Long before the advent of doggie daycares and yoga for pets, Joyce Johnstone was two stepping with Twinkle Toes.
The 66-year-old Port Moody resident will be dancing alongside her 10-year-old border collie Twinkle Toes this weekend as the pair compete in New Westminster’s Seniors Have Talent showcase at the Sapperton Pensioners Hall.
“A lot of people have never seen this before,” Johnstone said. “So I’m trying to get it a bit more well-known. Most of the time when I talk to someone and tell them I do dog dancing, they have no idea what it is.”
Just as the name suggests, dog dancing entails a human trainer taking the lead in a given dance, while the dog follows suit.
And speaking of suits, no stone is left unturned when it comes to musical selections, props and accompanying outfits.
Johnstone’s repertoire includes dancing to music ranging from old classics to opera tunes, while her wardrobe changes see her decked out as Charlie Chaplin, Michael Jackson or a life-sized cat.
“We used to dance to ‘Billy Jean’ by Michael Jackson. I would wear the signature glove on my hand and Twinkle Toes would have a sequined glove over one of her paws,” Johnstone said.
Johnstone took to dog dancing 12 years ago and began the hobby alongside a different pooch, a Siberian Husky named Meesha.
Her partnership with Twinkle Toes began a decade ago, though old age and arthritis have limited how often Twinkle Toes can now perform, and the moves she’s able to pull off.
“She’s a senior. Just like me,” Johnstone joked.
Johnstone has long performed at seniors centres and schools, while also competing at events across B.C. and the U.S. Each competition typically involves a pair of dances to assess what level a given combo will compete in, though Johnstone is quick to point out that winning is often secondary.
“I’m just there to have a good time,” she said.
And much like cutting a rug with a human partner, cohesion and presentation are the keys to success in the dog-dancing world.
“It’s a combination of her doing what she’s supposed to do when I ask her to. I use verbal commands mostly. My choreography helps lead her a bit too. You don’t want to just use hand signals, because that’s not dancing. At the end of the day, I enjoy entertaining people.”
The Seniors Have Talent show kicks off at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5 at the Sapperton Pensioners Hall, located at 318 Keary St. in New Westminster.
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