Huge thank you to Alyson Meador for sharing her story of teaching seniors in California! ENJOY!
Growing older comes with its own set of positives and negatives. One of the most obvious positives is that upon retirement you might find yourself with a lot of free time. You also find yourself with a lot of options as to what to do with this new found freedom such as traveling, making new friends, spending more time with family, or learning a new hobby.
I started working at Sun City Lincoln Hills in 2000. Ethel Henry had tap danced at her original Sun City home in Las Vegas, and set out to find a tap teacher for her new home in Lincoln. She thoroughly enjoyed tap dancing in Las Vegas and was looking to start something similar. She had been given my name through a reference and next thing you know I am hired and teaching women 55 and up. I was 39 at the time so I had some learning to do about the best ways to instruct with their somewhat “older” facilities! We don’t do tap tricks or turns, but other than that we can do pretty much everything else as long as the speed stays reasonable and there is a lot of review done. As with all things started in our senior years, it takes a little longer to learn and master.
Working with these ladies proved to be one of the biggest blessings in my life. First of all they taught me to slow down and explain in better detail when I teach (which was beneficial in working with my youth dancers as well). They showed me that although they did not have the energy of my young dancers, their appreciation and spirit far surpassed that of most young dancers. I went from one class with eight dancers to eight classes totalling over 100 dancers. One of the dancers, Muriel Menig, initiated a talent show so we would have some place to perform our new skill and have something to strive for. That talent show with a humble beginning became quite a yearly production including other performers (actors, singers, hula dancers, etc.). We did a halftime performance for a Sacramento Kings game and a special group of talented ladies, known as my “Diamonds”, did local dance competitions for several years. I also started working at another Sun City in Roseville and then recently was chosen to work with “The Hot Flashes”, a group that has been together for over 30 years.
The stories that some of the women share about what tap has brought to their lives is simply uplifting to me. Some of these women danced when they were young and hadn’t put a pair of tap shoes on for over forty years. Some women always wanted to dance as a child, but their family could not afford the financial commitment.
The bottom line about tap dance is that you are never too old. You can start learning as late as your 50’s or 60’s and still be a decent tap dancer with a pretty good understanding of the art form. You can learn teamwork, form friendships, and step out of the box to try something new. Imagine stepping onto the stage at age 62 for the first time EVER. Pretty scary and rewarding at the same time.
The health benefits as well as the emotional benefits are definitely worth the time invested. Everything a tap dancer does to the right, they have to be able to do the same way to the left. Tap is a percussive art form that requires rhythm and musicality. The physical part is a good workout and the constant balance that is involved creates a stronger body. The complexity of learning the sequences and the timing and then adding arms as well can be very challenging. Once you add the emotional release, you have created a well rounded choice for an activity that is good for your body and good for your mind.
Maybe this article will help find other pockets of senior dancers so we can learn what they are doing with their new found talent.