Learning to Walk in Tap Shoes

Last week I was at DGC Pro, the local dance store in Salem trying on shoes. My own pair still have plenty of sound left in them to tap out, but the store was closing and everything was half price, quite a deal when it comes to quality tap dancing shoes. That way I have a good pair for that day mine do wear out. As I sat there on their floor trying out the black leather pair, very similar to my own, I felt like I was pulled back in time to three years ago when I was doing the exact same thing on that exact same floor.

It was early June of 2005. I had just finished my second year of seminary, but more importantly, I was just coming out of my “dark night” (See previous post). I was to the point where I knew I was different and I had enough energy to want to “get out of bed” and do something. I wanted to learn something new to match the new person I had come to be. But what? So one night, I was poking around The Statesman Journal’s calendar on their website looking at the list of local classes when two caught my eye: tap dancing and Hebrew grammar. I decided to call tap dancing first. I picked up the phone and dialed the number listed. The woman who picked up the other end explained where the class was held and corrected me on the time. (She said the Statesman never really got things right so she had decided to leave well enough alone on that point.) She seemed very nice.

So, the next Tuesday I find my way downtown and locate the studio in an older building on State Street. I walk in and at the other end of the room is the only person there, a woman with blond curls and a black shirt who smiles warmly at me and welcomes me to the class. I liked her immediately. Other people come in after me and we review a dance they have already been learning. Although it is all so new to me, I try not to smile, I don’t want to show how much fun I’m having. I like to keep my emotions inside and protected. At the end of the class, I know I want to come back. And I REALLY want my own pair of tap shoes. Getting to make all those sounds when you move your feet sounded like a lot of fun!

So, the next day, or maybe the day after, I took the discount coupon the teacher had given me and went down to DGC Pro for my tap shoes. I had been looking forward to it ALL DAY. After giving the clerk my size, I sat on the floor until I found a pair that fit just right. Yellow box with black shiny new tap shoes in hand, I proudly went home and drooled over them until I could try the shoes out the next week.

Stacey, the teacher, was equally happy to see me the next week. (She later told me she had wondered if I’d be back.) But I did come back, agains and agains and agains. It was hard, my emotional energy was still at an ebb, I couldn’t “stand” for very long. But it was so much fun and Stacey was so nice, that I stuck with it through those very frustrating weeks of trying to learn the new language of dance. (I nearly cried in class several times.) After a few weeks of classes, I was lying on a couch one afternoon and in sheer puzzlement, I asked God, “Why tap dancing?” and he replied, “Because I am going to teach you how to walk again and this is how we’re going to do it.” Only God would teach someone how to walk by teaching them how to dance. So, with Stacey’s help, that is exactly what we did.

It didn’t take Stacey and I long to form a friendship. It was about a month after I had started that we walked around the World Beat Festival together after she performed with the Molly Malone Irish Dancers. (They dance beautifully.) I had gone to watch and she had some time to hang out afterwards. My friend, Deborah, had also joined the class so going every week was like hanging out with my friends. It is still very much that way today except now even more so.

Looking back three years later, I can see how much tap dancing has added to my life and how much it has changed me. Remember me trying not to smile? I smile a lot now. In fact, the other day, Stacey told me how contagious it is and I asked her surprised, “Really?” She was a little incredulous at that response. But it had taken me a long time to let myself really smile and really laugh, I had held it in so much before without even really knowing it. But I knew Stacey liked me and knowing that helped immensely. It is much easier to show who you are when you know who you are is well liked. As I was discovering who I was and who I wanted to be as God and I rebuilt, people like Stacey were there surrounding me with encouragement and love.

When I messed up in class, when I wasn’t perfect, it didn’t bother Stacey at all. It bothered me a lot and I would get so frustrated! Her focus is not usually on the end product, her focus is on having fun while you’re learning and you may even come up with something new along the way! She taught me perfection doesn’t really exist, you can do a step hundreds of times, do it again and still do it better. The whole thing is a process, much like our lives, and it is meant to be enjoyed. Then as we worked on my solo together, she would videotape me and I had to learn how to keep going even when I wasn’t getting it just right. I had to learn to be comfortable with her watching just me. I didn’t like being under scrutiny, it was even rather terrifying. But over time, as I learned to trust her, I am now down to “slightly uncomfortable”. And I still have perfectionist tendencies when it comes to a standard for myself, but I give myself a lot more grace now and I know I will get the step at some point. (Although "wings" still stumps me.)

