“It keeps me young and it keeps me going,” says Deb Aldrich, a grandmother of nine.
What she’s referring to is dance.
Called “Dancin’ Aunt Deb” by her family, she has been kicking up her heels since she was a little girl. Her mom started her in dance classes at the age of four.
She was a regular on the Ann Colone Show on WANE-TV in Fort Wayne and in 1959 performed with Gene Barry, who portrayed Bat Masterson on television, during the Shrine Horse Patrol in Columbia City.
After the first performance he told his little co-star he had three sons and no daughters and he would like to take her home. She then refused to go onstage with him for the other shows because, “he is going to take me!” thought young Deb. She admits now, though, that he was “really nice.”
She remembers auditioning for the Ted Mack Amateur Hour, but did not make it on to the show.
At the age of 12 and 13 she was Indiana State Champion in the tap dance category.
Now that she has reached the age where she is old enough to have nine grandchildren, has this slowed her down?
Not at all.
She performed last week at the Coliseum; is set to perform with her dance partner Jan Haney at the Women’s Expo at the Coliseum March 19; will perform for the Pacers’ half-time show April 10; and will be one of the pros at the Dancing with the Stars, Fort Wayne program in November.
“I would love to do this (Dancing with the Stars) for Columbia City,” Aldrich said, possibly to benefit the Domestic Violence Task Force or B.A.B.E.
Last September she was featured at the Taste of Arts program at the Foellinger Theater in Fort Wayne and the workers at the Embassy Theater said her dance group at the Festival of Trees this year had more applause than the recent concert by Clay Aiken, of American Idol fame, and was better attended.
Aldrich says her family is all dancers. In fact at her own wedding video from 20 years ago, she is seen dancing with her brother, not her husband. She declined to comment about her husband’s dance abilities, or lack thereof.
Her favorite TV shows are predictably “So You Think You Can Dance,” “Live to Dance,” and “Dancing with the Stars.” Her favorites on this show were Kelly Osborne and Bristol Palin because they started with no dance experience and improved greatly over the season.
“I would like to see more older women get involved (in dancing),” Aldrich said. “We’re not dead after 40.”
Of her nine grandchildren, only one is a girl, and luckily, is also enamoured with dance.
Natasha Pettiet, 9, will make her grandmother proud at her first big performance on Thursday at the Mad Ants game in Fort Wayne.
Aldrich’s dance coach is Sheenah Johnson and Aldrich teaches off and on at Shekristyle Academy of Dance in Fort Wayne. She can be seen regularly with her dance group called the Great Ants, all age 45 or older, who perform at home Mad Ants basketball games. March 19 is the next performance.
Asked when she might give up her passion, Aldrich said with conviction, “I plan to dance until the knees give out or I’m six feet under.”