Special Events Draw New Crowd to our Columbus Ave. Older Adult Center 

Older adults stand in a line swaying their arms in the same direction while a drummer plays a large drum

As our second Tuesday night special event got underway at the Older Adult Center on Columbus Avenue, members hustled to find chairs and spotted friends and family to sit with.  Staff members picked their spots against the wall to watch the upcoming performance. The sounds of the mbira, or thumb piano, silenced the audience as instructor Uniqua Simmons prepared to guide participants into a few fun dance routines. 

Simmons has been teaching and sharing Afya Afro Jazz, which she describes as “An eclectic mix of dances to create a fun and total body workout,” for over 20 years. She hosts classes at Goddard Riverside but has also taught at the Westside YMCA and New York Sports Club. Her focus is using dance to promote wellness and healing to people of all backgrounds.  

“I like to teach African dance because the roots are healing and peace”, Uniqua shared. “Dances for healing and peace is one of my main focuses…bringing the dances out to the community and sharing it.” 

Orentha Alava is a fan of Simmons’ who follows her from performance to performance and helps get audience members up and dancing. “It doesn’t matter what age you are or what size, she makes everyone feel welcome,” she says. “It is really a community of healing.” 

The new monthly series of Tuesday night events is designed to draw younger people into the Older Adult Center. “The Department of Aging is saying that seniors between the ages of 60-65 don’t utilize Older Adult Centers because they work,” said Older Adult Center Director Marcia Mason, “so we try to have these special events at the end of the workday so  they can enjoy it and eventually join the Center.”  

The shows have had good turnout—both from new attendees and members who usually come to the Center earlier in the day. “For this event we had 49 people, which is a lot. We thought when we started out that we’d get 10 or 12 who might stay, but we see the older adults returning for these events.”  

The first show in the series presented singer Emilie Surtees, whose vocal stylings embrace R&B, jazz and pop. The next show, on March 28, will feature Cecilia Tenconi, a woodwind player with deep roots in jazz, Brazilian and Latin music.