Then, my second year, our troupe was asked to perform with several other dance troupes for a fund raiser. It was my first time on a stage outside of our studio. That night, I was stunned to discover, I LOVE the stage! I love being in the wings, the “5 minutes!” calls, the crowded hallways, being center stage, dancing down the aisles, all of it! I was in heaven. After one show, someone told Stacey I had great stage presence. When she relayed that to me, I knew my dream of speaking in front of audiences was in fact reachable. I really could do this and I could do it well. And I loved that I could have stage presence dancing.

I think the other thing I have learned besides self-confidence, is that to do something takes practice. You may not be able to do a step, it may seem like you will never get it, but if you keep at it, one day, you will do it with ease. Just keep at it. This gives me faith in myself. The most important thing I have learned, though, is attitude. This is one lesson where I am still impressed how God taught it to me. He knew exactly what he was doing when he brought Stacey and I into each other’s lives. She has such a cheerful, positive outlook, you can’t help but have it rub off on you. My personality tends toward the darker emotions and “fours” hold onto them. But Stacey has taught me that you choose what to focus on and that life is much happier when you focus on the positive, when you choose to live with a cheerful and giving attitude. I can’t tell you how many times this lesson has come back to me again and agains. I needed that light to be there. The first time I emotionally felt warmth on my face as if the sun had just broken through the clouds for a time, was one evening at tap class. It lasted for about an hour but it gave me hope that there would be life and light when the black water had ebbed away. I have to honestly say, tap dancing and my friends there was one of the biggest contributors to my healing and in who I am today. My mentors would be the other. I really did learn how to walk in tap shoes.

So thank you to Stacey and the On Tap dancers for the last three wonderful years, they have been filled with joy, camaraderie, hope, self-confidence, and love. All the things I wanted to be built into my life and who I am was partly built here, in our studio dancing together. I still have so much to learn, including all of the lessons I have mentioned on deeper levels, but I am looking forward to learning them as we continue dancing together. I think you helped draw out the person I truly was all along. Since I can’t put it any better than they did in “Wicked”, this is for all of you. (What can I say, I’m a Broadway fan…)

I'VE HEARD IT SAID

THAT PEOPLE COME INTO OUR LIVES
FOR A REASON
BRINGING SOMETHING WE MUST LEARN
AND WE ARE LED TO THOSE
WHO HELP US MOST TO GROW
IF WE LET THEM
AND WE HELP THEM IN RETURN
WELL, I DON'T KNOW IF I BELIEVE THAT'S TRUE
BUT I KNOW I'M WHO I AM TODAY
BECAUSE I KNEW YOU….
SO MUCH OF ME

IS MADE OF WHAT I LEARNED FROM YOU
YOU'LL BE WITH ME
LIKE A HANDPRINT ON MY HEART...
AND NOW WHATEVER WAY OUR STORIES END
KNOW YOU HAVE RE-WRITTEN MINE
BY BEING MY FRIEND...
BECAUSE I KNEW YOU

I HAVE BEEN CHANGED
FOR GOOD.


In honor of 3 years of tap dancing – and for the fun of it, here are some of my favorite memories from “On Tap”. (In no particular order.)

-Learning to walk silently in tap shoes behind the backdrop on the McNary stage when we had to get from stage left to stage right.

-Dancing down the aisles of the Elsinore to “Chicago”.

-Giving Stacey flowers at every recital as a troupe in appreciation and gratitude and her being surprised, every time...

-The night the drummers came and we finally got the beat to Zodiac.

-Dancing Zodiac as a duet with Stacey at the World Beat Festival.


-Teaching tap class as the substitute and watching the students “get it”. What a great feeling.

-Learning to hula hoop and tap dance at the same time.

-Rocking out in Sheri’s convertible with Sheri, Bobbe, and Connie.

-Meeting Stacey for the first time.

-Learning how to dance with canes to “Razzle Dazzle”, also from Chicago, dropping them A LOT in class, and then having the audience LOVE the canes at the shows.



