Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. seniors celebrate end of COVID-19 dance ban with Footloose flash mob

After successfully lobbying to lift a 16-month ban on dancing in retirement homes, residents of Alderwood Retirement Centre shook and shimmied in Witless Bay on Saturday.

'We were determined at Alderwood, and we made history,' says resident

N.L. seniors celebrate end of dance ban

1 year ago
Duration 2:06
A flash mob of Alderwood Estates residents marked the return of dancing to N.L. retirement homes.

After a successful plea to lift Newfoundland and Labrador's ban on dancing in long-term care homes, seniors at Alderwood Retirement Centre in Witless Bay celebrated in a big way: with a flash mob in the street.

Fifty or so residents spilled into Harbour Road on Saturday — walkers, wheelchairs and canes in tow — to cut loose as the opening chords of Kenny Loggins's Footloose blared from the speakers.

The song had formed the soundtrack of the video the group sent to Health Minister John Haggie begging him to ease pandemic restrictions on dancing in retirement homes that had been in place for 16 months. Shortly after the video's release, Haggie announced the ban's end on July 21.

Saturday's celebration, which coincided with Alderwood's fourth annual capelin-eating contest, drew a crowd of about 100 residents, staff and family members, most of whom spent the afternoon waltzing and two-stepping to the Celtic sounds of singer-guitarist Ron Harvey.

"I don't know if I can put it into words," said Teresa Bowen, an Alderwood resident of four years, of the day's events. 

Bowen said residents had managed to keep busy during lockdown with skits and games. But energy shifted into high gear when they finally learned they could dance again.

"Just to see the people enjoying themselves," she said. "Everyone was just letting go. It was wonderful."

"We never thought this would be such a big thing," said resident Ann Coady. "We just wanted to dance."

Coady, who was instrumental in the viral campaign, said it was something she hoped would benefit seniors across the province.

"We were determined at Alderwood," she said. "And we made history."

Fifty or so seniors spilled into Harbour Road in Witless Bay on Saturday to cut loose to Kenny Loggins's Footloose as a ban on retirement home dancing was lifted. (Emma Grunwald/CBC)

Crushing the capelin contest

Getting the dance ban lifted wasn't Coady's only goal. She had also set her sights on crushing her competition in the capelin-eating contest, who included local MPs Seamus O'Regan and Ken McDonald.

"I nearly choked getting it," Coady said of the gilded medal dangling from her neck. "But I won … so that's the main thing."

Renee Houlihan, Alderwood's recreational director, said a flash mob on Harbour Road was something Witless Bay had never seen before.

Ann Coady was determined to see the ban on dancing in retirement homes lifted, and to win gold in Alderwood Retirement Centre's capelin-eating contest. She succeeded in both pursuits. (Emma Grunwald/CBC)

Had the news of the end to the dancing ban not come earlier in the week, Houlihan said Saturday's event would have been very different.

"It would never have had the energy or the joy or the happiness," she said.

Being able to see family, hear live music and dance freely in the streets was the perfect remedy for 16 long months of restrictions.

"It was like we were underwater holding our breath," she said, "and today we took a deep breath of oxygen."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


Kyle Mooney is a journalist and musician living in St. John's.

With files from Emma Grunwald


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