Self Care Through the Arts

Tap class with Su
By Su D’Ambrosio
Last fall I decided to do something nice for myself, so I enrolled in a tap dancing class. When my girls, now in their 20s, were young, I jealously watched them learn tap, wishing their tap shoes fit me so that I could secretly try a few clickety-clack dance moves before they arrived home from school. Over time, they both gave up tap, and I gave up my dream, until we started to offer tap class for adults at South Shore Conservatory. As I called prospective students to invite them to try a class, one woman, noticing my enthusiasm, suggested I join them, and I thought, why not? I laced up some tap shoes and gave it a try. Best. Decision. Ever.

As I donned my first pair of tap shoes and entered the dance studio that first day, I was nervous, as many of the students knew each other and had some tap experience. There was a mix of younger and older students, and I was definitely one of the oldest dancers. The teacher, Donna, quickly put me at ease as we started with some simple warm-ups that guaranteed immediate success for everyone. The other adult students were extremely accepting and supportive, and I soon felt part of the group. There was laughter and encouragement as simple warm-ups turned into more complex combinations, and then we took our new steps into the beginning of a routine. At the end of the class we clapped and talked about looking forward to the next week. Week after week we built on skills learned the previous class, improving our dance routine until we achieved a final product. We’re not perfect, but that is not the point. We are working toward a common goal, challenging our skills, reaching for a higher bar, growing, laughing and getting some great exercise, all through the medium of tap dancing.

When I started, I didn’t realize the extent to which this would feed my body, mind and soul.  I had devoted all my energy and resources to my children for 22 years, which fed me in a different way, but also took a bit of a toll. As I stretched myself literally and figuratively, working up a sweat and using muscles I didn’t realize I had, I felt an awesome sense of satisfaction and accomplishment specific to myself. This time in class also allowed me to let go of everything weighing on my mind, leave it at the door and enjoy the moment. That experience of lightness and freedom allowed me to return to my difficult baggage with a new sense of clarity and strength, and has helped me find new and creative ways to manage stress and tackle challenges.

This is the magic of the arts. No other activity can bring people of all ages and walks of life together to learn, grow and create as a community. The arts allow for connection with others as well as opportunities for personal growth. The benefits are wide ranging, from physical to psychological to spiritual. In that first class I experienced a range of emotions that culminated in joy. Throughout the semester I have built up strength and coordination, made some new friends and have something to look forward to each week – something I do just for me. On weeks when I am not able to attend class, I miss it. As the fall semester winds down, I am eager to sign up for the spring session to continue my progress and dedicate one hour each week to something that brings me joy. We all need something like that to look forward to in our lives. What is your “tap class?”

Learn more about SSC’s classes for adults and students of all ages at sscmusic.org, call 781-749-7565, x10, or find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.

Su D’Ambrosio is Director of Education for South Shore Conservatory.  She lives in Plymouth with her daughters Maria and Rosa, and her dog Bernie, who looks forward to the music of the neighborhood birds on his daily walks.

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