By Lata Jha:
Violet Hollis loves her life. Twice a week, she goes dancing. She specialises in voguing and popping to beats from Miss Elliott and Nicki Minaj. She can be spotted wearing hot pink and fluorescent green leg warmers, a studded glove and a black hoodie while dancing. Oh, and just so you know, she’s 96 and in a wheelchair.
Ms. Hollis is part of the “Hip Op-eration Crew”, a collective of 37 seniors from Waiheke Island, off the east coast of New Zealand near Auckland. It claims to be the world’s oldest hip-hop dance group. Ms. Hollis, or “Granny V“, as she’s called, is the oldest of its members, although several others are in their 80s and 90s. Hip Op-eration Crew is out to prove that age is no barrier to making a splash on the biggest stage: the World Hip Hop Dance Championships in Las Vegas. Quite meaningfully, their latest song is titled ‘Life Is For Living’. In August, the team will perform alongside youthful crews from as many as 40 countries.
While their original goal was to abolish the stigma associated with aging, it quickly evolved into something bigger. Now, it’s as much about showing respect to young hip hoppers in the world hip-hop community as trying to better connect senior citizens with young people.
A lot of the team members though, don’t see themselves as ‘seniors’. They are in no mood to throw the towel in. They can’t wait to still go out there and dance. And dance they do, despite the fact that several use walkers, some are deaf and one is legally blind. The group has one routine down pat that features moves like locking, breaking and one called toprocking. They are working on new routines for Las Vegas.
A lot of people have dropped out, saying they are no longer able to keep up with all the moves, while a few have decided that travelling to the U.S. poses too great a health risk. Still, about 30 members of the collective, hope to take the 17-hour flight to Las Vegas.
Among the entourage is Carol Nicholson, a doctor, and several retired nurses who act as emergency paramedics if anything goes wrong. Dr. Nicholson doesn’t play down the risks, pointing to the length of the flight and the heat in Las Vegas. But being old is also a risk. And the bigger risk, she believes is staying home and doing nothing.
Such ailments aren’t stopping the team members, at least not yet. As a lady among them who has already had a triple bypass, says, they shall die dancing.