Have you ever seen the film ‘Stepping Out’? Well if you have I’m living that reality! If you haven’t it needs a bit of explanation.
Fifteen years ago I was at the stage of my life where I had not stepped into a dance studio for years, I had produced two sprogglets, gone through personal illness, first child had a rough start to life, and just given birth to number two. I was missing my dancing, which I had been doing since the age of three, and went to professional ballet school, here my childhood dance teacher said ‘why don’t you get back into it and start-up a tap class’. Well that was an idea, and I managed to get a teaching slot at the local leisure centre.
So I turned up to the very first lesson with my tape recorder, tap shoes in hand and was very nervous! There were about thirty adults there, all shapes and sizes, some looking very professional in their spandex and leg warmers others looking more nervous than me. I managed to get through the lesson, considering I was in this huge echoing sports hall that had a curtain across the middle, dividing it into two and on the other side of the curtain they were holding a netball game. My poor little tape recorder struggled to keep up over the noise. Also some of the participants or as I call them ‘victims’ came to a tap dance lesson without the vital equipment, tap shoes. (That’s like going to swimming without your costume!) I’m guessing it’s not quite as satisfying doing tap in silence in a pair of trainers.
Many events have happened in and around the tap lessons over the years, these are some of the ones that stick in my mind the most. Not long after I had started the lessons, my little blossom number two was about fourteen months and had learnt to walk at a young age. On the afternoon before tap I was sitting in the lounge and heard a sudden scream from the kitchen. He had managed to take his small stool, put it up against the worktop and pull a freshly made pot of tea over himself. As you can imagine it was panic stations, under shower, call the ambulance, go to hospital, dress his burns and sent home. I don’t know why and how I did it but I still managed to teach tap in the evening.
We have been in four halls over the years, after the sports hall we moved into the town hall but we had to move from the town hall because they said we were leaving scratch marks on the wooden floor. They did suggest that we not wear our tap shoes or bring boards to tap on, helpful. I didn’t take them up of their offer, but I did ring the papers and get our picture taken with ‘sad faces’ outside the councillors’ shop that complained about us. We were front page with our story of ‘where do we go’ because we have been thrown out. Luckily from this we got offers from several halls, so we moved to our next home which was the ambulance hall.
We have performed at several events over the years, such as, the local secondary school at their annual dance festival. The first year was, as we call it the ‘blue dresses ‘year. We had these horrendous blue dresses that made they made us all look like fat grapes. We danced to The Entertainer and ladies had only been learning tap for a term, so the variety in steps was limited to a shuffle here, a tap spring there and lots of swaying. It was pretty dire, but we did it and the ladies felt a sense of achievement that they had had the guts to do it. For some of the ladies it had been a childhood dream to tap dance on a stage and they were overwhelmed with excitement. I was very proud of them.
Another very proud event that not only am I proud of my tappers for doing, but I was pretty chuffed with myself, was after a couple of years with them now having done a couple of performances at the dance festival, I wanted to give us a real challenge and learn the ‘Riverdance’. Now if any of you have seen it on the telly then you know how fast and complicated it is. So I spent a few days, in-between being a mum, having a part-time job and coming to the realisation that I was in an unhappy marriage (but that’s another story) watching the video of Riverdance, sussing out that I could double press on the remote control and watch it in slow motion, I worked out the intricate steps ready to teach. I got the music slowed down for practise and off I went into class to break the news of my idea. Well a few were a bit apprehensive, but most were keen to give it a go. We practiced and practiced, week after week, I tell you what you don’t need to go to a gym when you are doing the Riverdance every week ,the weight dropped off me, we all became super fit. Then came the moment of truth, the performance, after all that practice, for four minutes of fame. Baring in mind the dance festival was all teenage children performing contemporary dance, we were the only adults and it was not contemporary, to say I was nervous was an understatement. On we went we tapped our socks off, no one made a mistake, we finish, and we got a standing ovation.
The class has is not only a tap lesson, but a ‘bit of a do’ as well. We have a Christmas meal every year, we have been on theatre trips, have summer BBQ’s, end of term and birthday ‘drinks and nibbles’, so any excuse really. There have been people who have come and gone, some leaving more of an impression than others, some thinking they could take over and some thinking they knew it all. But there have been the ones that have stuck with it through thick and thin. Through illness, divorce, children growing up, moving halls, moving houses, menopause, exams and putting up with me. I have realised that this simple hour and a half tap lesson has led to all the things I hold so dear and brought me to this point in my life now. If I hadn’t started the tap lessons I would not have been asked to play in and choreograph the stage production of ‘Stepping Out’, which in doing this lead to me meeting my love of my life, which lead to us starting our own production company, which lead to me working in schools, which lead to my current job. Not bad for a couple of shuffle hop step ball changes.