This summer, I’m taking a series of twelve tap dancing classes for adults at our local arts center. It was a last minute decision. I saw an ad in the local newspaper that triggered one my childhood desires.
Remember Shirley Temple and Bojangles tap dancing up and down that steep flight of stairs? Shirley’s banana curls bobbed up and down while the tails of Bojangles’ morning coat fluttered with the movement of his feet.
When I was five, I had the banana curls, but I never got the tap dancing lessons, so I thought, “Why not?”
The concentration required for tap dancing might be a good exercise for my brain, especially since I’m somewhat rhythm-challenged. Anyway, that was my excuse, and it turns out that tap dancing is a good brain exercise. Like rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time.
As soon as I registered for the class, I ordered my black tap dancing shoes. Amazon Prime.
And before the UPS man was even out of the driveway, I was lacing them on in the front hall. I walked across the tile floor. Click, clack, click, clack. Then across the hardwood. Click, clack, click, clack. Out the back door. Click, clack, click, clack. Across the wooden deck…
Suddenly I knew why those boys in junior high had cleats attached to the heels of their shoes. What a cool sound!
Our dance instructor says that tap dancing is making music with your feet.
I never thought of it that way, but now walking to the refrigerator for a handful of cherries has taken on new meaning. Suddenly it’s fun, clickety-clack, clickety-clack. Toe, toe, heel, heel. Stomp, step, brush, step.
As our instructor introduces new combinations of steps, I’m willing my feet to follow my brain, and soon I’m tapping a little faster, and faster still, as the lessons progress. I’m even managing to keep up with the midriff-baring, college-age females in the class. Just barely.
Our teacher says we’re doing really great and so she’s pushing ahead of the lesson plans.
That doesn’t stop me from having my doubts. I practice indoors and out with my tap dancing cheat sheet in one hand and my other hand extended for balance. Toe, toe, heel, heel. Dig, spank, step, heel.
At home, without the distractions of ten other pairs of feet clacking next to me, and without the rafter-raising volume of Billie Jean pulsing to my core, I’m doing quite well. I’m surprising myself.
Then I set out for class and—like clockwork—about half way through the session, I get a wave of self doubt and my smile fades.
Am I ever going to be able to connect the movements on my own without someone calling out the steps? Maybe I shouldn’t have signed up for this. It was a dumb idea. How do four-year-olds even do this?
I’m going to tell the instructor that the tap dancing is stirring up an old knee injury. Or maybe I’m getting shin splints. I have a stomach ache. I have to be somewhere else. That’s it. I have an appointment that I forgot about.
Just as suddenly as the hesitation appears—every single week—I figuratively slap myself and carry on. I put the smile back, and concentrate harder. The music is fun, after all, and the clickity-clack feels good. And the sweat! The back of my neck doesn’t feel too pretty. Hot now. Summer in the city.
I realize that maybe it’s because tap dancing is not easy for me. I’m not in the habit of selecting really challenging activities as recreation. I know the things that I’m good at, and those are the things that have become my hobbies. Isn’t the point of recreation to have fun?
This tap dancing thing is a good lesson for me. I’m showing myself that if I stick with something that’s not easy, maybe I’ll be better prepared mentally when I need to hang in there through a challenging life experience.
Clickety-clack. Brush, spank, hop, step. Dig, spank, step, heel.
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