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Mom and popping: Over-50s hip-hop group busts a move in Willamsburg

The Brooklyn Paper
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Forget the Jitterbug and the Charleston — these golden gals are popping and locking like pros.

A hip-hop dance group composed entirely of women who are over 50 years old will perform at the street dance competition in Williamsburg on March 29, pulling the kind of moves that would land the average lady-of-a-certain-age in the hospital. But the members of Momz-N-Da Hood are not your average older ladies.

“There are other over-50 groups that dance these days — you know, tap, ballet — I haven’t seen any that spin on their heads,” said Jamee Schleifer, a Manhattan Beach resident who joined Momz two years ago.

The group formed at a YMCA on Long Island’s North Shore 15 years ago, when founder Barbara Adler and a group of other women took a dance class together. Most found the instructor’s routines too tough and dropped out, but a handful stuck with it. And what they lacked in skill, they more than made up for in attitude, explained the group’s teacher.

“They weren’t great dancers, but they had passion,” said Lancelot Theobald, who taught the class and now choreographs the group’s routines.

To meet their instructor’s expectations, the ladies held furtive practice sessions.

“We secretly practiced at night after our kids went to bed,” Adler said.

When Theobald found out, he knew he had something special.

“As a choreographer, I work with professional dancers who don’t have that kind of commitment,” he said.

So, Theobald, Adler, and the other ladies formed the motley group of suburban moms into a dance crew.

A spot on American Airlines’ in-flight television launched the ladies into the spotlight. Since then, they have performed on network TV, at Madison Square Garden, and at countless dance competitions.

Schleifer joined in 2012 after finding the group on Facebook, but her introduction to hip-hop dance followed different steps.

She taught dance in New York public schools during the 1980s and found the style was a way to connect with students.

“The children at the time did not want to learn ballet and tap — they’d boycott and not dance,” she said.

When she saw a student in her class doing the wave, Shleifer saw an opening. She immersed herself in hip-hop dance the only way she knew how — watching taped televised performances.

“Living in my neighborhood — a white Jewish girl in Brooklyn — there was nobody on the street dancing,” Shleifer said.

Theobald said Momz’ crowning achievement was when it got a standing ovation at the “Hip Hop Internatio­nal” — arguably the largest hip-hop dance exhibition in the world.

“I almost cried seeing the real hip-hop community embracing them like that,” he said.

See Momz-N-Da Hood at “Battle For Your Life: Street Dance Competition” at Magnet School of Performing Arts (60 Cook St. between Graham Avenue and Humboldt Street in Williamsburg, battleforyourlife.eventbrite.com). March 29 at 1 pm. $10 online, $15 at the door.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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