Seniors have fun while tap dancing their way to health

Feb 13, 2013

The Time Steppers tap dancing at the senior center
Credit Nancy Camden

“You don’t even realize you are exercising,” one dancer offered. Another said, “My balance is better. My flexibility is better.” Bob Husser feels that a lot of people would like to tap dance but they’re afraid to try.

Sue Forrester is the teacher, choreographer and director of The Time Steppers.

“A lovely group of people,” she says. “I’m in the mid-sixties and I’m the youngest. And, I don’t want to tell you who the oldest is. Dorothy was our oldest student and Dorothy, I think, was 92. But she danced right up until a couple of months before she passed.”

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The Time Steppers were organized in 1990. Forrester is the third teacher.

“The best part,” she says “is when they do performances. They share their love of dance with the community. They do things at senior homes and they go to special Alzheimer’s centers and just delight people with their love of dance. Their joy on their faces communicates to the audience.”

Bob Husser started with the group in 1996. He was given the gift of tap dancing lessons. When asked, Husser says he's an average tap dancer. But he says that doesn't necessarily matter.

"Sometimes, I’m good. Sometimes, I’m not,” says Husser. 

“You can play all kinds of games with your mind and you can become the most famous dancer in the world," Glady Manley says. "In your mind, you can be in those old 1940’s movies where Ginger Rogers is tap dancing with Fred Astaire. You can be anything you want to be in your mind.”

Forrester says there are about thirty basic sounds that come out of your feet and everything from there is combinations of those sounds. Betty Brown is seventy-four years old. She says that she is unable to say what the average age is because age is not a factor that they even think about. Camden wondered if Brown felt out of place the first time she came to class.

“No not at all,” she says. “It was very welcoming. No one judged you. They welcomed you. They didn’t make fun of you if you stumbled. It was just fun.”

Ellie Krawutschke says new people come into the class about every few weeks.

“Sue always starts with simple things at the beginning and then, we gradually get more complicated," says Krawutschke. "It challenges your mind a bit. A lot of us have problems remembering things. We’re getting to that age and we have to remember intricate tap steps and things like that. I think it’s really good for us to keep on top of things like that.”

Pat McIntosh joined the class when she was 73. She says that she always wanted to tap dance. She is now seventy-nine. With the exception of one month, Sharron Clawson danced all through treatments for breast cancer a year ago.

“It has made me stronger because I got pretty weak," says Clawson. "I just kept going. It’s really good exercise and Sue makes sure that we all warm up and get our body moving so that we don’t injure ourselves.”

Mary Godfrey had two months of tap dance when she was a kid.

“I’ve fallen in love with doing it," she says. "It’s been an amazing kind of exercise for me.”