by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
When Pat Chancellor was a high school cheerleader in the 1950s, little did she know that at age 70 she’d still be showing her moves on a basketball court to help pep things up, an NBA basketball court no less.
The Otsego retiree is a member of Satin Dolls, a dance group for senior ladies whose weekly gigs include two or three Target Center appearances at Timberwolves games each season plus two or three more at Lynx games in the summer.
“We have so much fun with it,” said Chancellor. “We just dance to have fun.”
Especially when the Minnesota Lynx won the WNBA championship last summer. The Satin Dolls were part of the victory celebration, joining a parade on the Nicollet Mall and the pep fest at Target Center. Several thousand fans turned out for a rare Minnesota opportunity to celebrate a pro championship.
“It was exciting to be included,” said Chancellor, who got her picture taken with players and with coach Cheryl Reeve. “People just yelled and cheered the whole parade, high-fiving everyone, and inside the Target Center for the pep fest, the roof was just shaking.”
Their most recent Target Center gig was between the first and second periods at the Celtics game March 30. They will be back April 26 for Fan Appreciation Night in the season finale against Denver.
Chancellor, who was also a speed-skating champion during her teen years, and the Satin Dolls perform once or twice a week March through mid-December.
They entertain at such venues as nursing homes, bar mitzvahs, class reunions, and a tap-dancing expo at the Mall of America rotunda, when not entertaining at Timberwolves and Lynx games. They practice each Monday at Lennox Senior Center in St. Louis Park.
When they perform at Target Center they are called the Timberwolves (or Lynx) Senior Dancers. They start out with some tame steps to 1940s Big Band music such as “In the Mood,” then are challenged by the announcer to pick up the pace as high-energy modern jazz or hip-hop takes over, and they respond with some peppy dancing to finish out their three-minute routine. Natalie Alvarado, choreographer for the Timberwolves Dance Team, works with them for each appearance with the Wolves and Lynx.
The ladies once danced to a rap song at a Wolves game with lyrics that were not exactly Bing Crosby style, said Chancellor.
“My daughter asked me, ‘Did you hear the words to that song?’ I said, ‘No, I wasn’t paying attention.’ She said, ‘Well it’s a good thing you didn’t.’” Chancellor added with a chuckle, “We asked the Timberwolves not to play that one for us any more!”
The troupe currently has nine dancers aged 55 to 73 and three more in training. Usually three fellows in their age group accompany the dancers to provide vocal music and announcing.
The 20-somethings on the Timberwolves Dance Team seem to enjoy their fellow dancers 30 to 50 years older, giving them nice applause and encouragement. After one performance, Chancellor said, the young ladies were complaining good-naturedly, “They cheer louder for you than for us!”
The Satin Dolls have been around for 20 years, founded by a woman named Mickey Carlisle with a group of mostly semi-professional dancers. In around 2005, they performed a tap dance at halftime of a Wolves game, on a special floor. The Wolves keep bringing them back regularly. Natalie Alvarado assures them, “The fans love having you here.”
The Satin Dolls started out as a tap-dancing group but branched out in part because they frequently were called upon to dance on carpeted floors. Focusing mainly on 1950s style dances in their normal 45-minute show, they have as many as six or seven costume changes, such as bugle boy outfits for “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” top hats and tails for “New York, New York,” clown costumes for “Make Them Laugh” or blue-and-green Timberwolves colors when they dance to songs from that repertoire.
Chancellor joined five years ago when she was 65, at the invitation of her sister-in-law Barbara Bauch, who was and still is a member, in charge of choreography. Chancellor accepted the challenge even though it had been a long time since she had danced.
“I used to love doing the Lindy in school, and I came from a family of nine and we all loved to dance,” said Chancellor.
She was a cheerleader for Robbinsdale High School (class of 1959) and has enjoyed participating in sports throughout her life. She was a three-time state champ in speed skating in 600-yard races held at Como Park. “I came from a speed-skating family,” said Pat, adding that her siblings and her three kids all skated as well. She plays league golf at Daytona Golf Club, ice skates occasionally, goes ice fishing with husband, Gary, and also gets physical tending to a garden.
Retired from a career as a credit manager for a national firm, she has a son, two daughters and five grandchildren. Her son played football at Osseo. After all those years of watching her kids in sports, now the roles are reversed as they go to the Target Center and watch her.