PINEVILLE, La. (AP) — Pam Green’s philosophy about the tap class she teaches at the Louisiana Athletic Club in Pineville is simple. Have fun.
“It’s just a great group of ladies with a common interest,” said Green, one of the fitness instructors at LAC. “I really think I make it a lot of fun and challenging — and everybody wants to come.”
“It is the most fun exercise you can do,” said Mattye Phillips, one of the original members of the class that has been taught for about 15 years.
Phillips pointed out that not only is tap dancing a good cardio workout but it is also a good mental workout.
“You have to think,” said Phillips. “You have to focus.”
Feet, legs, arms and body movements have to coordinate with the steps, said Green.
It’s not only the tap dancing Phillips likes but the fellowship and laughter she shares with the other dancers.
Getting a great exercise workout is one of the reasons the ladies attend the class and the other reason is the great social support it offers, said Green.
“I feel it’s a happy place,” said Green. “So people actually want to come. They schedule their lives around it. It’s something they don’t want to miss.”
Green said there are even a few dancers who drive in from out of town just for the class.
“Exercising to music,” said Carol Daigerpont. “I don’t know how anything could be more fun.”
“You can make it into a sweat getting all your steps in,” said Green. “It’s really good.”
The tap class, held at 10 a.m. every Tuesday and Friday, is the largest fitness class at the Pineville gym and has the most consistent attendance.
It came to be around 15 years ago when a group of women had been taking tap lessons outside the gym with a private instructor approached LAC management and asked if they would add a tap class to the group fitness schedule. And LAC obliged.
Cindy Seaton, of Cindy Seaton Dance Academy in Pineville, was the original instructor. Green later joined the class as a member before becoming the instructor.
Because of the pandemic, the class has been averaging around 15 members. Pre-pandemic, it averaged around 26. It is the largest class with consistent members offered at the gym and is free to all LAC members.
LAC closed for a few months last year because of the pandemic so the ladies weren’t able to meet at the gym for class. But that didn’t stop them from meeting up to tap. Green said they would gather at one another’s homes and hold class in the driveways tap dancing on boards.
And those who didn’t attend in person could attend the class via Zoom.
“If you didn’t tap, at least you watched it,” said Green.
During that time she tried to keep the class schedule as consistent as possible by meeting at the same time and days that they normally would at the gym.
All genres of tap are taught such as classic, jazz and post modern. They also dance to all genres of music as well.
The basis of the class includes a warm-up and drills, said Green. Then they run through routines. Because of the way the class is set up anyone can join the class at any time.
“So you never have to wait until after November or the New Year to come into it,” she said. “You can pick it up as you go.”
She has an extra bag of tap shoes for anybody who would like to try the class out but if they don’t want to wear tap shoes, they don’t have to.
“But it’s more fun to make the noise. And it’s good music,” said Green.
The class is multi-level meaning beginners, intermediates and advanced dancers dance together.
“Some had never had tap before in their whole entire life,” said Green. “They never tapped before as a kid or anything.”
Debbie Morrison has been tap dancing with the class for three years now but when she joined, she had no prior tap experience.
“When I joined, I knew absolutely nothing about tap,” she said. “I love to dance but knew nothing about tap.”
In addition to being a great instructor, Morrison said Green also has great patience with her students.
“And the group is just so supportive,” she said. “If you make a mistake, we laugh and we correct and began again. It’s just been such a positive experience and we do have fun every time and every class. And we have fun events.”
“Socially, they are just a really good group together,” said Green, who regards the women not only as students but as her friends.
On the days they have class, they sometimes gather in a circle to make announcements or offer support.
Everyone has gone through something, she said, especially during the pandemic.
“We pray together,” said Green. “We pray for each other. We lift each other up.”
Outside the gym, the dancers get together for social events such as holiday parties and Mardi Gras parades.
The ladies don’t only tap dance in class but have performed publicly of it as well.
Susan Evans, one of the class members and a former instructor, choreographed the group’s “Patriotic Routine.” Evans comes up with routines and choreography as well as teaching the class for Green when she’s out.
Every year during Thanksgiving, the ladies perform at the annual LAC Thanksgiving Feast. They have also performed at nursing homes.
“And we’re looking to get into the downtown market,” said Green, smiling. She would like the class to perform at the upcoming Fall ArtWalk set for Oct. 16 in downtown Alexandria.
Performances are voluntary and not required. People can still enjoy the class without performing at events.
“If you just want to come in and enjoy the tap class for exercise you can,” said Green. “But it’s still good to learn the routine. It’s still good to put all the steps together to music.”