-Stacey telling her friend in front of me I was going to dance a solo at our recital without telling me first. Yes, that really happened.

-Being videotaped while practicing for that solo and learning to be comfortable with that as I moved from tears to smiles.

-Convincing Stacey to dance that piece with me for the third recital two years later. (Sweet, friendly, revenge.)

-Deborah’s reaction to me telling her I was taking tap and her starting the next week.

-Learning, and being able to do, the Broadway Step and Maxi Ford Turn.

-When I learned I could do it, agains and agains.

-Really going at the finale of “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” as an entire class in response to the enthusiasm of the audience. That ROCKED!

-Learning to balance on the ball of one foot while moving the other. Try it.

-All the times people have asked me to show them a couple of steps. Good stories there.

-Designing and maintaining Stacey’s website.

-Celebrating my second book going to the printers with everyone going to the Condeterie for cake after class.

-Giving Stacey her quilt and the look on her face when she realized what it was.

-Volun-teering at the food share.

-Creeping behind stage and in the wings during a show.

-Drinking wine at Shari’s house before, during, and after, we practiced in her garage before class for the upcoming recital and the look on Stacey’s face when we would come to class and tell her what we’d just done.

-Calling Bobbe as a class and convincing her to come to class then surprising her with birthday cupcakes when she got there.

-Stacey dressed up as Betty Boop. Nuff' said.

-The happy tappy surprise birthday party we threw Stacey in May, complete with chocolate and Guinness. Surprise!

-Knowing there are lots of precious memories yet to make!






For more information about On Tap, please see http://www.ontapdancing.com/.

Labels: ,

Walking the Sea: Learning to Walk in Tap Shoes

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Learning to Walk in Tap Shoes

Last week I was at DGC Pro, the local dance store in Salem trying on shoes. My own pair still have plenty of sound left in them to tap out, but the store was closing and everything was half price, quite a deal when it comes to quality tap dancing shoes. That way I have a good pair for that day mine do wear out. As I sat there on their floor trying out the black leather pair, very similar to my own, I felt like I was pulled back in time to three years ago when I was doing the exact same thing on that exact same floor.

It was early June of 2005. I had just finished my second year of seminary, but more importantly, I was just coming out of my “dark night” (See previous post). I was to the point where I knew I was different and I had enough energy to want to “get out of bed” and do something. I wanted to learn something new to match the new person I had come to be. But what? So one night, I was poking around The Statesman Journal’s calendar on their website looking at the list of local classes when two caught my eye: tap dancing and Hebrew grammar. I decided to call tap dancing first. I picked up the phone and dialed the number listed. The woman who picked up the other end explained where the class was held and corrected me on the time. (She said the Statesman never really got things right so she had decided to leave well enough alone on that point.) She seemed very nice.

So, the next Tuesday I find my way downtown and locate the studio in an older building on State Street. I walk in and at the other end of the room is the only person there, a woman with blond curls and a black shirt who smiles warmly at me and welcomes me to the class. I liked her immediately. Other people come in after me and we review a dance they have already been learning. Although it is all so new to me, I try not to smile, I don’t want to show how much fun I’m having. I like to keep my emotions inside and protected. At the end of the class, I know I want to come back. And I REALLY want my own pair of tap shoes. Getting to make all those sounds when you move your feet sounded like a lot of fun!

So, the next day, or maybe the day after, I took the discount coupon the teacher had given me and went down to DGC Pro for my tap shoes. I had been looking forward to it ALL DAY. After giving the clerk my size, I sat on the floor until I found a pair that fit just right. Yellow box with black shiny new tap shoes in hand, I proudly went home and drooled over them until I could try the shoes out the next week.

Stacey, the teacher, was equally happy to see me the next week. (She later told me she had wondered if I’d be back.) But I did come back, agains and agains and agains. It was hard, my emotional energy was still at an ebb, I couldn’t “stand” for very long. But it was so much fun and Stacey was so nice, that I stuck with it through those very frustrating weeks of trying to learn the new language of dance. (I nearly cried in class several times.) After a few weeks of classes, I was lying on a couch one afternoon and in sheer puzzlement, I asked God, “Why tap dancing?” and he replied, “Because I am going to teach you how to walk again and this is how we’re going to do it.” Only God would teach someone how to walk by teaching them how to dance. So, with Stacey’s help, that is exactly what we did.

