Learning can be intimidating for a beginner, but it’s a fun way to work out, once you get the hang of it.
AS SOON AS I heard the sharp clicketyclack of my teacher’s tap shoes on the floor, I was smitten.
People look joyful when tap dancing for a reason. Dancing boosts energy. Add in the satisfying, rhythmic clicking sound that amplifies when people dance together, and even the least coordinated dancers will succumb to the joy of tap.
I felt a little more concern than usual before my tap class. I knew it would be technical, and I lack a foundation beyond a few tap classes in college. Jumping into a class with people who had been dancing for the past six months felt bold.
But teacher and studio owner Steven Oelrich seemed confident I would be OK in beginner tap at The Studio in Issaquah, so I borrowed some tap shoes and headed over.
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We started with basic tap patterns, ball-heel and the reverse, with heel digs and taps on the balls of our feet. Tap requires a lot of balance, because you are rarely flat on your feet. One student told me she feels it mainly in her shins.
We moved on to shuffles, brushing the balls of our feet forward and back. My right foot cooperated fairly well on this move, but my left foot refused to obey, particularly at the fast pace required.
We added in the cramp roll, ball-ball-heel-heel, and made one of my favorite high-speed tap sounds of class.
After a few rounds of Irish jigs, learning to brush to the side and hopping forward, then doing the same backward in reverse, it was time to move across the floor. Oelrich taught us some basic combos and turned on music, and we tapped in groups across the studio.
I felt reasonably proficient with basics like a heel dig and toe, or even the cramp roll, but my left ankle and foot insisted on slowing me down for the shuffles. I watched the other dancers and admired how fast they could flick their feet and ankles.
After a few variations, Oelrich moved us on to choreography. The class had been working on a routine together. I crossed my fingers and watched Oelrich closely as he showed us various steps, including heel digs, step-ball changes and cramp rolls with shuffles.
I could do the choreography in isolation; combining the steps took a lot more practice. I was happy to see that many others in the class appeared to be concentrating intently.
The choreography also taught me to anticipate the next steps. If you rest too much on one foot in tap, you’re more likely to miss the next step. I had to adjust to staying on the balls of my feet and challenging my brain to anticipate (and remember) what came next.
By the end of class, I felt more comfortable and even added in some arms to jazz up the moves.
I loved when everyone tapped in sync, the sound of our shoes echoing through the room together and competing with the music.
I have loved many styles of dance, and I was surprised at how gratifying the sound of tap shoes is. I also enjoyed watching Oelrich demonstrate steps. He made learning both easy and joyful.
At the end of class, I concluded I needed to dance more. More specifically, I need tap dance in my life.