04/11/10 — Silver Tappers have tappy feet

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Silver Tappers have tappy feet

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on April 11, 2010 1:50 AM

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Cathy Rogers, left front, Kay Kornegay, left back, Maria Carter, right front and Jean Pool, right back tap to the song 'Baby Keep Smiling' during a practice at the Herman Park Center.




Pardon me, boy

Is that the Chattanooga choo choo?

Track twenty-nine

Boy, you can gimme a shine

I can afford

To board a Chattanooga choo choo

I've got my fare

And just a trifle to spare ...

As the Silver Tappers mimic the motion and noise of a train to the tune of  "Chattanooga choo choo" Maria Carter doesn't feel her age.

On stage, tap dancing to a fast-paced routine, her age has no hold over her.

"We do not consider ourselves old because we do not feel old," 70-year-old Maria said.

Instead of feeling their age, the women get back some of the youthful vibrance they thought was long gone. You can see it as they go through routine after routine.

While heels and toes are pounding the floor, an occasional shuffle is mixed in.

The Silver Tappers put in an hour of tap dancing practice every Thursday at Herman Park Center -- and more if there's a performance coming up. Not just anyone can be a part of this elite group. Dancers must be 50 or older.

It's something Maria thought would never happen after she retired. After seeing an ad in the paper, she decided to check it out, although she claims to have no


She recalled that first day.

"I told the instructor that I didn't know what I was doing here because when I mentioned it to my husband, he said 'Oh you cannot do that. You have two left feet. You don't have any coordination,'" Maria said. But she proved him wrong.

She didn't tell her husband that she joined the Silver Tappers and the night of her first performance, he was in the audience thinking Maria had just gone to the restroom. When the spotlights were turned on the dancers, there was Maria, tapping her heart out.

"After the show, he said 'I'll be damned,'" Maria said. "He couldn't believe I was on the stage. That was fun."

And it's still fun nine years later.

"This is something to do instead of sitting home and just watching TV or sitting at the computer," Maria said. "I'll do that when I'm old."

Maria considers herself the clown of the group. "You have to have a little bit of guts to get out there and make a clown of yourself," she admitted. "If you step on the wrong foot, you just hope nobody sees it and keep a big smile on your face and keep on going."

At 81, Olivia West is the oldest member of the group. She's one of  the original members and has been with the Silver Tappers since it began 15 years ago. Tap dancing is like being in another world, she said.

Although she can still tap with the best of them, Olivia has noticed that it's getting a little harder to do some moves, like raising both of her feet at the same time. "You don't want to hurt yourself," she said.

Olivia's favorite number is one she choreographed herself -- a solo done to a floor exercise routine.

It incorporates lots of shuffles and toe tapping moves. She also choreographed another number for the Silver Tappers done to "Morning Has Broken." It's a combination tap and waltz dance. The group does several shuffles then waltzes across the stag before going right back into tapping.

"It's fun moving to the rhythm of the music," Olivia said.

"And once you learn a routine, you can do it without even thinking. The steps go through my mind all the time. When I'm in bed supposed to be sleeping, the music and steps go through my mind," she said with a laugh.

She amazes her relatives by dancing at family reunions. "They enjoy seeing this old lady dancing," she said.

Seventy-five-year-old Jean Pool is another of the original Silver Tappers. Although she was line dancing at the time, when she first tried tap dancing, she felt like she was lost. But it got easier and now it's become second nature to her.

"You might have 20 or 22 different steps in one routine," she said. "I feel like I've accomplished something."

She, too, thinks about the routines when not in rehearsal. "Sometimes I have the music on at home and practice while I'm cooking or doing other things around the house," she said.

The routines are done to various songs and sometimes with different costumes. When doing "Jailhouse Rock," the women don their black and white striped pants, tops and hats. If they're doing "Tea for Two" they might change into black pants and vest over a white shirt with a cummerbund and add white canes for props. For other routines, it may be black pants, a long-sleeved blouse and a hat with a silver vest and silver accents on the cuffs of the blouse.

The dance moves themselves vary from song to song. For "Chattanooga Choo-Choo," the Silver Tappers start out in a line facing sideways with one hand on the shoulder of the

person in front of them. When the music starts, they use their other arm to mimic a train's motion.

No matter what the routine,

tapping keeps 70-year-old Kay Kornegay moving, something she says is very important at her age.

An added benefit is that it's also fun.

But it wasn't all fun all the time for Kornegay who said when she first started performing in front of an audience seven years ago, she didn't like it. "I said I'd never do it because I don't like audiences," she said. "But after I got into it, that was part of it and I gradually got out of my shyness."

Each performance boosts their confidence and get them out of their shyness, said Silver Tapper Cathy Rogers. "I feel that no matter what audience you're in front of, no audience is going to say 'You did awful' to a bunch of old ladies," she said laughing. "Would you really? You know you're going to clap."

It's not just the dancing that keeps the women coming back for more.

Practicing and performing together, the Silver Tappers have formed a bond with each other. "We're like sisters now," Maria said. 'We have our good times and our bad times. Once in a while, somebody gets on your case and you get on their case."

But even that doesn't stop them from dancing.

"I think they do it because it makes them feel good," said Grace McEvoy, who helped form the Silver Tappers along with Stasia Fields at the Herman Park Center. "They feel a little glamorous. And the music gets them in a better mood."

She said although they never complain of aches and pains from dancing, Grace is sure they've gone home on more than one occasion and rubbed lintament on sore muscles.

"This group, they hang in like old soldiers," she said.

That pays off when the Silver Tappers compete in the senior games and dance away with a silver medal.

"Pretty much, we are the best," Grace said.

It's all in fun, Maria said. "You get out there and you dance and you smile. Maybe we should have been in show biz, who knows?"

But for now the Silver Tappers are happy just working for food. Maria said when they do a performance, they are usually treated to a meal. "That's kind of nice," she said with a big grin. "So we keep working for food, not money."

Chiming in, Cathy says, "We're Silver Tappers and that's cool."