HONOLULU - Dancing their way through life. A San Francisco group called the Grant Avenue Follies got its start in 2003 when four retired professional dancers formed it for fun and friendship. Now they perform monthly, with regular gigs in Hawaii, and they say this new hobby keeps them aging well.

These former showgirls still have a lot of show in them. Cynthia Yee is the founder of Grant Avenue Follies, comprised of about a dozen ladies. "Our youngest is 70. Our oldest is 83," she describes.

The retirees have a second vocation as dancers. Pat Chinn is one of the dancers. "Grant Avenue Follies is a group of ladies that get together, rehearse, learn new routines, then we go out and eat," she laughs.

Yee and Chinn were professional cabaret dancers in the 1950s and 60s. Yee joined the groundbreaking troupe Toy & Wing Revue - famous for its all-Asian cast- when she was just 17 years old. Today, she is 73.

Yee performed with my mother, Vi Wong, and says Mom mentored her. "I started dancing in 1963 professionally. Your mom was the first dancer [who I met] - we shared a makeup table. She was right next to me, she gave me a lot of guidance." Owned and managed by the legendary Dorothy Toy Fong, Toy & Wing Revue toured the globe. 

83-year-old Pat Chinn worked at different lounges: China Doll Revue Touring Company in Las Vegas and the Chinese Sky Room in San Francisco.
The ladies missed the stage. The impetus for forming Grant Avenue Follies came after Yee's doctor told her to get more movement into her life. 

Yee regards this as invaluable advice. "Exercise is the best thing. Music and dance keeps us happy and young. We're very happy when we meet," she smiles. They rehearse twice a week and perform twice a month - sometimes in Hawaii, because three of them are part-time Waikiki residents. 

Yee started the Grant Avenue Follies with four original Chinese nightclub dancers - herself, Pat Chinn, along with Ivy Tam of Forbidden City and Isabel Louie of Bimbo’s 365 Club and Keigo Takeuchi & Bill Lloyd Productions. Over the years, the Follies expanded to include people in regular professions - mostly teachers," she says.

Oriental Play Girls always had one male cast member. Back in the day, it was the late Jimmy Borges, who carved a decades-long career in Hawaii and was regarded as the Islands' version of Frank Sinatra. Today, former Hawaii resident Dennis Tom, 71, is the Folliles' singer. 

Tom, with his wonderful baritone voice, is actually a retired architect. He says in the nearly-two years since he joined the Follies, he has traveled more than ever before. "I am having the time of my life. If there is something that keeps you young, it's having the time of your life," he decides.

Yee agrees the Follies is so much more than a dance group. "Exercise, camaraderie, friendship- we are our own family," she says.

Their advice for aging well? Just keep dancing.

More on Grant Avenue Follies at https://grantavenuefollies.wordpress.com/.