Friday, February 18, 2005

Falling in Love in South Florida

I have fallen in love in South Florida – with tap dancing! I remember when I took dancing lessons when I was 4 years old just loving tap dancing. In our recital we danced to “She’s a Grand Old Flag” and after that I never did tap dancing again.

My friend FL dances a couple of times a week at a senior center in Cocoa Beach, Florida, with Betty, an 80-year old who looks and moves like she is 45. Betty was an accomplished ballerina who had a nasty accident and was told she might never walk again. So she gave up ballet and eventually took up tap dancing. For 3 years she has given lessons (at $4 an hour) at the senior center. There are around 8 people in each class, mostly 65+. FL is the youngest by far. They use all sorts of fun props – canes, tambourines, etc. Betty wears her trim little size 6 outfits with the shiny hose and color-coordinated shoes.

We went to the beginner class today. It was a mixture of instruction and trying it out to music. I was a little leery of even joining the line of women dancers, given my total lack of experience. But Betty has this way of making you think you are doing a good job when you just clicking your taps on the floor! Trying to remember the progressions of steps is a REAL CHALLENGE! I can see why Betty is as spry as she is with all of this mental practice. At several points instead of saying, “You all really look like total klutzes!” she simply said, “Let’s just break down this step and go over it!”

As I have gotten older, my balance seems to be somewhat compromised. I now see tap dancing as a wonderful and fun way to improve my sense of balance. As you take a foot off the floor to shuffle or whatever, you must balance on the other foot. That’s what tap dancing is all about. There is also a definite aerobic benefit as you huff and puff through the various routines. So the big numbers for today’s class were “Red Roses for a Blue Lady” and “One a Day”.

As FL says, you cannot possibly tap dance without smiling. There is something magical about hearing the clink of the taps and moving to the music as you swing your arms and head around. It is just plain fun! By tomorrow, I probably will not remember a single step I learned, but I will definitely remember Betty and smiling and FL leading the group in one dance. My new intention is to find a tap class at home, but I’m sure it will cost more than $4 and there is definitely not another teacher like Betty!

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