Tap dancing may well be my fountain of youth. It’s nearly the perfect exercise, as perfect an exercise can be unless it’s jumping to conclusions or running off at the mouth. Tap dancing combines aerobics, balance and core work, and the bone-building benefits of a moderate impact, weight-bearing activity with the mental challenge of connecting your movement to visual input as you learn new step sequences and routines. On top of all that, it’s fun and social.
As I’m sure you know, tap dancing is a stepping dance that is tapped out audibly by means of shoes to which taps have been affixed. Its roots are tied to African dancers living in early America and over time elements of that dance style were combined with other percussive dance styles into what we know today as either rhythm or jazz tap and broadway tap. There are many others who have written on the history of tap dancing so I won’t be saying anymore on the subject (this one’s good). This post is about my experience with tap dancing.
Perhaps you’ve seen articles in the last few years about tap dancing as exercise, for young and old alike. I got started with it before it was cool and before the movie Happy Feet brought it some notoriety (‘cuz I’m a trendsetter, you know). I’ve been tap dancing for about 12 years. And I’ve performed in recitals, too (I’ll get to that in a bit). Simple math will tell you that I was already past 40 when I began. It all started when the mother of one of my daughter’s dance friends suggested that I join her in a “mom’s” tap class. Intrigued, I gave it a try and although I really liked it, I didn’t attend regularly.
In the Fall of 2004, I decided to give tap another go but the dance studio had dropped the “mom’s” class and instead was offering a teen/adult tap class instead. The adults were given the choice of participating in the Spring recital. I decided to do it because that would solidify my commitment to class. My daughter would also be performing in the recital (in her own classes) so my family would be attending the recital anyway and now they would get a surprise when they saw me as well. Fine, whatever. It was a blast and I was hooked.
Unfortunately, the dance school didn’t want to run an adult program after that (I don’t think my performance had anything to do with that decision) and there was no tap class for me to take the following year. Over the next several months, I realized how much I missed tap dancing and decided to see if I could find an adult class at another dance school. Luckily for me, I found a rather robust program for adults at another nearby dance school so I signed up and started tapping again in the Fall of 2006.
In the Spring of 2007, I once again performed in a dance recital so my family had to endure both my daughter’s recital and mine. My daughter stopped taking dance after that year but I continued with it until early 2012. Most of the others in my classes were moms whose children were also enrolled at the dance school. There was a dad in the class the last full year I took classes at that school. I haven’t been able to find a photo from my very first recital but to the right, you can see the group photos for the 2007 and 2011 recitals. You should be able to figure out which dancer is me by the hair.
For some reason, I lost my dancing mojo in early 2012 and I decided to take a break from tap. I wound up having corrective surgery on one of my feet a few months later and then on the other foot the following year. Family issues had me pretty busy for the rest of 2013 and most of 2014 along with the selling of our old place and buying a new one so, for a while, taking up again with tap wasn’t a priority. By last Spring, our lives had settled into a more normal routine and I began to think about tapping again but now the class time at the dance school was earlier in the evening which meant I would going straight from work. Even though I wanted to do it, I kept putting it off and decided I would sign up in the Fall.
In August, I noticed West Valley Dance Academy had been added to the sign of a corner strip mall near where I live and I wondered how long it had been there without me noticing. As it turned out, the signage was new. The dance school would be opening at the beginning of September, was offering adult dance classes, and best of all, I would have time to go home first to change clothes and have a quick bite to eat. So once again, I was back to hoofing.
The photos above were taken this past Sunday at our last practice before the recital scheduled for later in the afternoon. Although there are other ladies who been taking the class during the past several months, there was just four of us who committed to being in the recital. One of the dancers in our group is brand new to tap, having only begun two months ago. Our instructor is also the owner of the school and she performed with us as well. We danced to the song Happy Feet (a mostly instrumental version) and it was not an overly complicated routine but did include some turns which are a challenge for me. Our costumes came from our wardrobes; black top and black pants. Our unofficial group photo is below. If you read on for a bit more, I have a special treat for you at the end of the post.
Top Five Benefits Of Tap Dancing
If you google “tap dancing as exercise”, you’ll easily find a dozen or more articles on the subject and the associated benefits. Here are my top five:
- It’s a fun way to exercise (sometimes it doesn’t even feel like exercise, just fun).
- It’s a good workout for your legs (who doesn’t want dancer’s legs).
- It makes you more conscious about your posture and improves your balance (important factors in looking youthful)
- It engages and challenges your brain in a different way than other aerobic activities do (a benefit to cognitive function)
- You make new friends (which gets harder and harder as time goes by)
And for the special treat, I have for your viewing pleasure, a video from the last practice session. Unfortunately, there were technical difficulties with the video The Husband tried to take during the recital so unless you saw it in person, this is the best I can do for you.
One last thing before I close, I love this quote from an unknown source … “You don’t stop dancing because you grow old; you grow old because you stop dancing.”
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