Susan, a journalist turned teacher, was 57 when she joined the dance team for the Brooklyn Cyclones Minor League Baseball team, whose members were mostly 25 and younger. She loved it, but the awful age-related insults about her in a fan-run fan page on Facebook (not affiliated with the team) tainted an otherwise wonderful experience. “At the end of the season, I thanked the team and turned in my costume,” she says. “I figured my dancing days were over.” That is, until a few months later, when her daughter asked her, “Why don’t you start your own dance team?” Susan decided to give it a whirl. She placed an audition callout for a senior citizens’ dance team and recruited her friend Heather Van Arsdel, a former dance captain for the Knicks City Dancers, to help coach, create routines, and bring the team to life. That first year, 16 dancers came together as the Pacemakers. (Fun fact: One member does have a pacemaker!) As fate would have it, their first performance, in July 2019, was at a Brooklyn Cyclones game, and it ended with a standing ovation. “It was one of the best moments of my life,” says Susan. Now 33 individuals ages 60 and older make up the team, and they wear their birth years proudly on their backs. Susan says, “I’m taking back the word ‘old.’ Being old is a badge of honor. Yes I’m old. You want to be me—you want to be old one day. What’s the alternative?”
In addition to making the crowds go wild at minor league baseball games and community festivals, the team performed at the 2022 WNBA championship game and the New York City premiere of the film 80 for Brady.
Dancing into the future
“Our mission is to make sure people know that old people are not invisible. We’re old and we’re still here, and we can bring joy and laughter to a crowd,” says Susan , who hopes to start Pacemakers teams—she trademarked the name!—in other states. Reach out to her to find out how you can support this amazing group.
This story originally appeared in the August/September 2023 print issue. Click here to subscribe to Woman's Day Magazine.