If you could give advice to your younger self, what would you say?
“I’d tell myself to never stop doing what you love doing,” said Alison Reid. Last December, Reid and a group of friends were at a networking event when the idea struck her. What if they started taking tap lessons?
“I danced for 15 years as a child and loved it. I even thought I would become a dance teacher one day,” Reid explained.
The idea was well received by the group, and before they had time to back out, one of them found a studio that offered adult classes.
“Amy Stanitzke is a take charge kind of gal, and she immediately looked up a place and found the North Georgia Dance Academy (NGDA). Eight of us started taking lessons there in January,” Reid said.
Unlike Reid, Stanitzke had never taken dance lessons in her life.
“The group of us had decided to do it so I said, ‘Okay, I’ll plan it.’ [We live all over Metro Atlanta], so I intentionally chose a place near I85 that would be convenient for all of us,” Stanitzke said.
They started at a beginner’s level, meeting at 7:30 every Tuesday for 30 minutes. “Welcome to Kindergarten,” their instructor, Yvonne Antinazi, joked during their first class. But over the next few weeks, the steps incrementally advanced. For some of the women, the commitment was too much, and the group grew smaller.
“The first few classes, I really had to concentrate, and I had to keep up my practice at home. But all of a sudden, things clicked,” said Kris Brant, who works at a senior care center.
Brant admits that at times, she got frustrated. Although she’s been active her whole life, when it came to dance, she was starting with a clean slate.
“Once we got the first song down, I felt accomplished. Just going from zero background to actually end up performing something was pretty satisfying,” Brant said.
In May, the group had their first recital. Four of the classmates was able to attend, and a few instructors and their daughters decided to perform with them. Forgoing costumes, the women wore black and tapped to the “If My Friends Could See Me Now,” remake by Linda Clifford.
“It was so much fun!” Stanitzke said. “We all went to eat afterward, and our friends and family came to support us.”
During the summer, the NGDA’s regular classes go on break, as children get busy with swim clubs, traveling and other seasonal activities with their families. But the ladies from the adult tap class are hooked, so they’ve negotiated to have a six-week summer series before regular classes resume in the fall.
With their first performance in the books, the ladies hope to build their skills to be able to start performing at senior centers.
“We hope to be ready by October. Most of us are in the senior service industry, so [performing at senior centers] is our goal,” Stanitzke said.
As for the choreography, the women say it’s all a matter of muscle memory.
“We’re not Rockettes by any means, but I’m proud of what we’ve learned,” Reid said. “It’s the best exercise for your brain, too. It’s all repetition.”
Since they started, the group switched to 40-minute weekly lessons. As career ladies, time is not a luxury many of them have, but when they’re tapping, they consider it well spent.
“All of us consider it the best time of our week,” said LD DeKatch who had danced most of her life until about 10 years ago. “As a working mom, taking time for myself is something, I tend to renege on. But we’ve all stuck with this, and it’s a great stress relief. And how often do you get to dance with other 45 plus-year-old women?”
For Reid, the class is a commitment to her young self, a way to live out a passion she’s always held.
“It’s always important to challenge ourselves. It’s never too late to try anything — there’s 90-year-olds who go sky diving,” Reid said. “It’s interesting to see the parts of aging we can defy.”
The group has advanced to an intermediate level after taking weekly lessons for half a year, and they encourage anyone to take that first step to try just try it out.
“I think anyone could do it,” Brant said. “I’m 60, so sometimes my knees hurt. I was embarrassed, thinking I looked silly, but now, I’m proud of what we’ve learned. It’s a fun little bit of exercise, different than aerobics. We take it at our own pace, so it’s nothing crazy.”