The documentary ‘Calendar Girls’ follows a thriving all-female dance troupe in Florida

Written by the author Jacqui Palumbo, CNN

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Wearing matching glitter unicorn hats, rainbow tutus or furry white boots, a group of 30 leading ladies have built a reputation across South Florida with choreographed dances to pop songs. Called the “Calendar Girls,” the dancers are not professional, but perform 130 shows a year — and do their own makeup and styling from YouTube tutorials — under the strict direction of 71-year-old athlete Katherine Shortlidge.

Calendar Girls ready to dance in unicorn hats and rainbow tutus. Credit: Love Martinsen

Their lives are the focus of a new documentary that will tour the film festival circuit and play in select theaters in New York and Los Angeles, among other cities, this month.

In “Calendar Girls,” Swedish filmmakers Maria Loohufvud and Love Martinsen follow the group as they navigate a stage of life that may be misrepresented in popular culture: with children grown and careers down, they’re looking for a new direction. Through acting, some of the women become more comfortable in their own skin, donning extravagant outfits and bright makeup they’ve never worn before, pushing themselves physically and creatively and, perhaps for the first time, focusing on putting themselves first. of others

A Calendar Girls dance routine involving hand mirrors and pink leopard outfits.

A Calendar Girls dance routine involving hand mirrors and pink leopard outfits. Credit: Love Martinsen

“(Their) transformation was very interesting,” Martinsen said in a video call. “You don’t think that much, but you keep changing your whole life.”

Some found the dance troupe by chance: Nancy, a former police officer who retired early due to degenerative hearing loss, joined after seeing the troupe perform at a mall and saw an opportunity to express another version of herself.

“We’ve been talking about this movie as if it’s a coming-of-age story, but a golden-age story,” Loohufvud added on the same call.

The golden years

The husband-and-wife directors filmed the dance group over two years after meeting the Calendar Girls at an event while on vacation with their children in the Fort Myers area.

“They started dancing, and it was so fascinating, we couldn’t stop watching. It made us happy,” Loohufvud recalled. They contacted Shortlidge, who founded the group more than a decade ago, for an initial interview, but did not expect to film a documentary on the subject.

As I spoke with more team members, they were moved by how much dance affected the women’s sense of self. The filmmakers wanted to portray a different view of life after the age of 60, one that focused on the dancers’ personal relationships and dedication to practice. Some of the women work with health diagnoses, partners who do not support their unconventional decision to dance, and past retirement age. Being a part of Calendar Girls gives them a support system.

The dance group at different levels fan their arms in a formation.

The dance group at different levels fan their arms in a formation. Credit: Love Martinsen

Loohufvud pointed out that in many films women over a certain age are not taken seriously. “A lot of them tend to make fun of the character, as if it’s so funny that a woman over 60 wants to be sexy, for example,” he said.

Martinsen added that even the movies don’t value their current experiences. “A lot of times (the story) is about their past lives. It’s not about their present lives.”

Through the Calendar Girls performances, the women raise money for the Southeastern Guide Dogs organization to assign trained dogs to veterans. Shortlidge said at the start of the film that the team has given him a new purpose.

“It will be 14 years of my life that I’ve done this – there’s nothing I regret about it,” he said. “I love performing. I love the idea of ​​serving my community… We’re not just old people dancing, we’re doing it for a reason.”

“Calendar Girls” will play in select US theaters in November.

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