It didn’t take Stacey and I long to form a friendship. It was about a month after I had started that we walked around the World Beat Festival together after she performed with the Molly Malone Irish Dancers. (They dance beautifully.) I had gone to watch and she had some time to hang out afterwards. My friend, Deborah, had also joined the class so going every week was like hanging out with my friends. It is still very much that way today except now even more so.

Looking back three years later, I can see how much tap dancing has added to my life and how much it has changed me. Remember me trying not to smile? I smile a lot now. In fact, the other day, Stacey told me how contagious it is and I asked her surprised, “Really?” She was a little incredulous at that response. But it had taken me a long time to let myself really smile and really laugh, I had held it in so much before without even really knowing it. But I knew Stacey liked me and knowing that helped immensely. It is much easier to show who you are when you know who you are is well liked. As I was discovering who I was and who I wanted to be as God and I rebuilt, people like Stacey were there surrounding me with encouragement and love.

When I messed up in class, when I wasn’t perfect, it didn’t bother Stacey at all. It bothered me a lot and I would get so frustrated! Her focus is not usually on the end product, her focus is on having fun while you’re learning and you may even come up with something new along the way! She taught me perfection doesn’t really exist, you can do a step hundreds of times, do it again and still do it better. The whole thing is a process, much like our lives, and it is meant to be enjoyed. Then as we worked on my solo together, she would videotape me and I had to learn how to keep going even when I wasn’t getting it just right. I had to learn to be comfortable with her watching just me. I didn’t like being under scrutiny, it was even rather terrifying. But over time, as I learned to trust her, I am now down to “slightly uncomfortable”. And I still have perfectionist tendencies when it comes to a standard for myself, but I give myself a lot more grace now and I know I will get the step at some point. (Although "wings" still stumps me.)

Then, my second year, our troupe was asked to perform with several other dance troupes for a fund raiser. It was my first time on a stage outside of our studio. That night, I was stunned to discover, I LOVE the stage! I love being in the wings, the “5 minutes!” calls, the crowded hallways, being center stage, dancing down the aisles, all of it! I was in heaven. After one show, someone told Stacey I had great stage presence. When she relayed that to me, I knew my dream of speaking in front of audiences was in fact reachable. I really could do this and I could do it well. And I loved that I could have stage presence dancing.

I think the other thing I have learned besides self-confidence, is that to do something takes practice. You may not be able to do a step, it may seem like you will never get it, but if you keep at it, one day, you will do it with ease. Just keep at it. This gives me faith in myself. The most important thing I have learned, though, is attitude. This is one lesson where I am still impressed how God taught it to me. He knew exactly what he was doing when he brought Stacey and I into each other’s lives. She has such a cheerful, positive outlook, you can’t help but have it rub off on you. My personality tends toward the darker emotions and “fours” hold onto them. But Stacey has taught me that you choose what to focus on and that life is much happier when you focus on the positive, when you choose to live with a cheerful and giving attitude. I can’t tell you how many times this lesson has come back to me again and agains. I needed that light to be there. The first time I emotionally felt warmth on my face as if the sun had just broken through the clouds for a time, was one evening at tap class. It lasted for about an hour but it gave me hope that there would be life and light when the black water had ebbed away. I have to honestly say, tap dancing and my friends there was one of the biggest contributors to my healing and in who I am today. My mentors would be the other. I really did learn how to walk in tap shoes.

