Seniors Amaze with Magic and Moves at Annual Talent Show |

Seniors Amaze with Magic and Moves at Annual Talent Show

L to R, the winners: Bernie Brandall, Gloria Ortiz, and the Swallow Dance Troupe. Photo by Laura Scharf.

BY LAURA SCHARF | It was a truly magical spring day for the crowds gathered around the stage on Eighth Ave. and W. 20th St. for Visiting Neighbors’ 23rd Annual Senior Talent Show, a highlight of April 29’s Chelsea Day Festival. Competition was fierce but good-natured as the audience danced along with many of the performers. Emcee Danny Morris encouraged the crowd to cheer for their favorites.

Bernie Brandall amazed with his magic tricks and won the top honor. Photo by Laura Scharf.

Bernie Brandall, a talented magician who has performed at the show many times, amazed the crowd and earned this year’s first prize.  “I was standing right in front of him and I still couldn’t figure out how he did those tricks,” said one perplexed onlooker. Latin dancer Gloria Ortiz, another crowd favorite, won second prize with her salsa moves.  Third prize went to the Swallow Dance Troupe, whose graceful moves provided a great counterpoint to the vigorous Latin dances. The judges agreed that they had tough decisions to make. “I think all of our performers are winners,” said Mariam Sammons, a Visiting Neighbors board member who served as scorekeeper.

Event Coordinator Steve Gould noted that several years ago, Visiting Neighbors initiated a Congeniality Prize to the contestant who best represents both the spirit of the day and its sponsoring organization, which is now in its 45th year. Doris, a member of the Las Dinamicas Puerto Rican Dance Troupe, won the prize — a recognition made even sweeter, as she had just celebrated a birthday the day before (and brought her birthday cake for all the performers to share).

“This great event proves to all that talent is ageless,” said Visiting Neighbors Executive Director Dr. Cynthia Maurer. “Many of our performers are well into their 80s and they’re still going strong. We are so proud to showcase these amazing dancers and singers from different cultures.  They are truly a cross-section of our great city.” Assembly Member Dick Gottfried offered similar words of admiration and support, when he stopped by to congratulate the performers. 

Laura Scharf is Director of Community Development at Visiting Neighbors, Inc. — a nonprofit organization, provides support services to help seniors stay independent. Services include friendly visiting to relieve isolation of the homebound, help with shopping and errands, escorts to medical appointments, and referrals to needed services. VN is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. VN does not charge for services. Contributions are tax-deductible. For more info, call 212-260-6200 or go visit the website:

The Jazzy Randolph Dancers performed. Having won several times before, they did not compete this year. Photo by Laura Scharf.

Belly dancer Julia Piters was a crowd favorite. Photo by Cynthia Maurer.