Tap dancing in an adult tap class is not the way anyone who knows me would think I’d get my kicks. In fact, if you asked them, my family and friends would undoubtedly say “no chance…not Karen”.
And yet here I was a stone’s throw from Liverpool City Centre with borrowed tap shoes in my hand. They were a size too big but with extra thick socks they fitted. I was a bit nervous but a good deal excited. The whole process of joining the adult tap dance class was made particularly easy for me.
I work in the office of one of the UK’s leading dance teaching colleges so I’m used to a little over performance from the students with their raging hormones, budding talent and abundance of energy. But actually taking the first step from the office to the adult tap dance class has taken a term and a half to complete. And, boy, am I glad I did it!
I was told which dance studio but still had to be shown the way by the lovely teacher, Amy Kenyon; that’s how much the ball and chain keeps me to the desk in the office on a Monday and Tuesday! Amy was bubbly without being over the top, enthusiastic without being giddy and supportive without being over bearing. She has a simple teaching technique: love what you do and let that show. And she did. I was almost instantly envious of the ease with which she moved, how comfortable she looked in her own movements.
The first thing she did was explain about bending knees (reminding me of an Italian skiing coach on a school trip with a “benzeenees”) and how important this was for a safer way to practise and perform tap dancing while also highlighting the difference in movement types between ballet, ballroom and tap dancing. How tap dancing was all “down here” and ballet and ballroom where all “up here”. She lifted her chin and extended her back. Great, I thought, I’ve picked a dance to learn that calls for a bit of relaxation. What am I going to do with this plank attached to my spine?
Not only was the plank attached to my spine but my head was firmly pointed at the ground willing my feet to move…go on…move! And they did. It was a strange feeling travelling around a dance studio like I was riding a hobby horse (anyone remember them??); strange because I found myself enjoying it. I was laughing…and not at myself in the mirror either!
(I tell you what though…if any of the 3rd years could have seen me they would have split their sides at my lack of co-ordination, rhythm, timing, everything)
But I didn’t care. For the first time in my life I didn’t care whether anyone laughed if I got it wrong. I got frustrated with myself for making the same mistakes and forgetting what came next in the sequence Amy put together for us. And I was elated when I got it right. At the end of completing the first part of the dance sequence successfully I punched the air and whooped before I even remembered where I was. I got slightly out of breathe and must have raised my heart rate so I figured I’d be slightly fitter at the end of the lesson than before. And I didn’t think about work once.
All the worries of the world disappeared for one hour last Thursday evening and it was wonderful. I didn’t even realise I’d stopped thinking about work until I took the tap shoes off and felt slightly disappointed I couldn’t take them home to practice.
But the biggest thing about the whole lesson and the reason why I’m getting a pair of tap shoes and going again next Thursday?
I HAD FUN.
And these days you’ve got to get it where you can.
Working in the office I hear plenty of phone calls and read many emails from adults wanting information about dance classes but who feel a little nervous about joining an adult dance class for the first time. All I can say as a confirmed wallflower for the last 37 years is…I wish I’d done it sooner.
If you want to try adult tap dance classes then come and join me at 7pm every Thursday at Merseyside Dance and Drama Centre in Camden Street, Liverpool. And if you don’t want to try tap, there’s always Ballet at 6pm, Jazz at 8pm, and Ballroom & Latin American at 7.30pm.
I dare you!
Oh, and the picture’s not me…in case you’re wondering!