Want to get fit without working out? Dance to the tune of these audacious women!

Tap dancers

Every week these women strap on their tap shoes and dance, dance, dance!

They’re all over 60. Some took lessons when they were kids and some simply danced in their kitchens when no one was looking. None lets a little thing like age stop them from dancing now.

Betsy Dunphy

Betsy Dunphy (L) demonstrates a dance step

Their teacher Betsy Dunphy started dancing when she was seven and never stopped — tap, jazz, ballet, modern dance. “I’ve performed a lot,” she told me, “and choreographed for just about everybody — Portland Stage and Portland Players and I work a lot with Good Theater.”

She teaches dance and theater techniques at Studio 408 in South Portland, Maine. Most of her students are children from four-year-olds to teens, but she has a soft spot for seniors.

Tap dancers

Tap dancing challenges every part of your body. It increases your heart rate. It works muscles you didn’t know you had. It’s great for toning and strengthening your core. “It’s good to keep fit,” says Evanthea Spanos, who has been dancing for three years. “Mostly I like that I have a lot of fun.”

When I think of tap dancing, I go straight to the feet. But, there’s a lot more to it than heel, toe, heel, toe. “First thing you learn as a dancer,” says Betsy, “is not your feet but your carriage and your posture. You have to be aware of the alignment of your shoulders over your hips. With tap you but use your core like crazy for balance. There’s a lot of core strength with tap. It looks like feet, but it’s your whole body.”

Tap dancers
It may be hard to keep balanced at first, but learning to tap dance is like learning how to ride a bike, says Betsy. “You need to learn steps slowly,” she explains. “Balancing is hard until you speed it up and you’re more centered. It’s like a bike. The first few minutes without training wheels are hard until you pick up speed and then you’re ok. Once you’ve learned it, you’ve got it forever.”

Learning new steps also works the brain. “It’s challenging sometimes to learn the new routines,” says Nancy Jordan. “I think that’s really good for us.”

Tap dancers
“It’s just fun,” adds Rosemary Coakley. “The music is fun, the steps are fun. They’re challenging, but it’s good for your body and good for your brain.”

And great for your mood, too. “It’s good therapy,” says Marcia Whited. “I have a demanding occupation. I’m up to here with stress at 10:45 and when I leave here at noon every Wednesday, I’m managing. I’ve danced it out. I’m in a good place. I’m smiling”

“I always tell people that if everybody tap danced, the world would be a better place,” says Betsy. “You can never be grumpy when you’re tap dancing. You can be grumpy when you come in but you’ll never be grumpy going out.”

If you want to learn more about Betsy’s adult tap dance class (the group also performs), visit the Studio 408 website. If you’re not in her area, she may know of someone else who teaches. You could also do an online search for dance classes for adults. As fun as tap is, there are also other kinds of dance classes. I recently wrote about 82-year-old Joan Overton, who takes a ballroom dancing class at Maplewood Dance Center in Portland. If you know of any dance classes for adults in Maine or New Hampshire, let us know. The comment box is near the end of this page.

And now, without further ado, let’s watch as Betsy’s “Happy Tappers,” as I call them, practice some new dance steps.

Thanks for reading my post about tap dancing. Doesn’t it look like fun? Do you like to dance? I do. Whenever I hear music, I have to move! What’s your favorite kind of dancing? Tell us in the comment blog near the end of the page.

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Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. She now hosts and produces the Catching Health podcast and writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.