Jean’s Golden Girls proving age is just a number

If you’ve been to a Utah Jazz game over the past 28 years, you’ve likely been graced with the privilege of watching the dance sensation known as Jean’s Golden Girls. This one-of-its-kind group was started nearly 30 years ago by Utah County’s very own Jean Dixon Elliott, who, at the age of 83 still choreographs all the dances.

According to Elliott, she has been a dancer for as long as she can remember, and has found joy in teaching others.

“I began dancing when I was little, and I have taught children how to dance my whole life,” she said. “I went on to teach dance at the Jr.high and high school levels, and loved it! I’ve also taught karate, baton, tae bo and tap dancing. I try to keep well-rounded.”

It was about 30 years ago when Elliott had a knee injury that threatened her future not only in dance, but in daily physical activity at all. Elliott said that her injury was so severe that she ran the risk of losing her legs. Fortunately, surgery was performed, and she was able to see a light at the end of the tunnel. But Elliott knew that she wouldn’t be the same without dancing. 

“I started a lady dance class to get myself back into shape after surgery,” she said. 

The first class had just 16 members ages 40 and older, and began as a little exercise group. As the years went on, that “little” group has not only grown in number, but in notoriety, performing at halftime shows and talk shows all around the country. 

The group’s newest member, Marci Harmon said that she wishes she had found out about Jean’s Golden Girls sooner because it has brought so much joy into her life. 

“My sister went to Hope of America two years ago and saw Jean’s Golden Girls there and she called me and she said, ‘We’ve got to do this!’” Harmon recalled. “I wish I’d been here longer because it has been so much fun.”

Harmon, 53, said that she grew up dancing since she was a child, and even owned her own dance studio. Even with her years of experience, she said there are things Elliott has taught her, and noted that she “works them hard.”

“In one of our dances, she has us doing the MoonWalk, and that isn’t easy,” Harmon said. “And Jean works as hard, by the way, I don’t know if you’ve seen her in person, but, oh, my gosh, she’s, she is just amazing. Being a former dance instructor myself and with my background in dance, I just have so much love and admiration and respect for her. She’s just an amazing person.”

Jean’s Golden Girls perform all over the state at professional and collegiate sporting events, as well as community and educational events. Elliot said that it has been the people she has come in contact with that has made it one of the best experiences of her life. 

“We’ve met many wonderful people,” Elliott said. “We’ve been on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, been to college and professional sports games all over the country. … The college guys go crazy over it! People just love moms and grandmas!”

‘It’s like a sisterhood’

One of the more “seasoned” members of the group is Lois Shepherd, 63, who said that the group is “like a sisterhood.”

“Jean is so awesome, and she just makes everybody feel like they’re just important …,” Shepherd said. “She works so hard for everything that she does for us and gets us set up for these performances. She’s always there for us to make sure that we’re good and taken care of. She’s just one awesome lady and I love getting together with the women and just dancing and having fun. It’s like a sisterhood.” 

Harmon agreed, adding that being part of the Golden Girls has given many of them lasting friendships. 

“All of us just love each other and I know that sounds very cliche, but at our age, some of the members are widowed,” Harmon explained. “I’m not (widowed), but some of the gals don’t have their husbands anymore and it’s just hard when you get to be our age to have those friendships and to get together every week. We laugh and we ride the bus and we have so much fun forming friendships and that’s what Jean has done. 

“Yes, people get to see us perform and we get the cheers and the crowd goes crazy and people stand up and they start chanting and they give us a standing ovation and all of that … but the thing that I think is the most important that Jean has given to us is the gift of love and friendship,” Harmon continued. “We’re a strong group. We’re very close to one another. She’s given us all such a gift and a purpose. We need to exercise. I mean, when you look at our 92-year-old who does the split. Oh my goodness! … She’s always telling us we’ll keep your mind sharp and your bodies will follow and, I believe her, I believe her with all my heart.”

Elliott said that this group has also given her a lot of meaning, and she said that she credits them for much of the joy she experiences in her daily life. 

“These ladies are so talented and a lot of fun,” she said. “They keep me in shape and help me to keep smiling. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned from all of this is not to give up, and to do all you can to keep active in some way.”

Now that basketball season is nearly over, Jean’s Golden Girls will be performing at Hope of America on May 7, 8 and 9 at the Marriott Center in Provo, as well as at the Tuacahn Amphitheater on Sept. 20. 

Arianne Brown
Arianne Brown
Arianne Brown is a mom of nine who writes columns for many local and national publications. She currently resides in Payson, and enjoys looking for good happenings in her area and sharing them for others to read about. For more of her stories, search "A Mother's Write" on Facebook.

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