When one is on the far side of 50 (sliding downhill even), it’s a bet that reasonable people might be forgiven for asking, “Why on earth did you ever take up tap dancing? Aren’t you the person who thinks using the television remote constitutes a full upper body workout? At your age, what the heck possessed you?”
To them all I say simply that I decided to take up tap dancing because I needed to get involved in some form of exercise, and no one wanted me on the Olympic Ski Team.
I enrolled in adult tap.
The other women in my tap class are perhaps a little younger than me (about two and a half decades). And they are each a little, shall we say, smaller, than me (about the size of my left thigh.)
They have all taken tap for some time, and most come to class in form fitting tights and tops. I tend to appear in those elasticized, ‘comfort-fit’ pants and men’s extra-extra-large t-shirts.
Nonetheless, I am determined to get into shape through dance.
Actually, just bending over to try and get the tight buckles on my tap heels done up equals a full pre-class warm up for me.
Each week for months now we have extensively worked on steps like the frappé, shuffle ball change, the brush, cramp, buffalo and Susie Q. And you know, just as soon as I can remember what any of those terms actually means, I’ll be fine. Currently, I struggle along about two taps behind everybody else in the chorus line: I would like to point out, in my defense, that it used to be four.
What I have primarily learned about tap recitals (yes, a recital!) is that you have to wear a costume. Recitals are an important high point of the dance school year, and hundreds of family and friends fill the hall to watch the performances.
Now that my teacher has firmly established that I must actually dance in front of the back drop curtain at the recital, I find I must also wear a costume. My class mates were very keen on the dance catalogue selections: short, strapless, backless frocks with lots of ruffles and glitter. Their suggestions were eye-catching. Youthful. Small. I mentioned that the last dress slacks I purchased carried a label that said ‘House of Omar the Tent Maker.’
We’ve actually compromised on a kind of 1920’s look for our recital number, complete with plenty of fringe. Still, in idle moments, I find myself imagining what the audience will be thinking if I get all that fringe swinging and swaying on stage, still two beats behind everyone else. Perhaps prairie wheat fields in a gale? Sigh.
The thing is, I like tap dancing. Really like it. I intend to go on.
Still, if I can’t get the choreography in the adult number down a little better by spring, I secretly fear being ‘sent to the minors’ as it were: i.e. the junior tap class.
This class is made up of five-year-old girls, with pig tails and pink tutus.
I might stand out.