Virginia Assarati

An SOS in Training at 47 years old, Virginia was born in Argentina and came to the U.S. at 37 years old and is a teacher. She had no dance classes before taking the Zumba Gold class and joining the SOS Dance Crew, though she participated in chorus for many years in Argentina. In the past, she did not like any kind of exercise, but through Susie’s class, has learned to enjoy it! She enjoys doing Zumba! Virginia says, “It brings me joy to be able to move my body, and I am thankful for this opportunity.”

Sondra Berman

Beverly Bigelow

Beverly is the mother of 2 children and 2 grandchildren. She retired 5 years ago from a career in education and technology. She had never had any dance in her past, but followed the urging of her husband Jerry and Susie’s encouragement to give Zumba Gold a try. She has found it build up her endurance and balance and says, “It’s been a wonderful group to know and I love that the music is current…it has helped to keep me updated with my grandchildren and children!” Despite neck and back issues, she brings her enthusiasm and energy to every class!

Jerry Bigelow

Jerry was born in San Francisco, California and has lived in a variety of places across the U.S. He has 5 children and 3 grandchildren. He was a lively and entertaining innkeeper of a bed and breakfast for many years and retired 4 years ago. Jerry was doing exercise classes when he decided to try Zumba Gold because “this looked like a lot more fun.” He hasn’t had any dance classes and has back issues. “Weak back, got it about a week back,” says our class Master Punster! Jerry says that dance has “made life more fun.” He’s more flexible, lost weight, and has gained strength. AND he has “met some really awesome people!” He kindly states that: “Susie is very inspirational and will make us all famous!” Susie says, “In our OWN minds! “

Carol Green

Carol is 81 years old in 2016! She was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Culver City, California. She had a career as an Administrative Assistant and retired 16 years ago. She does not have any children.  Carol joined a Silver Sneakers class in 2007. About 6 years ago, she was introduced to Zumba Gold classes and found that it was fun! As a child, she took violin lessons for 1 year and piano for 2, but was not good at either. She had no dance classes. In Zumba Gold, she has met “a lot of really nice people” and appreciated that “Susie is always smiling, and has a very positive attitude. This rubs off on all her students.” Due to osteoarthritis, Carol had her right wrist joint replaced 24 years ago and had a complete right knee replacement 10 years ago. “Dancing keeps me moving and limber!”

Saeru Doi

Saeru wants everyone to know: “We come from all different backgrounds and different ages (65 to 89 years old), but we have one mind and that is we like to show the world what we can do and we can be happy.”

Debbie Jacobowitz

Debbie is the most senior of the SOS Dance Crew at 89, turning 90 in July, 2016!
She has six children, 12 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren. Debbie taught music to young children in kindergarten through 2nd grade in the public school system. She retired about 25 years ago. After retirement, she was a piano teacher for about 15 years, teaching in private homes. She joined every class she could in her local gym, Custom Bodies Fitness in Irvine. One was the Zumba class. She did take modern dance and ballet classes as an adult. She later had both hips replaced, “and I still dance.”
Debbie says, “Dancing makes me happy. I love to dance! And I have made friends in the SOS Dance Crew. This is an important outlet for me. We have a truly talented and inspiring teacher, Susie.”

Cheryl Markovitz

Cheryl grew up in southern California, worked in a dental office for 8 years, then became a stay-home mom to raise 3 kids and volunteer in their schools. She is now the proud grandparent of 6 grandchildren; and, despite 2 knee replacements, asthma episodes and a few other health issues, she is now a die-hard Zumba Gold student, losing weight and enthusiastically improving her health! She walks several times a week as well as enjoying SOS Dance Crew Zumba classes because the “make me sweat and think about the moves”, plus “lots of great people come to the class. You’ll have fun while moving your body”!

David Markovitz

David was born in New York and moved to California at 13. He is the proud dad of 3 kids and 6 grandchildren. He has been a President of his own training firm, GMP Training Systems, Inc which he started in 1989 after working in Operations Management in Food and Drug Administration related industries. His firm provides training products and services in the implementation of US FDA regulations in pharmaceuticals, medical devices, dietary supplements, foods, and cosmetics. He also has the unique talent of portraying Theodore Roosevelt in his own presentation Theodore Roosevelt Back to Life for corporations and associations on effective leadership. He saw a photo of Susie and SOS Dance Crew in the local newspaper and, having been associates with her in the National Speakers Association, gave her a call and tried out her Zumba Gold class. He never had any dance classes earlier in life, instead playing accordion and ukulele. He now says, “Zumba is helping me get back in shape. Fitness has always been part of my life, and Zumba is helping me resurrect this journey. The enthusiasm of the dance crew is infectious (he says Susie’s energy and spirt are, too!) and inspires me to stick with it.” He appreciates the warmth of the crew and is an enthusiastic performer in SOS Dance Crew gigs!”

