Still Dancing at Age 96
Isadora Duncan is credited with inventing what became known as interpretive Dance.
She wanted her dance style to be free and natural. Her dancers preferred bare feet. She was
born in California and became famous in the United States and throughout Europe.
In Building #1, we have a resident who studied the Duncan style of dance and performed
barefoot with six other young women, known as the Maverick Dancers, at the 92 Street Y in
1937, when she was 15. They took that name, because they were unorthodox, nonconformist
free spirits just, like Isadora Duncan, their idol. Her name is Pearl Seligson and she’s lived at
NST for 32 years. This remarkable 96-year-old still exercises daily, drives her own car, plays
Bridge and appears to be “sharp as a tack.” On April 29, she will be honored when Dance
Visions and Director Beth Jucovy come to perform Duncan dancing in our NST Cinema.
BY FRED CHERNOW
Photos courtesy of Pearl Seligson
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?
I was born and raised in the Ocean Parkway
section of Brooklyn near Avenue L, and graduated
from Abraham Lincoln High School.
We lived in a two-family house as tenants. My
parents were born in Salonika, Turkey, which
is now part of Greece. They had six children
and I was the youngest. Sadly, I’m the only one
still alive. At home my parents spoke Ladino,
the language of Sephardic Jews. My maiden
name was Benveniste.
DID YOU HAVE A FAMILY OF YOUR OWN?
I met my husband, Irving, while skating at
Park Circle in Brooklyn. We had two children.
Unfortunately, my son passed away when still
a young married, medical doctor. My daughter,
Carol, and husband Ron live in Stamford,
Connecticut. She recently retired as a speech
pathologist in the Norwalk school system. Ron
is a writer. His book, “Raising the Curve” is
an inside look at some of the problems facing
our schools. They have two sons, Adam,a lawyer
in Washington,D.C., and Josh, a baker in
New Haven, Connecticut. Josh volunteered
for AmeriCorps after college, and he learned
to bake bread.
WHEN DID YOU START TO DANCE?
It was 1935 and we were still in the
Depression. My older brother knew of my
interest in dance. He gave me 50 cents a week
to take tap dancing lessons. When the class
dwindled to 3 students the teacher gave up.
Someone told me there was a dance teacher at
Washington Irving High School in Manhattan,
who charged only 10 cents a lesson. So off I
went, alone, on the subway, for 5 cents, to
the gym at Washington Irving, where I was
introduced to Isadora Duncan dancing, which
is so different from the restrictive tap I had been
exposed to. Step One was to take off my shoes
and socks. The pianist played classical music.
We learned to move naturally to the music. For
me it was “love at first step.” Soon I was part
of the Maverick Dance Group and we performed
at the 92 Street Y, the Barbizon Plaza,
and eventually, Carnegie Hall. I was hooked
on the Duncan style. I found it exhilarating…
freedom of movement to wonderful classical
music, and no shoes!
AT AGE 96 DO YOU STILL EXERCISE?
Yes, I have a regular exercise routine. One
wonderful amenity at NST are the free classes.
I attend an exercise class on Mondays, do Tai
Chi and Yoga on Wednesdays and walk the
Arcade for 30 minutes on other days with
my earphones listening to Broadway show
tunes. I keep my mind sharp by playing Bridge,
Canasta, and Mah-Jongg. My regret is that I
had to give up Tennis when I reached 85. It
was such fun playing with Gerry Rubin and
WHEN DID YOU COME TO NST?
I moved to Building #3 in 1987 from my
home in Little Neck. Years later, I moved into
a one-bedroom apartment in Building #1.
I love the conveniences here. Besides the
classes, I like the bank, drugstore, restaurants
and food stores. I still prepare my own meals.
I no longer drive in snow, on highways or at
night in my 2002 Toyoto that has 19,000 miles.
My big limitation is that I’m hard of hearing
and depend on closed caption TV and Netflix
films with titles. Currently, my favorite show
is “This Is Us.” I’m also a fan of “Jeopardy”
YOU HAVE MAINTAINED A STYLISH FIGURE.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY EATING?
Eggplant parmigiana is my food favorite.
Occasionally, I prepare Turkish/Greek dishes
from my childhood, like “pastelikos,” which
is made from phyllo dough and stuffed with
different things like farmer cheese, potato,
spinach or eggplant.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR OTHER
For more than 40 years, I’ve been a volunteer
at LIJ Hospital, now Northwell Health. For
most of that time I was in sales at the Gift
Shop, where Donald Trump occasionally made
a purchase when visiting a patient. When they
opened a Baby Gift Shop, I was moved there.
I enjoy chatting with customers who want
to bring something for a sick child or a new
mother. Stuffed animals are always a favorite.
Now balloons are popular and it’s my job to
blow them up. I use a pump, of course.
Hope to see you at the Dance Visions
program on April 29 in our Movie Theater
(see story on PAGE 6). Get your tickets now,
Shirley Romaine, will narrate. I want to
thank Beth Jucovy for keeping the traditional
dances created by Isadora Duncan alive and
Pearl in ivory
4 NORTH SHORE TOWERS COURIER ¢ April 2018