A compelling story of one of our own HAC Youth and Adult Yoga Instructors. Lori Yingling shares her experience in how she has benefited from participating in Adult Dance classes at HAC.
written by Lori Yingling
For as long as I have known my best friend, Jennifer, she has always talked about taking tap lessons. She wanted to dance as a child but was told “no” because “she didn’t have the traditional dancer’s body.” But Jennifer held on to her dream of slipping on a pair of tap shoes and channeling her inner Ginger Rogers.
Last Christmas, I bought Jennifer a pair of black, patent-leather, Mary Jane tap shoes and arranged for four private lessons with Angie Craft, Dance Director at HAC. I bought myself a pair too and said I would go with her. I hated to dance and I rarely did it publicly. But, I figured, what the hell…it’s just the two of us. We’ll have a few laughs, take some pictures and have some funny stories to share.
Angie & Her Big Ideas
That first Tuesday morning, Angie came into the dance studio with a huge smile on her face. She said she’d been thinking about it and that we should forget the four classes. We would be practicing until May and we were going to be in the show. Yes, the dance show. The recital. The one for kids. We cracked up and agreed. Hey, May seemed like forever away. And she was just kidding, right?
Turns out, Angie wasn’t kidding. Within the week, she had us pick our song. We chose “Sisters” from the 50s classic, White Christmas. I grew up watching my mom and aunt tap dance to it and many other songs. I think deep down, there was a little (ok, big) part of me that wished I could dance too. It always looked like so much fun. Could it be that these
lessons were really a gift for me too?
Apparently there is more to tap dancing than just throwing your feet around to make that awesome sound. Each Tuesday Angie would teach us a few new steps. We’d log them in our journal. And then we’d practice. A LOT. We’d nail a move and go back to Angie. She was always so excited and proud of us. And, then she would say, “well, since you got that, let’s add this to it.” She never let us settle on easy. With all that practicing we realized that dancing is awesome exercise. Jennifer is a cardio girl but I am not. Those first few weeks were tough. Jennifer could easily make it through the warm-up and the dance. Halfway through the first song, I ‘d be dying. By the end, I’d be doubled over, hands-on-knees, sucking wind. It wasn’t pretty. But it got better. Ultimately I wound up losing a few pounds and tightening up some spots I hadn’t been able to get to with regular exercise. And I could breathe through most of the dance. Who knew? Dance is great cardio for people who think they hate cardio.
Busting Out of the Comfort Zone
I loved our tap lessons and focusing (obsessing) over all the technical details (my nickname was River Dance, but I probably looked more like the Lucky Charms guy). Each week as the end of class drew near, Angie would turn off “Sisters”, put on something fast and fun, and we’d have to dance, freestyle. No routine, just moving. Jennifer loved it. I
dreaded it. I was beyond uncomfortable and it showed. My hips and shoulders were stiff. I just could not get out of my own head and let go. So, here’s what you have to love and appreciate about Angie. She pushes you out of your comfort zone. She is always there with an encouraging, supportive word. And she is completely honest. She would say, “If it didn’t look good, I would tell you.” And for those of you who know Angie, you know that’s true. Her spirit is strong, bright and infectious. She loves dancing and she makes you love dancing. There was always an encouraging text, a huge smile and hug in the hallway, and a gentle ear for the one or two times I may have cried (mostly out of happiness).
The Costumes, the Concerns, &the Commitment
My best friend and I are total opposites. She loves her bling and I love my black cardigan. No, seriously, I have at least 7 black cardigans and I love them all. So you can imagine my reaction when Angie showed up with a picture of our costumes. They were hot pink, with black sequins and feathers. Oh, and black fishnets. Did I mention the black fishnets?
It was around this time that it occurred to me that, oh my gosh, this is really happening! I enjoyed and looked forward to our Tuesday mornings so much. On the days when we had tap, I would hop out of bed with a huge smile, eager to get to HAC. But the actual “show-thing” was throwing me. Were we really going to get up on stage… and dance? I was getting nervous, really nervous. Like, I-can’t-sleep-nervous.
I had a choice to make. Tell Angie and Jennifer I was out (the thought of disappointing them was awful) or move forward. Then it occurred to me, I didn’t want to disappoint myself. And, yes, we were having a ton of fun and way too many laughs to count while at class, but we were also working pretty hard. Did I want to look back at all my effort and regret that I quit? Or did I want to bust out of the cardigan, tell anxiety and fear to go to hell and finally just let go?
So, I made like Elsa in Frozen, and let it go. And once I did, things started happening. It got easier. All of it got fun…all of the dancing, the costume, the hair, the make-up. Anxiety was replaced with excitement. Wow, that’s some serious personal growth!
In the end, Angie’s way made my hips move and my soul sing. How do you thank someone for that?
Supportive HAC Community
And while I initially had quite a bit of anxiety surrounding much of the experience, Jennifer’s only real worry was what would people think when we hit the stage? Were we taking up too much time? Were we detracting from the kids? To our surprise & delight, we were met with an incredible amount of encouragement and support.
Whenever we had a question, we could count on all of the dance instructors at HAC to help us out. Every teacher in the dance department helped and cheered us on. I am sure there were times when we were really annoying but, if so, they never let on.
The children in the show were so excited for us. “You’re so pretty”. “I love your dresses!” “I love your dance.” “You guys are so good!” These kids have absolutely no fear about going on stage. They look adorable and they dance because it’s fun and they enjoy it. They don’t worry about what people will think. They just go out there and rock it. Their joyful, easy spirits motivated us to just enjoy the moment. The adults were on board too. HAC backstage moms are the best! We heard things like “You inspire me.” “You have courage.” “I admire your confidence.” It was truly humbling.
The backstage moms were also our biggest fans and loudest cheerleaders. (We’re looking at you Coral Team Moms… especially you Jenni Holcomb and Amanda Biggs!). We feared crickets and tumbleweeds when we hit the stage, but what we got was: “Bring it home ladies!” and “That’s right! You go girls!” There’s no way you can’t smile on stage when your dance peeps are cheering you on every step of the way. We are forever grateful to those amazing ladies.
After the finale at the last show, Angie called us back out on stage, gave us trophies, and shared a bit of our story. It was the perfect ending to our awesome experience. And in the end…in five months of tap lessons, I learned the time step, the essence, the sugar, and the grapevine.
But I also learned:
- To stick with friends who lovingly encourage you out of your comfort zone and push you to grow and be the very best version of yourself.
- To not let fear and anxiety stand in the way of living life to the fullest. If you have a desire to do something, do it. Tell anxiety to get lost, then make your dream happen.
- To not let what’s on the outside of your body determine your ability to let what’s inside to shine bright.
- Confidence is the sexiest move you can have.
- To move through life radiating enthusiasm and encouragement. It is contagious.
Who doesn’t want to live in a world where we support each other in following our dreams? That’s a pretty liberating and happy place to be.