Monday, October 28, 2013

Shuffle one, shuffle two, shuffle three, step step

Patty here

There is something about the transition from summer to fall that makes me want to shake things up a bit, try something new. It was in the fall some years ago that I began training for the Los Angeles marathon. My coach was a former Olympic marathoner for Ireland. I ran in my misspent youth but never more than 5 miles. Soon she had me doing half marathons along trails in the Santa Monica Mountains—and loving it.

Another fall I wondered what it would be like to knit socks. This is how they turned out:

At the moment, I’m hearing the siren song of tap shoes clicking against a dance floor. It’s not the first time I’ve dipped my toe into the tap waters. Many years ago I had a friend who lived in Tarzana in the San Fernando Valley. Visiting her from Westside L.A. was like taking a car trip to Iowa. She had chickens in her backyard!—along with a tennis court and a large swimming pool but still...

Because getting together required planning, we signed up for a series of tap dancing classes at a small studio in a strip mall on Ventura Boulevard. We bought matching “Mary-Janes” with grosgrain ribbon ties. The experience did not inspire Ginger Rogers aspirations in my friend, but by the end of the classes, tapping was in my blood—or at least in my funny bone. The image of a room full of out-of-shape women flapping and hopping across the dance floor still makes me laugh.

After the classes ended, I set out to find another beginning adult tap class, this time closer to where I lived. That was more difficult than I had imagined but eventually I succeeded. Around 20 people started the class. That number dwindled to around six after the teacher announced we were required to perform on stage at a recital in Santa Monica. As it turned out, we were the only adult performers in a sea of three-year-olds in tutus.

Not everyone who takes a beginning class is a beginner. I was a relative tap virgin but many in the group had prior experience. The music for our recital routine was the Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B, which probably plays a mere three minutes but seemed to go on for an hour as I struggled to learn how to count and to remember the steps. One of my “beginning” classmates was a professional dancer who later took over teaching the class. She worried I’d forget the routine and ruin her big chance at stardom. She offered me remedial tap practice at her place, this from a woman who came to class with red scratch marks on her arms from the two pet iguanas she kept in her spare bedroom. Being iguana averse, I declined. On the other hand, tap failure was not an option, so I began practicing at home on a piece of plywood until I felt like this

Even though I probably looked more like this

This fall, I’ll be looking for a new tap class. I’ll have to start from scratch, relearning the steps and all that counting dancers do. I’ll have to buy new shoes. A couple of years ago, I finally dusted off my Mary-Janes and gave them to the Goodwill. But I’m psyched and ready to shuffle off to Buffalo. Any kindred tappers out there?

HAPPY MONDAY (shuffle right, ball-change, ball-change)!


  1. The music of "Chorus Line" is somehow echoing in my head. Paul Levine

  2. All I want is an invitation to the recital. Well, and an invitation to go backstage....

    1. You're at the top of the guest list! I can't believe you don't have any hilarious tap stories to share.

  3. Well, there's this: Seven-year old me so terrified at my piano recital that I came out, sat down at the bench, and--nothing. Finally, people began to applaud out of sympathy. Bad teacher. She should have announced that in an apparent program change I had decided to perform Cage's 4' 33".

    1. I'll admit, that's worse that enduring the grimaced stares of the iguana lady, waiting for me to miss a step and send the other dancers tumbling off the stage like a row of dominoes.

  4. I took tap as a kid and every couple years, I start tapping again as an adult, and I get it! I'll tap with you anytime, Patty!