When she retired from her job as director of finance for Philadelphia Gas Works, Anne Breyer never dreamed she’d have an opportunity to dance in front of 20,000 people at an NBA game.
That all changed Saturday, Feb. 10, when the Brigantine resident stepped onto the hardcourt of the Philadelphia Wells Fargo Center with some 30 other dancers as a sellout crowd streamed into the stands to see the 76ers play the LA Clippers.
Since 2015, the Sixers have invited area dance troupes to perform a three- to four-minute pregame routine for the arriving crowd.
Each year, Brigantine fitness instructor Marisela Dellinger has been there with Marisela’s Zumba Group, a mélange of performers drawn from her classes at the Brigantine Beach Community Center and other places she teaches.
This year’s dancers, both male and female, ranged from their mid-teens to almost 68 years old, and came from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
“It was a good opportunity for a bunch of people who are not professionals to get out and dance,” said Breyer. “Marisela mentioned to the class that anybody could participate, so I thought, why not? I’m retired now. There were people from all walks of life.”
With the female dancers wearing leopard print and the males in coordinating tie-dye gear, they danced to a high-energy mashup of the songs "Freaks," "Ego" and "Firehouse."
“They announce you, and you’re on the big television screen,” Breyer said. “It was exciting.”
“It was amazing,” said Karen Geller of Brigantine, who worked with Dellinger and choreographers Jonathan Baca and Lisa Jones to coordinate the routine. “Marisela is just dynamic and has motivated the whole Brigantine community. I saw her dancing and I thought, ‘That’s for me.’”
Rehearsals — held several times a week for six weeks at the Tropicana Casino & Resort in Atlantic City — were challenging but worth it, said Kathy Dalonzo of Galloway, a retired union electrician who takes Zumba classes with Dellinger through Brigantine Community Education and Recreation.
“People think, ‘I’m too old for that,’” Dalonzo said. “No, you’re not.”
"When you’re out on the Sixers court, people are expecting Zumba chicks, then see a couple old folks," she said. "Maybe one person will think, ‘If she can do that, I can do that.’ It was a wonderful experience.”
The final number was “exhilarating, with the crowd all staring at you,” said Geller. “Some people got emotional and cried. It worked out very well.”
The dancers then joined the spectators to watch the Sixers defeat the Clippers 112-98 to clinch their third straight win. They have since won two more games, extending their win streak to five.
Dellinger is already planning to take her troupe back to the arena next year.
“It’s great to be in front of people and be yourself. And age is no problem,” she said. “My goal is motivation and to inspire people. Everybody can dance.”