In my continuing quest to catch up with American Cultural Icons that never featured anywhere in my Brit upbringing, I discovered this wee gem of a documentary from 2006 about 5 octogenarian ex-chorus dancing girls from Harlem who are still dancing professional. The Silver Belles may be falling apart physically and ‘can’t remember shit’, but they make it to performance after performance wearing spangled sequin outfits and having a ball in front of sold out audiences.
Their energizing zest for life is completely infectious and filmmaker Heather McDonald has the sense to capture their wonderful indefatigable spirits unscripted and un-narrated in this movie that is a sheer joy to watch. She includes some great archival clips when the ladies started out as young girls in the 1930’s playing The Cotton Club and The Apollo in Harlem (which they actually managed to close down once when they led a chorus girls strike for better pay). And it is so moving hearing them recount the struggles they all faced during segregation even when they were in the USO entertaining troops in World War 11.
With their advanced ages the inevitable happens, and one falls down a flight of subway stairs, another needs a heart-pacemaker fitted, and one has to go through chemo-therapy, and the oldest one (96) goes to ‘the big ballroom in the sky’. But after getting to know the ladies over the past 90 minutes, you know that this will not be the end of their dancing days. Thank God.
P.S. The title is an expression that one of the ladies uses with such glee to describe her own life, and she is certainly not referring to money.