Monday, March 4, 2013

Dance class of the month: Tap

Joyce Richardson has been a Broadway subscriber at the Straz Center for years.

She comes to the Broadways shows regularly. About two years ago, Joyce started noticing brochures in the lobby for dance classes at the adjacent Patel Conservatory.

The 53-year-old insurance claims manager had never taken a dance class in her life.

“I didn’t give any consideration to anything other than tap. I thought, maybe I can do that,” said Joyce.

Thinking a tap dance class sounded fun, she came to the beginning Tap class, with instructor Susan Downey.

“It was a small class. The other women were about my age, so it didn’t intimidate me,” said Joyce.

What she didn’t imagine is how the class would set in motion positive changes in her life.

“It’s such a wonderful outlet. For that hour or two that I’m there, I don’t think about anything else. I let go of everything from work, and all I do is focus on the steps and the music. It’s just such a wonderful release,” she said.

After a few months of tap, she added the jazz class to her schedule, and found herself wanting to learn more and more.

“Once I really started learning and getting a little better, I just wanted to get better and better,” she said.

One day in class, she looked in the mirror and had a realization.

“When I started (taking dance), I was 50 pounds overweight, my cholesterol was through the roof, and I was pre-diabetic...I had one of those moments where I saw myself and I was shocked and appalled. How did I let this happen?” said Joyce.

Inspired by her new found joy of movement, she began running to supplement her dance classes.

“I started dancing more, and practicing more, and the pounds started to come off,” said Joyce.

“Now I’m the healthiest I’ve been in 20 years. (Dance) was a catalyst that helped me make the changes I needed to live a healthier lifestyle.”

Now Joyce is in both the Tap II class and the jazz class. In both classes, the ages range from teenagers to seniors, but Joyce says the ages and skill levels don’t matter.

“It’s not like when I tried to join a gym when I was younger. This is all love and support,” she said. “Some of these people have become my best friends, and that’s a really cool benefit I had not anticipated.”

Instructor Susan Downey teaches to a wide array of physical talents and abilities, yet makes it both challenging and fun, said Joyce.

“I try to get people to come to class, and they’ll say to me, ‘Oh I can’t dance.’ But I tell them, if I can do this, you can do this!”

Grades 9 - Adult
Instructor: Susan Downey

Tap Dance I: Fundamentals
Tuesdays, 6 to 7 p.m.

Tap Dance II: Beginning
Tuesdays, 7 to 8 p.m.

Tap Dance III: Intermediate
Tuesdays, 8 to 9 p.m.

Cost: $57.25 per month
Pay by the month or by the class with a dance card.
Dance cards are $65 for a 5-class card or $120 for a 10-class card.

For more information, or to register, please call 813-222-1002.

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