So thank you to Stacey and the On Tap dancers for the last three wonderful years, they have been filled with joy, camaraderie, hope, self-confidence, and love. All the things I wanted to be built into my life and who I am was partly built here, in our studio dancing together. I still have so much to learn, including all of the lessons I have mentioned on deeper levels, but I am looking forward to learning them as we continue dancing together. I think you helped draw out the person I truly was all along. Since I can’t put it any better than they did in “Wicked”, this is for all of you. (What can I say, I’m a Broadway fan…)

I'VE HEARD IT SAID

THAT PEOPLE COME INTO OUR LIVES
FOR A REASON
BRINGING SOMETHING WE MUST LEARN
AND WE ARE LED TO THOSE
WHO HELP US MOST TO GROW
IF WE LET THEM
AND WE HELP THEM IN RETURN
WELL, I DON'T KNOW IF I BELIEVE THAT'S TRUE
BUT I KNOW I'M WHO I AM TODAY
BECAUSE I KNEW YOU….
SO MUCH OF ME

IS MADE OF WHAT I LEARNED FROM YOU
YOU'LL BE WITH ME
LIKE A HANDPRINT ON MY HEART...
AND NOW WHATEVER WAY OUR STORIES END
KNOW YOU HAVE RE-WRITTEN MINE
BY BEING MY FRIEND...
BECAUSE I KNEW YOU

I HAVE BEEN CHANGED
FOR GOOD.


In honor of 3 years of tap dancing – and for the fun of it, here are some of my favorite memories from “On Tap”. (In no particular order.)

-Learning to walk silently in tap shoes behind the backdrop on the McNary stage when we had to get from stage left to stage right.

-Dancing down the aisles of the Elsinore to “Chicago”.

-Giving Stacey flowers at every recital as a troupe in appreciation and gratitude and her being surprised, every time...

-The night the drummers came and we finally got the beat to Zodiac.

-Dancing Zodiac as a duet with Stacey at the World Beat Festival.


-Teaching tap class as the substitute and watching the students “get it”. What a great feeling.

-Learning to hula hoop and tap dance at the same time.

-Rocking out in Sheri’s convertible with Sheri, Bobbe, and Connie.

-Meeting Stacey for the first time.

-Learning how to dance with canes to “Razzle Dazzle”, also from Chicago, dropping them A LOT in class, and then having the audience LOVE the canes at the shows.



-Stacey telling her friend in front of me I was going to dance a solo at our recital without telling me first. Yes, that really happened.

-Being videotaped while practicing for that solo and learning to be comfortable with that as I moved from tears to smiles.

-Convincing Stacey to dance that piece with me for the third recital two years later. (Sweet, friendly, revenge.)

-Deborah’s reaction to me telling her I was taking tap and her starting the next week.

-Learning, and being able to do, the Broadway Step and Maxi Ford Turn.

-When I learned I could do it, agains and agains.

-Really going at the finale of “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” as an entire class in response to the enthusiasm of the audience. That ROCKED!

-Learning to balance on the ball of one foot while moving the other. Try it.

-All the times people have asked me to show them a couple of steps. Good stories there.

-Designing and maintaining Stacey’s website.

-Celebrating my second book going to the printers with everyone going to the Condeterie for cake after class.

-Giving Stacey her quilt and the look on her face when she realized what it was.

-Volun-teering at the food share.

-Creeping behind stage and in the wings during a show.

-Drinking wine at Shari’s house before, during, and after, we practiced in her garage before class for the upcoming recital and the look on Stacey’s face when we would come to class and tell her what we’d just done.

-Calling Bobbe as a class and convincing her to come to class then surprising her with birthday cupcakes when she got there.

-Stacey dressed up as Betty Boop. Nuff' said.

-The happy tappy surprise birthday party we threw Stacey in May, complete with chocolate and Guinness. Surprise!

-Knowing there are lots of precious memories yet to make!






For more information about On Tap, please see http://www.ontapdancing.com/.

Labels: ,

2 Comments:

At August 13, 2008 at 10:44 AM , Anonymous Stacey Brown said...

Surprise! I read your blog and you are right about life being all about who walks into your life and how you walk there. Being in tap shoes doesn't hurt! Thank you for all the smiles while reading this piece and for sharing how much joy you get from our dance family. Ditto. It is such a great stroke of luck to meet people like you and all we dance with for if we focus on the joy of dancing together we can hop over the "dark stuff" loudly and proudly. I really enjoyed your blog Sarah. Great composition of wonderful memories. See you tomorrow night with taps on for more memory makers!! Love, Stacey

 
At August 13, 2008 at 10:46 AM , Blogger Sarah Katreen Hoggatt said...

Stacey,
I always thought of the people who walk into my life as a gift. Thanks for the comment!

Sarah

 

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