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This Senior Dance Team Brings Down the WNBA House Every Time

Photo courtesy of Timeless Torches/New York Liberty

When you think of a major basketball team's dancers or cheerleaders, you probably picture the Laker Girls—scantily clad, with shiny curls cascading down their backs. You definitely don't picture a group of 15 40-years-old-and-up "seniors," mean-mugging and ripping off breakaway pants. But the New York Liberty's Timeless Torches do exactly that, and they routinely bring down the house during halftime at the WNBA games where they perform.


The Timeless Torches are in their 12th season (remember when Liz Lemon made a guest appearance?), and while their youngest member is only 40 years young, their eldest is 77. Their regimen and routines are no joke—members have to re-audition every year (60 tried out this year for 15 spots), and there are regular evening rehearsals.

Among their ranks are a math teacher, a bus operator, a tarot card reader (!) and a retired middle school teacher. But what I find most refreshing is their actual embodiment of that (overused) phrase, "Dance like no one's watching." That's the wisdom they've gleaned over their years: It's possible to actually stop caring what other people think.

"I feel like I'm a better dancer than I was when I was in my 20s," says Sylvia Chappell, a recent addition to the squad. "We stop being so worried about what we look like and what people are gonna think."

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Even in his early training, he was learning from Russian educators: Alexander Boitsov at Gwendolyn Bye Dance Center, and Alexei and Natalia Cherov, from the Koresh School of Dance. At age 13, he transferred to The Rock School for Dance Education, where he danced until his acceptance to The Bolshoi Ballet Academy at age 14. At 16, Shayer returned to spend his summer in the States and attended ABT's summer intensive—fully intent on going back to Bolshoi to continue his training in the fall. Four weeks in, he was offered a studio-company contract. "I was so surprised," Shayer says. "Having come of age in Russia, I was very Eurocentric. Of course ABT was on my radar, I just never imagined it was for me."

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