North Memphis

Just keep dancing. My advice after 60 years of moving to the groove.

[Author Belinda Kerusch is a resident of North Memphis and a High Ground News Community Correspondent. Correspondents are everyday people trained in the basics of neighborhood-based reporting who have deep roots to the communities they cover. This is Kerusch's first published story with High Ground News.]

When the beat drops, like a knee-jerk reaction, I get to moving in rhythm—even at the seasoned age of 65.  

For as far back as I can remember, I have always loved to dance.  I was never one to shy away from the dance floor; the first to get out there and the last to leave, sweat running down my back. Dancing sparks sheer joy in my heart as I move and groove to the music. 

This is my dance journey from six to 65. 

In the Spring of 1962, when I was six years old, I went to Pee-Pee’s birthday party.  I don’t know why we called him Pee-Pee, we just did. Pee-Pee lived in a two-story mansion midway down Brown Avenue in North Memphis. The street was filled with small, former shotgun houses, one of which was my home.  
Belinda Kerusch first developed a love of dancing as a young girl living in North Memphis. She won her first dance contest by moving to "The Twist." (Submitted)
With the strobe lights blinking, my brother and I did the twist to Chubby Checker’s hit record “The Twist.” I remember twisting 'round and 'round, leaning backwards and then twisting some more.  We won the dance contest, and I let out a shrill squeal of excitement as I jumped up and down. This is my first memory of winning anything, but not my last.  

Top prize was a bolo bat—a red rubber ball attached to a wooden paddle with a rubber string. 

Growing up, my older sister would often want me to dance for her friends in the neighborhood saying, “Come on Faye, show them that new dance.”  Without hesitation, I would oblige.  

Many Saturday mornings in the ’70s and ‘80s, I would be perched in front of the TV watching the dancers go down the Soul Train Line. I would create my own routines and party right along with them. I always wanted to be a famous dancer, whether it was on Soul Train, Solid Gold, or as a backup dancer for a major artist like Janet Jackson.  

I got a chance to debut my dance down the Soul Train line at Northside High School’s Class of ‘73 20-year high school reunion. In my long, fitted purple dress, my arms and legs were going in every direction as I moved to “Everybody Dance.” It wasn’t the famous Soul Train Line I always imagined, but it was the first time I had been videotaped dancing and the cheering made me feel like a celebrity.   

Club 2001 was the place to be in the 80s.  It was a penthouse club on Union Avenue with delicious food and Pac Man video games. My night of dancing was not done until I had completely sweated back my hair and through all my clothes.  As soon as one record finished, there was another that kept me on my feet.  I even managed to win a dance contest or two. 

Eight months pregnant with my son Sergio and craving Swedish meatballs, I made my way to happy hour at my favorite night spot.  The buffet table was set with a colorful array of fruits, cheeses, hot wings, meatballs, and so much more. The music vibrated through the speakers and my son bounced to the beat right along with me before he was even born.
Belinda Kerusch has been dancing since she was six years old. At 65, she's still dancing. She hopes to start a TikTok channel soon to help brighten people's days with her dancing. (Sarah Rushakoff)
Dancing in 3 ½ to 4-inch heels at parties and clubs was effortless, but my world was about to change to a whole new platform; from heels to wheels.  

The Crystal Palace Skating Rink opened on South Third St. and Rick James’ “Super Freak” was released in 1981.

At 5’7”, I was sandwiched between my 6’2” brother and 5’4” younger sister as they each held one of my arms to keep me from falling. The three of us were slowly skating around the rink when my jam came on.  “Super Freak” was blasting over the loud speakers as the disco ball sprayed a rainbow of colors across every surface.  I tried to dance and BAM—I hit the floor.  The fall I took was just hard enough to make me slow down, but it would not stop me from trying to dance on skates again.

It wasn’t long after my first skating lesson that I was able to really get down while skating forwards or backwards. I was at the rink like clockwork for “Ladies Night” on Wednesdays and “Adults’ Night” on Sundays. Breezing around the rink and grooving to the latest tunes put me in a state of euphoria.  

Ain't No Stoppin' Me Now
On October 18, 2018, I joined the Hollywood Showliners. We’re a group of recreational line dancers from Hollywood Community Center in Northeast Memphis. Although most of the Showliners are over 60 years old, our dances are not typical for people our age. Rather than slow and easy, we get loose with fast-paced choreography that leaves us a bit winded but ready for more. 

We perform all over the city at public and private functions—we love to dance.  

When the audience learns our ages, we hear comments of disbelief mixed with loud applause. The Hollywood Showliners were all in step as we danced to “Boogie Shoes” in front of the FedEx Forum last year. The dancers are 60 to 79. I am front right. Check out the video here.

My daughter Keitha can shake it up on the dance floor, but Sergio inherited a true love for dancing. You can hear him in the background of this video as we compete in a “Boomer vs. Millennial” dance battle.  He is a professional basketball player who plays internationally for nine months each year; when he comes home, it is “on and poppin.’”

Sergio gifted me a choreographer to teach Beyonce’s Coachella 2018 dance routine to “I Be Getting to the Money” for Mother’s Day last year. After three sessions, I learned the routine.  

Next on my list is to record a video doing that routine and to start a TikTok account.

I believe one of my life’s missions is to bring joy and share a smile with others through dance.  A 65 year old doing James Brown’s “Mashed Potato” or moonwalking in circles like Michael Jackson will surely brighten someone’s day.    
A March 2021 rehearsal of the Hollywood Showliners is held in the parking lot of the Hollywood Community Center for pandemic safety. Belinda Kerusch is second from right. (Sarah Rushakoff)

The Best is Yet to Come
Life is not over until it’s over.  

I still hold on to the dream of becoming a backup dancer to a major artist—maybe someone like Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot as part of a senior dance crew.  Her choreography is always super cool. But I’m not stopping there. I want to learn a lot of different styles of dance:  ballet, hip-hop, ballroom dancing, African dance, and others.

I grew up in an environment where my dark skin was a source of constant humiliation from one family member in particular and other children in the neighborhood. Now, at age 65, I am a “senior” citizen who loves herself, unapologetically, from head to toe and loves and respects others.

When we dance our brains release endorphins and create feelings of comfort, relaxation, fun and power. Dancing makes us happy!  

So, when you are feeling uninspired or angry, put on your best jam and dance. Just dance. Twist and shout!
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Read more articles by Belinda Kerusch.

Belinda Kerusch is a native Memphian and long-time resident of the Hyde Park Community in North Memphis. She is a self-taught graphic designer and avid dancer. Kerusch is a graduate of the third High Ground News Community Corespondents program.