Older Californians: Dancing into the golden years

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Redwood News celebrates Older Californians Month by highlighting various programs and services available here on the North Coast. Search Aging Archive to find resources for older adults who who. Oftentimes, as older Californians, we begin to discover and explore what may be referred to as our second act.

Danny Furlong, bass clarinetist for the Scotia Band, retired from a long career in ballet and danced with companies in New York, Vancouver, British Columbia, Los Angeles and San Francisco before finally settling in Northern California as choreographer and artistic director of North Coast Dance.

“I mean, I retired almost at the 50, you know, and, I was teaching and choreographing up here, directing,” Furlong said. “And at that point I still kept dancing. I did my final performance as a dancer at the age of 55. I have to curious to not keep going and keep learning. And, when I went into music, it was because I adore music, and I was well known as a very musical dancer and choreographer, and I wanted to really understand music. And so I didn’t know a triad from a telephone pole.”

This path opened a world of artistic expression for furlong, allowing him to dodge the limelight and to enjoy the quiet comfort of performing in a musical ensemble.

“I love it, I love being part of the ensemble. It thrills me to sit there and feel the sound around me and to contribute to it. I still feel like I have my moments. Not many hands. The bass clarinet is not a soloist instrument for sure, but I also don’t want necessarily the responsibility anymore of being first. And I’m surrounded by so many excellent musicians that I don’t think that I deserve to always be first or. First. If there was a little bit of laughter about the idea of my being interviewed because it was Seniors Month and I told them, yes, I am 67 and some of you are in your late 70s, but in dance years I’m 137.”

His advice is to stay active in life at whatever your newfound avocation may be, even if it’s revisiting the familiar.

“To have started what I did in my mid 50s was not easy. It was very humbling. And I would say to anyone, you know, who’s getting sort of too familiar with themself, as it were. Try something new. See what it’s like. It’s not easy. And, don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to be wrong. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Well, you know, when I went to school for music, at that point in my life, I don’t have much money, and I could have probably done something more practical. But that at this point, what’s the point.”