days.
She hadn’t gone in years and wanted to see old friends. The summer parade was a revelation.
“All of a sudden, this wild group appears,”said the retired grant writer and administrator. “It’s a bunch of women dressed all in black, with brooms.”
They were all wearing pointy witch hats and had faces of green and white.
“I am looking at them: What are they?” she said. “Are they a cleaning service? All of a sudden, this rock music starts and they start rocking out. When they started rocking, I wanted to get up and rock with them.”
Lewis was looking at Sisterhood of the Traveling Broom. The nonprofit dance troop, based in Auburn, is directed by longtime dance teacher Darlene A. Morabito.
They dress up like witches and practice choreographed dances to rocking music, and perform in parades and nursing homes.
“I stopped afterward and cornered Darlene,” Lewis said. “I wanted to learn about them. They were all ages. Mostly my age. Mostly senior women.”
“They said they would take 18 to 100. I wanted to know more about them. They represented joy. I thought it was wonderful they were doing this,” she said. “I wanted to see more of them. I got Darlene’s card and tracked her down.” Lewis wants to see the group appear at the Great Cortland Pumpkinfest, at Cortland area nursing homes and local nonprofits: “I think there’s not enough joy in the world. And I think more people would want to see them.”
Morabito said they would be willing to appear in Cortland County when their schedule amps up again.
The group appeared Nov. 14 at The Commons at St. Anthony’s nursing home in Auburn.
Morabito told the staff and residents that on April 30 every year, in a German village, witches break out in dance to celebrate the passing of winter to spring.
“A few years ago, students showed me a video taken in Wolfshagen in Harz, Germany,” she said before the performance. It was a group of women, The German Dancing Witches, and they were doing The Witch Dance to Peter Fox’s “Shake Your Bacon.”
“They started this song and choreographed it. The video went viral. People all over the world started copying it. I do my own spin on the choreography,” Morabito said.
Morabito started The Sisterhood of the Traveling Broom last year.
They do low-impact dance moves for mature women. No experience is necessary. Instruction by Morabito is free. Witches provide their own costumes. They have about six songs in their repertoire.
“I just joined,” said Sally Schuck of North Syracuse. “My friend found out about it. …We have too much time at home.”
The group has about 20 women, but not all attend every performance.
“Some people work during the week. Some people can’t come on a weekend. We get a dozen,” Morabito said.
The nonprofit all-volunteer group meets once a week at Falcon Lanes Banquet Room in Auburn.
“I’m a newbie,” said Holly Czarnecki of Elbridge. “Not even two months. I love it … It’s energetic. Everyone’s so nice. It’s a welcoming group.”
Dawn Perrault of Sennett may not want to go out at night to do a show, like on a recent Thursday. “When I go home, I am up here,” she said, pointing to the roof of her elevated mood. “We are not casting spells.”
The women arrived early to get organized. Some were donning last-minute make up, adjusting skirts and belts and hats. Many had belly dancing chains around their skirts, bright tights and shoes.
“I wasn’t sold on being a witch,” said Andrea Price of Auburn. “I will go for the exercise. It’s one day a week and we really sweat.”
Nursing home residents piled into the community room at the Loretto nursing home, in wheelchairs and walkers. The place was packed and the witch outfits brought smiles. When the music started and they did their dance, wide grins, laughs and shaking to the music erupted.
“I love, love, love dancing and interacting with people,” Price said. “Interacting with people in nursing homes is really fun. Not just the dancing, but talking to people. Staying in character as a witch. They get a kick out of it.”
The women did several numbers, including “We are Family.”
“I loved it,” said Jessie Speen, a resident of the The Commons.