Claire Gaines, a former Bayonne resident and a member of USA Dance, is among a group of 12 women and one man featured in a new documentary film that will be played at Franks Theatres in Bayonne starting on Aug. 7.
“‘Gotta Dance’ is a documentary about the first year members of the first senior citizen hip hop dance team, the NETSational Seniors,” she said.
The NETSational Seniors perform at select New Jersey Nets basketball games during the season.
“Gotta Dance” follows the development of the first year group – from auditions to center court performances. Part of the filmmaker’s objective in making the documentary was to dispel many of the myths about aging.
This is not to say the group had it easy. They often suffered many of the same minor injuries typical of performers, endured long hours struggling through rehearsals, and made the effort to learn complicated dance steps.
“The members of the team were [from age] 59 to 83,” Gaines said. “I was 61 when I first joined. We’re now in our third season, and no one on the team is under 60.”
She said she learned about the Nets’ plans for an older dance team from a New York newspaper gossip column.
“They held open auditions and I decided to try it,” she said.
Born and raised in Bayonne, Gaines graduated Bayonne High School, but was not really into performance as a student.
“I was 61 when I first joined. We’re now in our third season, and no one on the team is under 60.” – Claire Gaines
“I worked in the system for 37 years,” she said.
She said she loved ballroom dancing, even though she only discovered this when in her 40s. She went on to win top dancing honors in 2004 and 2005 for some Broadway show renditions.
She did not know at the time that dancing for the Nets would involve hip hop, and the documentary film came as an even bigger surprise.
Director Dori Berinstein, an established documentary filmmaker, had also heard about the new dance group through the newspaper. Since she was searching for a vehicle in which she could help fight the prejudices of ageism, she approached the Nets and was allowed to film every aspect of the group – from training to final performances.
“They followed us around for over a year until they felt like an integral part of the family,” Gaines said.
While most of the dancers come from various parts of New Jersey – with a few coming from New York – she is the only member of the dance group who is from Bayonne. Several North Jersey residents, who are part of the first 2007 team and are still NETSational dancers as of this summer, are featured in the film.
The film has won awards and appeared at several prestigious film festivals, including the Tribeca Film Festival. Royal Caribbean is using “Gotta Dance” as a springboard for a whole “Gotta Dance” franchise, including a multi-generational hip-hop dance program on cruise lines.
“Gotta Dance,” a new full-length documentary, opened in late July in New York’s Beekman Theatre on Second Avenue, and will debut in New Jersey at locations including Franks Theatre at South Cove Commons off Route 440 in Bayonne on Aug. 7.
Berinstein also has a possible Broadway show in the works.