April 20, 2023

As seen in Peabody Weekly News: Roberta Russell: the self-proclaimed Queen of the Sock Hop

Peabody Weekly News clipping

To read this story in the Peabody Weekly News, click here and navigate to page 6.

It’s not surprising to see Kaplan Estates resident Roberta Russell dancing. In fact, she’s passionate about dancing as a form of daily exercise.

“I’ve been dancing my entire life,” exclaimed Russell, a resident of Peabody for more than four decades. “I started tap dancing when I was 5 and haven’t looked back since.”

In high school and college, Russell was a fixture at local nightclubs where she could dance the night away. She learned all the popular dances like the jitterbug, cha cha, and merengue.

“I drew the line at slow dancing,” said Russell. “Absolutely no waltzes. They’re too slow and too boring.”

Looking a very youthful 79, Russell (or Berta, as she likes to be called) was born in Everett. She grew up in Lynn before moving to Peabody. She is still close friends with two “gals” she met when they were 4 years old.

Russell owned Sanibelle’s boutique in Peabody for more than 10 years.

She now lives at Kaplan Estates Assisted Living and has been instrumental in motivating the residents to dance on a daily basis. Teaming up with Antonio Alvarez, director of community relations at Kaplan Estates, the two recently orchestrated a very successful “Sock Hop” for the residents and staff.

“It was so sweet,” remarked Alvarez. “Roberta wanted to make sure everyone was enjoying the dance because she said the event was more for the residents than for her.”

Russell said her goal was “to get everyone up and dancing, even the residents in wheelchairs.”

“I held on to them for dear life and vice versa, but we did it!” Alvarez said.

At the Sock Hop, Russell played the music on her cherished phonograph that she bought at Bed, Bath & Beyond for $500 in the mid 1980s.

“That was a lot of money at the time,” said Russell, “but it was definitely a good investment. I still play it every single day!”

Alvarez said Russell is “the embodiment of ‘seize the day’ and aging gracefully.”

“She has more energy and positivity than I do, and I’m 34!” he said.

In addition to believing that dancing is the best form of exercise, Russell noted that it also elevates your mood.

“I like to see people happy,” Russell said. “That’s why I like to encourage people to dance. Dancing makes you happy.”

Her preferred dance music?

“I enjoy any dance that’s got soul to it,” said Russell. “From rock ‘n roll to Elvis Presley to hip hop.”

As for her most loved song, she quickly chose Irving Berlin’s The Man I Love.

“Both my mother and I adored that song,” she said.

When asked about her favorite dance, Russell didn’t hesitate.

“I love the twist and I’m actually pretty good,” she said.

From the cheers and clapping after her performances, it seems that the residents and staff at Kaplan Estates wholeheartedly agree.