Gayle Miller

Gayle will be 66 years old in 2016.  From ages 5 to 9, she was a majorette for the United States Marine Corp Marching Band.  In high school she was in the drill team and then a majorette for the school marching band.  For a few years after high school, Gayle  continued to march with the San Clemente City Band.  Her 32-year career in the medical field came to an abrupt end when she sustained severe injuries in an auto accident.  A traumatic brain injury, a broken back requiring rods & screws, and a fused neck are the more difficult injuries she endures.  Gayle says: “Dancing with the SOS Dance Crew has helped me to regain my strength and flexibility, and has restored my happy outlook on life.”

Len Nissenson

Len, at 67 years old, is one of the newest SOS Dance Crew members. He has two children. He worked for the County of Orange as a Records Management Analyst for 31 years, retiring 11 years ago in 2005. However, in 2012 he started a very rewarding and very unusual second career as a professional art model (aka “figure model”) for numerous colleges, universities and art academies. He has also worked for animation studios, video game companies and public art classes. Len has worked for such esteemed companies as Disney Animation Studios, Paramount Pictures Animation and the World of Warcraft company Blizzard Entertainment. “Dancing has helped me improve my art modeling and increase my self-confidence. Prior to taking Susie’s Zumba class, I had never experienced the joy and liberating feeling of dance. My goal is to get every step and movement right. I still have a lot to learn.”

Beth Pickering

“Beth moved to California from Chicago, Illinois where she spent her childhood through college and graduate school years, and her first job.  When she was growing up, she loved going to school dances and her friends spent many a Saturday night dancing to the record player in her family’s basement.  As time went on, school and work took over Beth’s time and dancing – and exercise in general – became a thing of the past.  Beth transferred jobs to move to California where, over the years, law school and her legal career and volunteer activities left no time or energy for exercising.  But she promised herself that when she retired, she would start a regular exercise program.  She retired two years ago and kept that promise to herself.  She says, “I found the joy of dancing again in the Zumba Gold class by Susie. And I love the wonderful group of seniors that are an inspiration to me every day.  They come to class and move regardless of their aches and pains and physical limitations.  But even more, through the SOS Dance Crew, we get to take our message on the road to inspire other seniors to get up and move.  A win-win for everyone.”

M.P. Lin

M.P.(Mei-Pu) is from Taiwan (Formosa) and came to the USA in 1969. He is 79, turning 80 in November 2016! He had a career as an Ob/Gyn doctor in Pennsylvania and Baltimore, retiring in 2003 after having a stent placed in his heart. He has 3 boys and 5 grandchildren thus far.  He has no prior dance experience but now feels that dance “has helped very much.” And, he says, “I enjoy it!” He plans to continue to work hard and Dance!

Letty Tobias

Letty was born in the Philippines. When she was young in grade school, her father wanted her to be a lawyer but God has another plan for her. Instead, she majored in Home Economics and became a teacher in public high school.  . When she came to the United States, Letty became and still is a licensed a real estate agent. She sold real estate properties and helped manage a small company.
Letty disagrees with the popular belief that one should act their age and stay home when older. Letty goes to the gym for dancing and other forms of fitness activities, although. she learned after so many years,  that walking is not a good exercise for her backbone.  Letty says: “We need to move and exercise every day so we can grow old without aging. I love music, and I use it to exercise. I enjoy doing it very much. I go to Zumba class. Dancing is one form of exercise that I enjoy doing to stay young and fit; and I hope I help to inspire others to do the same.”

Susie Vanderlip, Director

Susie has had a love affair with dance for over 50 years. She minored in modern dance at UCLA, graduating in 1971, then proceeded to have a business career and a serious dance avocation. Susie enjoyed 25 years in the evenings and weekends as principal dancer, choreographer and eventually Executive Director of Dance Kaleidoscope of Orange County – a local modern and jazz dance company. They toured with the Bob Hope Hollywood USO to military bases up and down the west coast, and performed educational programs for the Orange County Performing Arts Center. For 12 years, she also enjoyed being an Associate Professor in Dance for Coastline Community College, enriching the lives of adults by teaching modern and jazz dance in the evenings.

And then Susie’s first husband became addicted and died from alcohol, cocaine and Percodan. That traumatic loss changed the direction of her life. She went into the dance studio to heal and came out having choreographed a one-woman performance  entitled Legacy of Hope®. She toured this program to over one million youth and adults across the US and Canada for 25 years as an assembly for middle schools and high schools, and as a conference keynote program. Her goal was to reach children and families using dance, drama and powerful personal stories, and help them confront the emotional wounds from living with/loving an alcoholic/addict.

THEN, happily remarried and ready for to get off the road at 62, her life changed once again. She turned to dance to find her way into semi-retirement – this time to teach Zumba dance exercise. She knew once again her purpose was to teach  about the joy of being in our bodies through dance – and who better than seniors like her! Susie became a Zumba Gold instructor.  Susie says:  I found the most amazing, vibrant group of senior students at Custom Bodies Fitness who – like me – weren’t even close to giving up the joy of living loud and energetically. Thus, Seniors Over Sixty Dance Crew was born! I love each and every one of my students – unique, playful, and totally willing to live outside the ol’ box – inspiring young and old.”