Just keep dancing
Published 2:41 pm Wednesday, December 23, 2015
From a few motivated people grew an adult dance class that is connecting and benefiting people in more ways than they imagined.
Instructor Debra Franco said on the first day, her adult tap class had only two people.
“We just decided we were going to do it, even if we only had two,” she said.
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The class now typically includes 10 members who come each week at noon to give their feet, body and mind a workout.
“We’ve always done the tap at lunch,” she said. “It’s 45 minutes, and it gives people a chance to get back to the office.”
With the adult class, there’s no pressure. It’s all fun, Franco said.
“If one of them can’t keep up and we go over the same step over and over again, no one cares,” she said. “If we move a little faster, and we leave someone behind, they know they’ll catch up next week. It’s just for pure fun.”
Franco said most of her adult students have a history with tap.
“Tap is kind of low impact and it has that rhythm, so they get the feel that they don’t really get with exercise,” she said. “I think only one person in the class is doing it for exercise; everybody else is just doing it for the fun of it. They’ve all had dance in their life before, and they miss it.”
For Tiffany Andrews, tap dancing is competitive.
“My daughter takes, and she’s a huge tap dancer,” she said. “As kids get older, you need to get more involved with what they enjoy.”
Andrews said it quickly turned into a competition to see who could get better faster.
“She has come up here and taken a class with me when she’s been out of school,” she said.
Andrews’ 11-year-old daughter thinks her mom doing tap is cool, but she has one rule: she can’t embarrass her.
“She’s up at the studio six days a week,” she said. “She gives me tips sometimes too.”
Andrews said her daughter is better than her right now, but she stressed right now.
Franco said things could change.
“It’s kind of close,” she said. “Her momma’s picking up pretty quick.”
Hope Nelson started dancing with Franco when she was 4-years-old and continued for 12 years. After a hiatus, which lasted into her adult life, Nelson said she felt like something was missing.
“I don’t know why, but all of the sudden I got this urge to go back to class,” she said. “My niece takes, and I asked my mother who brings her to ask if she was teaching any adult classes.”
Nelson said tap was always her favorite and her specialty.
“I took the ballet and the tap and the jazz and the point, but tap was always what I was best at,” she said.
Over the years, Franco hasn’t changed much, Nelson said.
“I tease at her all the time; I tell her she’s gotten soft in her old age,” Nelson said. “She has a reputation in town for being strict and very disciplined. She makes us do it correctly, but she doesn’t mind how many times you ask, she’ll show you 100 times.”
Things quickly fell into place for Nelson.
“I can’t wait from Tuesday to Tuesday,” she said. “I’m like, ‘Hurry up Tuesday and get here.’”
Nelson said going to tap class gives her a weekly release.
“It makes me feel younger and brings me back to my childhood,” she said. “It gives you something else to look forward to and enjoy that’s not as monotonous as going to work and coming home and being the taxi mom and the cook and doing the homework. Everbody needs that.”
With 1-year-old Claire Brame strapped to her, Amelia Brame shows up for tap each Tuesday, ready to share her love of dance with her daughter.
“She likes it in 20-30 minute spurts,” she said, adding she’s got to change it up, and sometimes she watches her mother from her playpen.
Baby Claire could be dancing by age 2, her mother said.
“I teach classes for Debra, and my tap skills are lacking,” she said. “I can teach beginner tap, but I don’t have much beyond that.”
Brame said the class is the perfect setting for her to hone her skills.
“I never focused on it growing up,” she said. “I like tap, and I learned piano when I was younger, so I feel like I can hear the rhythm.”
Brame got involved with clogging in high school and college and used that as her footwork outlet.
“There are physical benefits. Exercise is good,” she said. “Tap is unique because you are able to learn more intricate rhythms, and it requires a little bit more thinking because it is more fine motor than full body movement. It’s also good emotionally to get out of the house and be around other people.”
In October, Lynn Foley joined the tap class after years and years of trying to find a class like it.
“When I moved here in 2003, I was looking for a tap class to take with my mom because she is my inspiration,” she said. “She’s a hoofer at heart.”
Foley, who danced for 16 years as a child, begged Franco for years to offer an adult tap class before finally getting her wish.
“My mom passed away a couple of years after I moved here,” she said. “My dream was for us to find a class for us to take together, but I lost her in 2006.”
Despite losing her mother, Foley said she had still been looking for a class all this time and she finally found it.
“It’s kind of a tear-jerking story, but I feel her when I’m here,” she said. “I see her in the mirror, and I know she’s in heaven dancing in my feet and just smiling the whole time.”
Foley said going to class makes her happy.