I never knew that tap dancing involved math.
When I signed up for a class, I was looking for a fun cardio-vascular workout…something I could do at home with the radio on. After all, Ginger Rogers made it look easy.
According to the brochure, “Tap dancing is a vigorous form of dance, requiring a great deal of physical fitness. Many kids as well as adults tap dance for fun and exercise. It builds aerobic fitness as well as muscle control.”
In addition, it also involves COUNTING combinations of steps – 4 of this, 2 of that – then, break! (I confess I was an English major …math always has been my nemesis.)
Hoping to lower my risk of dementia, I persevered and learned that tap dancing consists of several basic steps that can be done as slowly or as quickly as you wish:
Stamp (heel and toe at the same time on the floor, shifting weight.)
Stomp (same as “stamp” except with no change of weight.)
Brush (involves gently brushing the ball of your foot against the floor.)
Ball change (shifting your weight to the ball of your foot for a split second.)
Heel tap (strike the heel on the floor and release it immediately.)
The best part, of course, is the noise – tap dancers use their feet like drums to create rhythmic patterns. The term “tap dancing” is derived from the tapping sound produced when the small metal plates on the dancer’s shoes touch a hard floor.
On a positive note: I’m proud to say that I made a lot of racket.
A typical tap class like mine lasts about an hour, beginning with a warm-up to stretch the muscles of the legs and feet. We learned a series of basic steps, adding more difficult combinations as we (theoretically) became more proficient.
“Your knees and ankles should be relaxed at all times,” our instructor (a former Broadway dancer) declared over the microphone. She must be kidding…
Actually, they were sort of relaxed until my weight shifted from the ball of my foot to the heel, causing me to fall backward – with arms flailing – until the saintly woman standing next to me stopped my fall. I imagine we looked at bit like an elderly version of “A Chorus Line” at their retirement party.
Later, as I untied the ribbon of my shiny tap shoe and pulled on an Ugg boot, a charming lady named Rita whispered into my ear. “I took my first tap lesson when I was 62,’ she said, patting my arm. “Don’t worry, honey. You’ll get it.”
I hope Ginger Rogers started this way…