By Vanessa Zimmer
March of time be damned, these Florida women who call themselves the “Calendar Girls” are going to put on their makeup, slip into their short, swingy skirts, and dance.
Some 100-130 days a year, these seniors take the stage and dance their hearts out. They raise money for animal rescue, for military veterans, for churches, sometimes they just march in the local parade to show their commitment to the community.
As their leader, tall, willowy Katherine, says: When women reach a certain age, they become “invisible.” But she and her fellow Calendar Girls rage against invisibility, confronting aging with optimism and enthusiasm. Their crepe-skinned arms may be on view, and their laugh lines run deep. But they love this life and the new family and purpose they’ve found.
Calendar Girls is a Swedish film, sweetly written, directed, and shot by Maria Loohufvud and Love Martinsen, who weave dance rehearsals and performances around the personal stories of the dancers. The couple stumbled upon the dance group four years ago while vacationing in Florida and almost immediately decided to make their first documentary.
An experienced filmmaker friend once advised the two: Choose the subjects of your films on the basis of who you want to spend the next few years with. Loohufvud said they chose wisely, finding the Calendar Girls inspiring, playful, open, and welcoming.
Focusing much of the story on the dance routines themselves was important, Martinsen said in the Q&A following Saturday’s premiere screening. It was an intuitive way to tell the story and allowed the women to express themselves. Plus, added Loohufvud: “The film itself should be as colorful as the Calendar Girls.”
One of the dancers who welcomed the film team into her home was Fran, who has found her bliss in creating fancy, colorful headpieces for the group’s various dance routines. She dearly misses her Calendar Girls when she and her husband head north each year to their North Carolina summer home. Her husband is content to relax in the living room and drink coffee, but Fran fidgets, dances on the deck, and keeps track of Calendar Girl activities on her phone while pretending she’s looking up the news.
She can hardly wait to get back to Florida as winter approaches. “I don’t want to sit,” she announces. “I want to dance.”